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Three tips for overcoming language barriers as an international student

When studying abroad, you may find that you face language barriers, particularly if you are studying in a language that you are not fluent in. International student Sushant Shrestha shares three things that helped him to improve his language skills

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    Sushant Shrestha

    International student from Nepal, studying at Tongji University
    May 17 2022
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    Studying abroad is a rewarding experience for multiple reasons ranging from intercultural experiences to developing self-reliance.

    However, sometimes language barriers may create hurdles for students that could prevent them from exploring their full potential. Getting acquainted with a new language, and sometimes culture, can be stressful and daunting.

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    Here are three tips I found useful as an international student from Nepal studying in China to overcome some of the language barriers I faced. Although learning a language is a long process and I am yet to be fluent, these tips have helped me communicate better with friends. 

    Although my experience is of studying in China and learning Chinese, these tips could be used for any student in any country, trying to learn any language. 

     1. Find a language partner

    Fortunately for me, I found my language partner Peng the very first day I entered the university. I didn’t know the way to return to my dorm and luckily I met someone who could speak English and was able to help me improve my Chinese. Later we exchanged numbers and planned to meet every weekend to help each other learn Chinese and English.

    I then found out that the language used in class was a bit more formal than the everyday Chinese used by other students. Although you might think that it would be quite hard to find language partners, I found that many other students were interested in partnering with me to improve their English. 

    Finding a language partner can be a great start to get acquainted with everyday conversations and culture.

    2. Watching TV series or films

    The pandemic and lockdown meant spending long hours in my room. So, as a way to avoid boredom, I turned to watching TV series on my computer. Although initially I watched them just to pass the time, by watching them with subtitles, I started to pick up the language better. 

    Watching TV series also provide you with more topics to talk about with your friends. The aspirations, the everyday life and informal ways of communication are well portrayed in dramas, which are an excellent form of entertainment as well as a way to overcome informal language barriers.

    3. University clubs and games

    I met one of my closest friends at a student club, who helped me with both academic work as well as life in China.

    One of the easiest places to break the ice and begin conversations are university clubs. Organising events, being part of them and sharing lunches and dinners can not only help international students learn the language but also helps them to become part of college communities while helping cultivate memories and friendships.


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