One of the significant concerns that international students face when studying in the US is language. The cultural differences are less apparent due to the diverse cultural mix that the average US community now has. However, language is always a barrier even for the more articulate student.
Speaking a language is not the same as writing it, and writing a language is different from speaking it. In speech you can get away with the use of slang and mistakes, people are not overly concerned or worried with language proficiency, but rather in the knowledge base that stands behind the language.
Writing, however, represents the student’s ability to communicate the thoughts and knowledge to others in a coherent manner, showing not only knowledge but the ability to manipulate language to represent knowledge in a meaningful and efficient manner.
Writing is also the way in which you store information, so when writing software code, or filling in the database of information, you need to have knowledge of the syntax to process the data correctly. The same goes for writing general information, messages, essays, thesis, and more.
Every language has its own vocabulary and grammar. Languages are also expanding, changing, and diversifying. The American English language of today is different from that used 20 years ago, and even more different from that used 50 years ago. The differences between American and British English are also diverse.
Now let’s confuse the issue even more and add rules and regulations for Academic writing, which is not the same as general writing. Academic writing has a set of rules and standards that each different academic professional employs. Medicine uses different language parameters than engineering, and both are different from the language used in Art or Education.
Let’s take a deeper look at these five problems:
- Academic Sector
This refers to how proficient the student is in speaking English. The first step to understanding a language and being able to translate speech into text is how fluent you speak the language without learning to write it. Do not mistake speaking for proficiency in writing; many mistakes are made by writing as we speak. However, it is imperative to improve basic speaking to access better writing skills. These two forms of language do work better together, even when there are pitfalls.
Tip #1 To improve your speech you need to mingle with more native students and watch/listen to English channels.
One of the best ways to improve your writing skills is by building up a large vocabulary of words. This can be confusing when coming to different word constructs, such as abbreviations, slang, and other shortcuts. There are also letter combinations that might look like one word but pronounced differently, such as Slough, which is pronounced as it looks, and Tough, which is pronounced “Tuff.”
Speaking English will not give you this expertise, but it will give you the necessary number of words to expand your overall vocabulary, and then you need to practice writing these words.
Tip #2 Use a standard dictionary to look up words you are not sure how to spell. Even native English speakers do not have a large vocabulary.
Tip #3 Don’t fall into the mistake of using “clever” words, try to keep your language focused on the message it has to deliver without making every reader run for the nearest dictionary or thesaurus.
This is the tough one. Sure, you have a vocabulary, and you can speak with a British accent and sound ever so ingenious. However, when you are asked to write a basic term paper, you get stuck and need to ask your neighbors 12-year-old to help you out. Spelling is all about practice and reading. The more you read, the more words you learn to write correctly and if you practice writing daily, new words in a full composition you will become fluent in spelling correctly very quickly.
Tip #4 Use online dictionaries and don’t worry about mistakes, we all make them, just check the documents you write online first. Use spell checkers e.g. Online-SpellCheck before releasing a document.
Now we come to the hard part. This is what we all dread, and what most (80%) of the population get wrong. I will not indulge you with an English lesson in grammar, let’s just state that you will need to gain access to an online grammar checker such as Grammarly. This kind of tool is extremely helpful for checking your compositions and correcting grammar mistakes. Learning grammar is not like learning vocabulary or spelling, it is a complex list of rules built over centuries, and this is where writing differs from speech. Sure, you don’t spell when talking, but you do have to word your sentences correctly. Especially if you are involved in such academic pursuits as Law. Law is all about language; the best lawyers are most probably the best language weavers there are. They have the ability to give you twenty different ways to express the same thing but with different connotations and outcomes.
Tip #5 You will need to take grammar lessons, there is no way around this.
5. Academic Sector
It all depends on what you want to learn. If you intend to learn a language intensive profession, such as law or teaching, then you need to read, write, and speak English fluently. Not like a native speaker, better than a native speaker. You need to be fluent in the language and how it is constructed and woven into sentences that can deliver more than a simple message. A true expert in language will be able to deliver an epic message with all five senses and more. This means that you need to consider the subject matter you intend to learn and prepare yourself for that level of confidence.
Tip #6 When preparing for language proficiency tests, always aim for more, don’t settle for 100%, try to take the most advanced levels. The higher your competence, the better your overall performance in studying. Remember, some articles are written in obscure ways, understanding them might require you read them twenty times.
International students that did not learn English from the first grade will find writing English a major issue, that is why you need to use all the tricks and shortcuts to get you a perfect document. However, if you don’t know how to read English properly, you will not know if the document is correct. This means that you need to understand the language well enough to truly enjoy the fruits of an online spell checker and grammar correction app as well as a popular essay writing service e.g. CustomWritings if you need expert writing assistance from freelance academic writers.