An international student communicating in English

Communicating in English

The language challenge

If you always keep company with people from your own country, you run the risk of not improving your English. - Anastasia

International students often report some language difficulties when they first arrive in the UK. This is not surprising as, for many of you, it will be your first stay in an English-speaking country. In addition, the higher level of studies that you are about to start will probably make considerable linguistic demands on you.

In these activities you will listen to some international students and tutors talking about typical language challenges that students face when they first arrive. You will also assess how prepared you are for such challenges and explore different ways of improving your English language skills before you come to the UK.

Activity 1Listening to language experiences

You are going to watch a video in which two international students and a tutor describe typical language and cultural challenges faced by students when they first arrive in the UK. They also suggest some ways of dealing with these challenges.

Instruction icon


Watch the video extract and move the various problems and solutions mentioned by each speaker into the appropriate place. Some have already been done for you as an example. You can watch the video as many times as you need to. When you have finished moving all the items, check your answers.

First speaker
Second speaker
Third speaker
Fear of speaking in everyday situations
Not being confident or fluent in the language
More language competence leads to a fuller and richer experience
Keeping company with people from your own country
Gain confidence from speaking
Get a balance in terms of who you socialise with
Join social activities organised by the Students' Union
Learn how to communicate with English people
Needing to prepare what to say before entering shops
Only meeting local people who speak your language
Risk of excluding other people and living as if on an 'island'
Risk of not improving your English
Staying 'safe' by only mixing with people from the same country

Video transcript (pdf, 12kb).

Watch the video extract again with the transcript above if you need to check your understanding. The parts of the transcript containing the answers to the listening task are highlighted.

Activity 2Are you ready for the language challenge?

You are going to assess how prepared you are for the language challenge that lies ahead. You will also find out what you can do to prepare yourself before coming to the UK.

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Think about each of these statements relating to your own experience of using the English language and select the tick Tick or the cross Cross before reading the feedback.

 I find opportunities to practise speaking English each week.

 I read newspapers, magazines or other literature in English to keep up to date with language in use.

 I have a fair understanding of informal spoken style which includes some phrasal verbs, idiomatic language and slang.

 I have spoken with native speakers of English before.

 I have experienced listening to English speakers with different accents.

 I listen to English language radio or watch television programmes regularly.

 I use resources on the internet to improve my English language.

 I've written course assignments in English before.

 I've listened to a live lecture or formal talk in English before.

Would you like to review the main points?