How to learn English

As an international student in an English speaking country like Australia, you’re going to have to know how to speak English, but don’t worry if you’re not fluent.

An international student having an English conversation with an Australian
Last Updated Wednesday 13th March, 2024

There’s a wide range of schools, online courses, and activities you can be doing to improve your English language skills, including speaking English, grammar and vocabulary, and reading and writing.  We have put together a list of the top 10 ways to learn English and improve your skills.

1. Make a plan and set goals

Learning English isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight. As with learning any foreign language, it will take time, and you will have to make sure you have learning time scheduled into your day. It’s a good idea to make a plan to make sure you’re practising every day – even an hour of practise each day will improve your English.

You should also make sure to set yourself realistic goals so you can measure how far you have gotten. For example, if you’re doing an online course, you can set a goal to have your assignments done by a specific date, and then you can reward yourself for reaching your goal.

2. Take a class

Some people prefer to have English taught to them, rather than having to find resources online and do self-guided learning. If you want, you can even study English in Australia, which will mean being surrounded by native English speakers to practise with! You can see our blog for more information on studying English in Australia.

There are also plenty of online English courses, or you can see what classes are available in your hometown. You can choose which level of English you would like to learn, and even what kind of English you want to learn. For example, you have the option to learn conversational English for when you go travelling, or you can opt for academic English if you plan on studying abroad as an international student.

3. Read in English

Being able to read in English is an extremely important skill. Everything from understanding signs or the local news, to reading academic textbooks at a university, will require you to have English reading skills.

As such, you should read everything you can. If you’re a beginner, little things like food packaging or English newspapers are full of new vocabulary to learn. For a more experienced reader, looking at slang-filled social media feeds or even classic literature can be an interesting new challenge.

4. Take notes

Every day, you will be exposed to new words or expressions. Keep a notebook or have an app ready so you can take notes as you hear or read them – that way, once you understand the new word or phrase, you can start to introduce it into your own vocabulary.

You will also find certain new words confusing, or not understand certain aspects of the English language, so keep a note of anything you’re unsure of, and then you can ask for help with those words.

5. Ask questions

Asking questions is vital when it comes to learning how to speak English. Whether it’s asking your English teacher or just Googling for answers, don’t be afraid to ask questions. This is how you will continue to learn and develop your English language skills – not everything can be learned from a class or a textbook. In real-life experiences you will discover new things about the English language, and you should ask any questions necessary to make sure you understand them.

6. Speak in English

English speaking skills are an important element of learning English. It is not enough to simply understand the English language – you need to be able to communicate. Luckily, there are many ways to practise your English speaking skills. The easiest way is to talk to native speakers. That way, you can practise speaking in an informal environment. You can even ask for advice on your pronunciation and whether the vocabulary you are using is correct.

7. Use authentic materials

English textbooks are good, but the best way to learn the English language is by using ‘authentic materials’, which expose you to the same things as native speakers (plus, they’re usually a bit more interesting!).

For example, watching English-speaking television and movies is a good way for you to get used to the speed that people speak, while also hearing different accents. You can also listen to podcasts or find a YouTube channel about a topic you enjoy – anything from cooking to true crime. You will start to learn new vocabulary, including local slang that might not be covered in formal English language classes.

8. Learn about the culture

Finding out about the people and culture of English-speaking countries can really help when you are learning English. For example, in Australia, there are many unique and unusual slang words used for everything from ‘hello’ to ‘McDonald’s’. Knowing in advance that you are likely to hear these slang words will make you more prepared, and you can ask questions about, or research, these new words.

9. Download an app

If you want an easy way to learn English, download an app to your smartphone. That way, you can practise your English language skills on public transport or during your lunch break at work. There are many free apps available; some make your learning more fun and game-like, while others are more serious and academic. Whatever your preference, there’s an English-learning app for you!

10. Plan to take a test

As an international student, if you plan to study in a country like Australia, you will need to fulfil certain English language requirements. So, one great way to learn English and prepare for your future is to come to Adelaide and study English in Australia to prepare for further study. 

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