If you are an international student currently studying or hoping to study in the United States, you know how critically important your English language skills are to your success. You likely also know that becoming fluent in a second language involves time and a deep commitment to achieving your goals.
If you are concerned about your language-learning progress, or if you would simply like some new tips and tactics to improve your performance, there is no better time than the start of the new semester to begin building fresh habits. Changing your behavior is never easy, but the following ideas can help you achieve your goals:
1. Consistently study in a quiet space
Whether you are reviewing English or any other subject, creating a quiet and comfortable place to study is the first step to developing great habits. This is not always easy to achieve, particularly if you live in a dorm or other shared accommodation, but it is fantastic for your productivity. Using a dedicated space for review sessions not only provides you with privacy and quiet while you work, it also puts you in a specific mindset. For instance, if you had a home office that you used for homework each day, your brain would become accustomed to that space serving a particular purpose.
Of course, you do not need to have a home office to have a dedicated work space. If you live in a shared apartment, home, or room, find a spot in the library that you can study in each day.
When learning a new language, certain words and rules may be more difficult to understand or to remember than others. Utilizing visual aids or creating a mental image (i.e. visualizing) can be a critical practice in these moments.
Imagine, for instance, that someone tells you that it is “raining cats and dogs outside.” This is an idiom that means that it is raining very heavily. In this case, if you were confused, you could visualize cats and dogs falling from the sky in large numbers, which you might imagine to be very heavy and unpleasant. Based on your visualization, you could come to the conclusion that the person is referring to a heavy and unpleasant rain.
3. Form your own examples
One of the most effective ways to learn or to teach someone the meaning of a particular word, phrase, or concept is to use it in an example. But if English is not your first language, locating examples in books or online may be challenging. Instead, form as many of your own examples as you can.
At first, you might find this to be a difficult habit, but over time, it will become easier. A great way to make this a useful habit is to work with someone else to try out different examples. This will help you improve while working through some of the more difficult aspects of the English language.
4. Create a goal schedule
Learning a new language is what one might consider a very large goal, and one of the best ways to achieve a large goal is to set smaller goals for yourself to stay motivated and to feel a sense of accomplishment.
Try to set daily, weekly, and monthly goals that push you to learn, but do not feel overwhelming. For example, you might decide that by the end of each week, you want to have learned ten new English metaphors.
5. Locate a study partner
For some people, having a study partner can be more challenging than helpful. But if you find that you work best when you have someone to share ideas and questions with, a partner could be a wonderful strategy for you.
If this appeals to you, consider setting up a regular schedule with your study partner and meeting in the same place each week.
David White is a contributing writer for UniversityTutor.com, the world's largest global marketplace for finding independent tutors.