Moving to another country to study is an exciting prospect. But like any great adventure, it comes with challenges. If you’re moving or have recently moved to Australia and English is not your first language, you might not feel confident about communicating clearly. This can make meeting people, travelling, getting a job, feeling safe and excelling in your studies feel like extra hard work.
The good news is, you have resources all around you to help you overcome the language barrier. Use them well, and you’ll be talking like a true Aussie in no time.
1. Practice your skills using online tools, games and English-language content
It’s well worth taking time outside of your regular study hours to practice speaking, reading and writing English. If you haven’t arrived in Australia yet, this will help you feel a bit more prepared and calm those pre-trip nerves.
Learning English doesn’t have to be a chore. Experiment with mobile apps like Duolingo that feature fun exercises to help you memorise words and phrases.
If you don’t know many people you can practice with in-person, try a language exchange website where you can connect over voice or video chat with a “conversation buddy”. While language exchange buddies aren’t a substitute for a private English teacher, there’s no payment involved. All that’s asked is that you teach them a little of your own language in return.
Set aside a certain amount of time each week to use these tools. Regular practice is the best way to retain and remember what you’ve learnt. Even watching English language television programs and movies can help.
2. Try not to be shy or embarrassed
Australia's major cities are very multicultural. Many locals are used to hearing different accents or speaking to people who are still improving their English. Making mistakes from time to time is unavoidable and understandable. Learn from them instead of letting them get you down.
If you’re having difficulty understanding someone, ask them to speak a little slower, or use different words if possible.
If you find yourself struggling to find the right words, remember, you don’t always need to use words to speak! Hand gestures, body language and facial expressions are almost universally understood.
3. Join a club or volunteer group
It can be comforting when you first arrive to stay around people in your own language group, but the more you use English in everyday conversation, the faster you will become fluent.
Joining an English learning club is an obvious way to practice your conversational skills, but feel free to join any club, in or outside of university, that is of interest to you - even if at first you do much more listening than speaking.
Joining a volunteer group is another fantastic way to meet friends and feel a sense of belonging in your new community.
The more you immerse yourself in the local culture, the more comfortable you’ll feel when it comes to socialising, making friends, finding work and travelling.
4. Know what to do in an emergency situation
Making yourself clearly understood can be trying at the best of times, but what about in a high-stress situation?
If you find yourself in urgent need of help, call 000. State whether you need ‘police’, ‘fire’ or ‘ambulance’. Once you’re connected to the nominated service, a translator will come on the line to assist.
If you’re in a difficult situation but don’t think you require emergency services - you might be lost, injured, feeling unwell or unsure of how to get help - Sonder’s support staff are always ready to step in. With multi-language support available in-app, we can talk you through the situation via live chat or on the phone, and send someone to help you if needed.
To learn more about Sonder's student safety and support services, visit us at the app store.