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Victoire

March 7th, 2022

Studying in English as a second language

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Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Victoire

March 7th, 2022

Studying in English as a second language

0 comments

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

A large portion of LSE students don’t come from English-speaking countries. Although most are fluent in English, many face struggles to adapt to the language, especially at the beginning of their journey at LSE. Let me tell you about my experience as a French exchange student here.

I was advantaged by the fact that most of my classes were already taught in English at my home university in France, so, when I arrived in London, I was pretty confident about my English level. But I soon realized that studying in English in France was not the same as doing so in the UK, with native teachers and classmates. Although I have no trouble reading articles and writing essays, I sometimes have a hard time understanding my teachers and classmates, especially when they are really passionate about a topic (which is a pity because that’s when classes become most interesting!). In France, most of my teachers and fellow students weren’t native speakers either so they were usually speaking rather slowly and did not use quirky turns of phrase. These differences, however, didn’t have a major impact on my learning as I always managed to understand the majority of lectures and classes. Instead, the most frustrating aspect was the difficulty to participate as much as I would have liked, especially in lively, fast-paced discussions (again, the most interesting ones!). As a non-native speaker, I need a bit more time to understand the questions and arguments of my teachers and fellow students and, most importantly, to structure my contributions before saying them out loud. As a consequence, I often felt frustrated that, by the time I was ready to make my point in grammatically correct English, someone else had taken the floor and led the conversation in another direction, making my argument obsolete.

I feel like many international students might face the same issue so here is what I have learned:

Don’t be ashamed

Studying outside of your home country is already a sign of strength and courage, so don’t be ashamed by the difficulties you’re facing. The challenges only make your experience more valuable. Moreover, shame might prevent you from raising this issue to your teachers and classmates. They would probably be glad to help you if you’re struggling to understand.

 

Come prepared 

The more you prepare for class, the more you’ll be able to make relevant contributions. If you already have an idea of the questions you’ll be discussing in class (based on the readings or Problem sets), try to write down full answers at home so that you don’t have to look for your words during class.

 

Sleep well

I noticed that my English fluency was positively correlated with the amount of sleep that I had and also negatively influenced by my level of tiredness, which makes perfect sense since rest is needed for your brain to work at full capacity.

 

Make use of LSE’s support services

The first thing to do if you’re struggling with English is probably to talk to your academic advisor about it. They’ll be able to advise you and try to find solutions with your teachers. You can also get help from LSE Life, which offers a wide variety of academic support services. Finally, the Language Centre organises English for academic writing courses and workshops, as well as one-to-one language support consultations, which can be of great help. 

 

Listen to the BBC

Listening to the radio familiarises you with different British accents and turns of phrase. Besides, unlike videos, radio broadcasts enable you to focus on what you hear without being distracted by images. It also means that you can’t rely on images to understand what’s going on. 

 

Don’t lose sight of all the progress you’ve made and remember you’re still improving

Struggling with a language can be disheartening. Therefore, it is important to remember that progress is not linear and that you are probably harsher on yourself than other people are on you. Studying in another language is challenging but it is also a courageous and rewarding endeavour that is going to pay. You probably have made a lot of progress already and you’ll keep making more as your studies continue!

 

About the author

Victoire

Hi I'm Victoire! I’m a French GO LSE exchange student who likes Victorian literature and classic rock.

Posted In: Student Life: Advice | Study Abroad

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