17 ways to improve your English abroad

Hey, hello, hi, what’s up! Feeling confused? We don’t blame you. Learning English is hard for a few reasons:

  • We have words that are spelt the same but mean different things
  • Words that sound the same but are spelt differently
  • And there are multiple words that all mean the same thing!

Worry not though, our multilingual friends, with these few tips and a bit of practice you’ll be speaking the Aussie lingo in no time at all.

1. Get an online tutor

You don’t have to take this journey alone. Hook up with an English tutor online. These people have all sorts of relevant experience and have different hourly rates so you can find something in your price range. Check out Your Tutor, eCoaches, Verbling or Verbal Planet to find a teacher.

2. Get a tutor IRL

Cafe Aloft

Online not really your thing? Find a tutor in real life. If you’re studying English at an Australian university, you can find a tutor specific to your course using the Vygo app. Alternatively, check out Tutor Finder or ESL Tutoring to find a teacher near you.

3. Turn your subtitles ON

Even though it can be a bit distracting (read: very distracting), adding subtitles to your movies and series is an easy way to get your daily dose of English learning. You’ll see new words pop up that you didn’t know and it’ll help your spelling as well. #netflixandlearn

4. Change your phone settings to English

This is an easy one. Set the language settings on your phone to English. You’ll start recognising the English prompts and it will be one more way to learn each day.

5. Stick Post-it notes all over your house

As you learn, write down the English words for the furniture and household items in your house, bedroom and study space. You can even put them on your food in the fridge!

6. Say goodbye to self-doubt

Study Brisbane

The biggest barrier you will face when trying to learn English is the confidence you need to speak in a new language. The good news is Australians are super-friendly and willing to help. They’re not going to judge you or laugh at you if you get something wrong. Announce up front that you’re learning and ask them to give you feedback if you say something grammatically incorrect.

7. Go to conversational English classes

As the saying goes, sink or swim. If you throw yourself in the deep end, you’ll have no choice but to talk, listen and learn. If you’re studying English in Brisbane, your institution should have a free casual conversation class or event but if not, join one of the many Meet Ups across Brisbane (search: English language Brisbane).

8. Read English newspapers

New content every day! Pick up a second-hand newspaper in a waiting room, at your university or at a cafe and read through the day’s articles. As you see words you don’t recognise, take note.

9. Volunteer

Avis Hung

It can be difficult to find a job if you don’t speak English in Australia, so a good way for you to learn work skills and interact with other people is by volunteering. This will help you to practise your conversational English and make Australian friends. Check with your institution about volunteering opportunities or search online.

10. Find an English learning app

Learn on the go! Use your spare time between lectures or classes and on your commute to scrub up on your English. There are loads of apps to learn English in Google Play or the App Store. Check out Busuu and many more.

11. Get an email pen pal

Because paper pen pals are outdated, obviously. Having someone to write back and forth with will give you an opportunity to perfect your written English across a number of topics and daily life. If you can find a pen pal who is willing to correct your mistakes, that’s a bonus.

12. Get an Aussie mate

John Mateo

Have a chat to your teachers or lecturers about finding a buddy or team up with an Australian or native English speaker at your place of study. You can offer to exchange language advice or just practise conversational English over tea or coffee (or beer).

13. Keep a dictionary in your bag

See a word you don’t recognise? Look it up. Keep a dictionary handy and make a note of the new words you learn each day.  

14. Talk to yourself (in the mirror)

Talking in front of a mirror will help you see the way you pronounce words. You may notice the sounds you make are different to native English speakers, so this will help you to correct that.

15. Watch people talk

Ok, we know this sounds weird but watching people’s mouths while they’re speaking will help you to recognise the sounds and the pronunciation, and also how to produce the sounds yourself.

16. Start an English blog

Sarina Lama

Create a blog for your semester abroad and write it all in English. It may be difficult at the start but as you write a new blog each week or fortnight, you’ll notice your English improve.

17. Listen to English songs (and learn the lyrics)

Make a playlist of your favourite English songs and learn the lyrics. You’ll start to understand the lyrics in songs on the radio and be able to sing along. Before you know it, you’ll be front and centre at karaoke.

More resources