How to Communicate Better As An International Student Abroad?

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Written by: pTranslate Contributors


Being an international student is both an exciting and challenging experience for anyone. Getting through university alone requires a lot of effort, discipline, and determination. Getting through university in a country where nobody speaks your mother tongue requires even more effort. Things that you don’t even think about in your home country, like ordering breakfast, become a struggle when you go abroad.

There are a lot of things to familiarize yourself with, and among them is the language people speak. Even if you have learned the language to a fluent level before, you might have to unlearn everything once you get into the real world. Many students said that they had to “unlearn” and “relearn” the language because people speak too fast, and their choice of words is a bit too casual to understand.

how to communicate better as an international student abroad?

Although it seemed hopeless at times, it is not impossible. Learning the language is always something that international students are concerned about when they first step into that foreign land. Numerous generations of students have successfully overcome the language barriers and graduate, and so can you!

Here are a few tips that you can keep in mind to communicate better when you fly to a foreign country. Over time, you will go from constantly stuttering to a fluent, accent-free speaker that sounds just like a native. Of course, these tips apply to anyone that is moving to a brand new place, not just students. Overall, it boils down to constant practice and a bit of determination. Some language takes longer, some language takes less, but you can have an estimate here.

1. Use Google Translate at first

Of course, Google Translate is one of the worst tools out there to translate, but at least it works for a beginner. It can understand basic and simple words without context. If you are moving to a new place and have to learn the language, Google Translate will be your best friend during those early days. Type in any words you see, hear, or straight up just let Google Translate translates whatever the other person is talking to you. It is inconvenient, but it works, and at least it takes less time than not using it.

There are a lot of other voice-translate apps, too. You don’t really have to stick to only Google Translate. These are apps that help tourists and travelers translate in real-time, on the go, such as iTranslate or TripLingo. You can download these apps to use on your phone and use them immediately. Quick, simple, reliable, although not too efficient in the complex and more nuanced conversations. You can test through a few of them to see which one works best, and then go out to start learning.

However, you should not just “translate” it and forget it. Always pay attention to what it translates. You can learn new words and phrases just by using the app to translate in basic conversation. For example, if you are ordering a drink in a foreign shop where people speak only foreign languages, try to “decode” what the app translated. Try to find the new words in the sentences. At first, you might learn only one or two words, but over time, you will be able to identify new words more easily. Before you know it, you have already had a decent vocabulary to use in daily conversations.

2. Find roommates who speak the language

Roommate is a big part of living abroad. If you are living on campus or in the dormitory, you will definitely have some roommates that at least have a decent grasp of the language. Ask them to teach them, and don’t be afraid. If possible, you can offer to do something for them in return for their help. In the best scenario, you will find someone who knows both your mother tongue and the language of the foreign country.

If you can’t find roommates who speak the language, try conversing with the people around you more. If you’re going on homestay, maybe spend some of your spare time with them and try talking to them about daily things. It is a great way to show your concern and blend in with the family, while also learning the language.

Remember, you are studying, so act as if you are studying. Ask people to correct you if you made any mistakes. Don’t be too bothersome, but ask with politeness. Make an attempt to become a local. Of course, this varies by culture, too. In certain countries, people are less willing to answer such questions from strangers. It is best to stick with your friends, classmates, roommates, or anyone close to you. Show them that you are trying to become a local, and you will really appreciate their help.

3. Become a local

This step happens when you have familiarized yourself with the basics, and start to learn more about the culture. Once you know the basic words, you move up the ladder. You will be able to understand more complex information, and probably even watch TV or listen to music in that language. It is when you discover amazing things about the place. Every country has its own unique culture and interesting things to discover, so never restrict yourself to the comforts of your friends who speak your mother tongue. Try reaching out to native friends who have a lot of things to share with you.

For example, one of the first steps is trying to think in the local language. You can’t become a local if you don’t think like them. Sometimes language has the power to convey culture in it, and by thinking in the language, you are immersing yourself into their culture.

Next up is when you start dressing like the locals and taking part in local activities. Do not forget where you came from, though. If you have an eye for fashion, maybe you can combine the fashion of the two countries and create a unique style for yourself. It can make you more interesting, which helps you open your social circles more easily. 

This has a Domino effect on your language skills. The more you try to socialize, the more you will be able to understand the culture, and, of course, the language. There are so many subtle nuances in the language that you can only understand and learn through real-life interactions, not books. In other words, immerse yourself into the environment there and become it.

4. The mistake some international students make

The biggest mistake that international students make is simply not interacting enough. If you restrict yourself to your comfort zone, you won’t be able to learn much. There have been graduates who can speak the local language only at a very limited level. They are all people who stay with their countrymen and refuse to interact with foreigners. Surprisingly, some of those people include Master’s students, who spent more than half a decade there, and they only have a basic command of the language.

Of course, there are a lot of layers to the problems here. Some international students face certain problems when trying to blend in. These problems vary from being personal, social to racial, which are reasonable. However, you should not let these fears stop you from blending in. After all, if you don’t try, you can never know. Try finding a community that is suitable for you. If you find a community to be a bit unwelcoming, feel free to walk out and find another. There will be somewhere the welcomes you and provides you with opportunities to learn and grow.

At the end of the day, being an international student is a great experience. It allows you to see the world from a wider perspective. Try to make the best of it, and keep in mind that the language barrier is just some struggles of the early days. If you overcome it, the rewards will be immense, and you will thank yourself for having worked hard to achieve it.

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