Although learning English can be challenging and time-consuming, it is also very valuable to learn and can create many opportunities.
With spring almost upon us, students around the world will be preparing themselves to start courses at British schools and universities in September. Many will already be preparing to study in the UK, whether that be preparing for admissions tests and interviews, taking extra tuition in academic subjects, writing personal statements and submitting UCAS applications for higher education courses or choosing guardianship and insurance to support them when they arrive in the UK.
Quite often the need to enhance English language skills is overlooked by students or not emphasised enough in study plans which are designed to prepare them to study in the U.K. Once the all-important offer of place is received, many students almost audibly sigh in a relief and begin to take their foot off the gas, no longer driven by the need to impress schools and universities with their academic success, motivation and commitment to study. Aside from the fact that schools and universities will be looking at your progress right up until you begin your course, a change in study habits, routines and frequency will inevitably have a negative affect when you begin your new course in the UK.
Rather than basking in the security of an offer of place to study in the UK, students should increase their focus on preparing for a new education system, a new style of teaching and learning, a wholly English medium learning environment and instead give themselves a head start.
Why is English language so important?
Believe it or not, English is the official language of fifty three countries including Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Kenya, Malawi, Singapore, South Africa and the UK, making it one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. It is also spoken as a first language by approximately 400 million people across the globe. Becoming fluent in English will automatically increase the volume of people you can communicate with, develop friendships and future business relationships with.
English has long been considered a global language, with more and more multinational companies recruiting those with strong English language proficiency. Nowadays, for many global companies, the ability to speak English is mandatory if they are to even consider interviewing you. The reason for this is simple, international companies need a common language in which all employees can communicate. Just imagine if all of the senior management staff within a global international organisation had a meeting and none of them could speak the same language. They wouldn’t be able to understand one another, they wouldn’t be able to communicate ideas, needs or even get to know one another; it would be extremely difficult to get anything done. A universal form of communication (currently English) removes language as a barrier and allows everyone to communicate on even ground.
Let’s take a little step back from the career perspective; whether you are looking to live, work or study in an English-speaking country, you will most likely need to take an English language test, such as Oxford English, IELTS, CAT4 and UKiset, to name but a few, which will assess your level of proficiency in English. Achieving a high score will increase your opportunities for studying overseas, as well as future career opportunities. For example, the better your level of English, the more courses you will be eligible for at university, such as Journalism, Psychology and Biological Sciences, not to mention postgraduate courses which also require a higher level of language skills.
It’s easy to take an optimistic view and assume that you’ll pick up the language skills you need as you study, however, it’s not always as easy as it seems, and the last thing any student on a competitive course wants to discover is that their language skills are letting them down.
Learning English can be challenging and frustrating; not all words are spelt phonetically, for instance, which can be a sticking point, and not to mention the complexities of homophones. Learning the rules of English can be straight forward but applying them to everyday life and academic studies in the UK will be challenging without the right preparation.
How can students prepare?
Develop a breadth of vocabulary that can support academic essay writing, allow you to express yourself in class discussions and presentations, ask questions and follow complex syllabi and newfound subjects. The easiest way to extend your lexical resource is by reading. Our recent article discussed the advnatages of reading. Read a variety of literature from books to newspaper articles, magazines and comics to journals and academic essays. You will soon increase your vocabulary and find it easier to communicate formally and informally.
Improve speaking and listening skills
Improving speaking and listening skills are extremely important too. On average, students spend up to an hour per lesson (sometimes longer for double lessons), so the ability to actively listen to subject matter, understand the information imparted to you and answer questions put to you will be essential for progressing on the course and attaining strong enough grades to compete in the increasingly demanding U.K. education landscape.
Develop independent study skills
There is a strong emphasis on outside learning, which doesn’t involve extra tuition, but rather independent reading and research, which enhances classroom curriculum, your interaction with the course and with your peers and teachers. Self-study can add value to assignments and, in terms of university applications, demonstrate commitment to study and your subject area and evidence your motivation to study at a higher level. Start researching common topics and current issues to familairise yourself, get into practice of researching and reading independently. Develop your own opinions and ideas, practice writing short essays on topics (150 -250 words) and discuss them with friends.
Watch British television, movies and podcasts and listen to the radio to familarise yourself with UK accents, popular phrases and their meanings to increase listening skills.
Attend summer school
If you can, participate in a UK summer school. Most summer schools involve some degree of English language tuition and all require you to speak English. There are many benefits to taking part in a summer programme, least of all developing cultural awareness, improving language skills and familiarising yourself with UK etiquette.
Check out the Future Leaders Programme https://youtu.be/lBC5n4R9FOw taking place this summer and contact us for more information.
We have a range of tutors available to improve language and academic knowledge. Contact us to find out more.
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