I Speak English, Right?


Imagine two friends having a conversation over some tea and a movie. Like friends do, they talk and talk, about uni, school, the future. Imagine them starting to describe each other’s homes, zooming in on google maps to find the homely brick roofs.

Memory lane takes us to this; a three-year younger version of myself. With shorter hair, less wrinkles, and a new life abroad to get used to. Trying my first steps in English shoes. And upon describing my home back in Sweden, I proudly proclaim that I live in a big, white ‘tree house’.* My friend seems to collapse like a punctured balloon. Her face is in agony; amusement prickled with English politeness. And I wonder, what went wrong?

English can be tricky. Especially at universities. There are so many dialects to get used to, so many voices to interpret and remember. And despite obediently having finished over ten years of homework in English, I still cannot speak English perfectly. Words get translated wrong. Only a few days ago I was complimenting on a guy who had ‘followed’ me home.**

International students do not only have to study the content of the bachelor subject, they also need to look at the words used, the way an article is written, and then practise, practise, practise on their own projects, essays or exams. It is tedious, but necessary.

Thankfully, the university offers many different English language courses for those who feel they need extra help. The EAP (English for Academic Purposes) gives two free sessions to introduce the unsure voyager to the English language at universities. They also offer tutorial help, possibilites to interact with English volunteers and a huge Language Resource Centre at both Hartley and Avenue libraries. About 800 people use these resources every year. Chris Sinclair, Deputy Director at the Centre for Language Study, explains the positive effects of the EAP;

Students are able to develop both their English language skills and their understanding of our academic environment with the aim, ultimately, of getting the most from their time at Southampton. In terms of social life, these classes also offer students the opportunity of meeting and working with colleagues from different disciplines.

For those, who like me struggle with the social implementation of English, Sarah Wilks Costalas (email: sw12englishtutor@gmail.com) offers conversational and grammar classes for only £3-5. Having worked as an English Language tutor at the University of Southampton for over 13 years, she knows what students need to focus on. With up to 20 people in each class, students can ask general and cultural questions to increase confidence and self-esteem. When asked what positive experiences Sarah has from teaching English to internationals tudents she says:

Watching someone arrive with very little English and then leave 3 years later after achieving a high enough score in IELTS to start a university degree here is such a satisfying experience as an English teacher.

Speaking a different language means that I am always at school, always learning. Just like many of you. And let’s not be polite. Let’s take advantage of the possibilites the University has to offer to make our English even better. Ja?***

* The correct word is of course ‘wooden house’.

** And when a guy acts like a gentleman he ‘walks’ the lady home.

*** I mean, yes.


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