The idea of taking a class in English when you are not a native speaker can be intimidating. The concept becomes even more unsettling when the course in question is a discussion-based class with frequent speaking opportunities. Despite this, there are several ways that you can prepare for your course and become more comfortable speaking English in front of others. For instance, you can:
Speak with your instructor
If possible, schedule a meeting with your teacher before class begins—ideally face-to-face. Use this meeting to provide your instructor with some background by explaining who you are, where you’re from, and that English isn’t your first language. It will likely help for your teacher to be aware of this, as he or she may be able to work with you to develop strategies for the course and discussion more specifically. Don’t be afraid to continue speaking with your instructor throughout the course, and to let him or her know if you are struggling.
Practice your speaking skills
If you’re nervous about talking in front of the entire class or a smaller group, practice your speaking skills outside of the classroom. Find a family member, friend, or roommate who is fluent in English, and spend time conversing with that person. Having regular conversations in English will help you improve your language skills.
Read and write in English
In addition to speaking English as much as possible, you should also practice reading and writing in English. Reading, in particular, will introduce you to new words. Try reading varied publications, such as magazines, novels, newspapers, textbooks, and so on in order to develop a well-rounded vocabulary.
Talk to your peers
Once your class has begun, don’t be afraid to let your classmates know that you’re not a native English speaker—especially if you are assigned to a smaller discussion group. Your peers will likely be understanding about your situation, and they may even be willing to help you with your language skills and to spend time practicing with you outside the classroom.
Consider working with a tutor
If you are truly struggling in your class, you can also seek the help of a tutor to work on your English skills—or on any other subject that you are concerned about. On the other hand, if you have a good understanding of all your subjects, you could volunteer to work as a tutor, which will give you another chance to practice your English skills. Explaining a concept to another student is a great way to refine your language use.
The key to begin handling a discussion-based class when English isn’t your first language is to practice English as much as you can, and to communicate your situation with those around you. With a little experience under your belt, and the understanding of others, you should have little problem making it through your discussion-based class.
Catherine Martin is a contributing writer for UniversityTutor.com, the world’s largest global marketplace for finding independent tutors.