Do you know the feeling when it is the first week, you don’t know anybody at the Erasmus events and you try to watch out for…? Yes, you try to watch out for people from your own country. This problem occurred a lot during my semester abroad experience: in the first weeks most of the people from the same country gathered together and did not want to embarrass themselves and neglected speaking to people in English.
I got you all guys! I feel you! While I am writing this blog, Google Translator is my partner in crime. Nevertheless, there is a real, great chance you are going to miss out if you keep searching familiar people. I am glad that I got to know a lot of people who aren’t from my country. I challenged myself nearly every day speaking and writing in English. And, because of this, I made good friends with Belgian, Swedish, Dutch, Finish and American people. After a few days here in UL, I stopped feeling embarrassed just because I might not get every sentence right or I don’t have a broad vocabulary. I got out of my comfort-zone and learned that I can make it anywhere. But the first step to improve your skills is to get to know different people from outside of your own country.
My tip for the first time speaking in English in a massive group? Just laugh! And when you can’t find the words, you have two hands! The best way to improve speaking the language is active speaking. I really loved that I barely got to meet German internationals, because there is no safety net for me when I do not explain something in the right way.
Here are ten steps of my own challenge for learning a different language:
- Step 1: Get to know people from different countries, join the international events
- Step 2: Clubs & Societies are also a good way to meet people. Also, the comedy shows in the inner city centre every Wednesday evening at Dolan’s Pub is a cool experience
- Step 3: Meet the staff from the Writing Center of UL to improve your academic skills
- Step 4: Games, especially “Who am I?”, are the best way to learn to speak under pressure
- Step 5: Start reading and watching movies only in English. You will get the sense for it! I sometimes got confused after watching a movie in German and then focusing on English grammar structure in my essay – it is just so different.
- Step 6: Lose your embarrassment and ask questions during lectures or participate actively. I challenged myself to participate actively in lectures and tutorials. In the beginning, it was hard but after a while nobody cared anymore if my English is not so fluent.
- Step 7: Join trips from International Society or do private trips with your international friends. When you are the whole day together, you will get more in the mood for English and you will get to know the person better. When you start feeling more comfortable around them, your language skills will also be better.
- Step 8: Adapt to the manners of Irish people around you. To get to know the language and the country better, observe the waiters, professors, students, and so on around you. You won’t understand stuff like “What’s the craic?” otherwise!
- Step 9: Don’t over-complicate it. I tried to translate word-for-word from my mother tongue into English. This is not possible! Sometimes German jokes can’t be translated, and vice versa.
- Step 10: Don’t think too much – just speak! It is even funnier for others if you yourself recognize any faults during speaking. We are all in the same situation – no one will laugh at you!