Do you judge international students' English skills? (be honest) Watch

Anonymous #1
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I'm an international student studying law. I think my academic English is very good but my daily English needs improvement as this is my first time living in an English speaking country. This may be hard to understand for monolinguals but there are some aspects of languages which can only be learned if you live in that country for a long time.

Since coming here my lack of slang vocabulary in English has been causing me social anxiety. I have no British friends (actually I do have one but she also has social anxiety herself so that may be why she is more understanding than others) all of my friends are other internationals most of whom are non-native speakers themselves. Sometimes I will have no clue about a word my friends use in a conversation, and when I ask what that means they are like "oh my God how come you don't know that word?!" I am even more inclined to believe people are judging me because I study law so I'm supposed to speak perfect English. I even judge myself when I see another non-native speaker speak perfectly with no trace of a foreign accent.

I'm thinking of confiding my anxiety to my friends but I fear it will make matters worse by drawing even more attention to my English. Maybe I should listen to the BBC Radio every day during summer until I master British pronunciation. What do you think?

(by the way if you see any mistakes or sentence structures that sound unnatural in my writing please feel free to correct me. I'm trying to improve and I promise I won't be offended as I'm posting anon anyway.)
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Protégé
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Nah, it's not fair. It's good that a person has learned the language of another country, I don't expect most international students to be very well versed in the english language.
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Swanbow
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You written English is good. A lot of people don't bother with vernacular lexicon and just speak formal English, which is fine, but it is important to learn the meaning all the different words and some irregular sentences structures you'll encounter with various British dialects.

Practice makes perfect, I'd suggest joining a society and making some more British friends so you can expand on your conversational skills. It will help ease you fears about your spoken English, which I have no doubt is actually pretty good in person, and hopefully ease your social anxiety. It is a big step, but I knew a lot of initially nervous international students who really blossomed into social creatures, the life of the party if you will, through societies.

In general British people are quite patient, but we don't often correct people's mistakes unlike the Germans. Sometimes this is less helpful to the person wanting to learn English, our politeness can be a bit of a bother at times. Personally so long as I can understand what a person is saying I don't have a problem or judge them.
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Anonymous #1
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(Original post by Swanbow)
You written English is good. A lot of people don't bother with vernacular lexicon and just speak formal English, which is fine, but it is important to learn the meaning all the different words and some irregular sentences structures you'll encounter with various British dialects.

Practice makes perfect, I'd suggest joining a society and making some more British friends so you can expand on your conversational skills. It will help ease you fears about your spoken English, which I have no doubt is actually pretty good in person, and hopefully ease your social anxiety. It is a big step, but I knew a lot of initially nervous international students who really blossomed into social creatures, the life of the party if you will, through societies.

In general British people are quite patient, but we don't often correct people's mistakes unlike the Germans. Sometimes this is less helpful to the person wanting to learn English, our politeness can be a bit of a bother at times. Personally so long as I can understand what a person is saying I don't have a problem or judge them.
Thank you for your kind words. The thing is I used to have social anxiety even before I moved to England, but my confidence goes even lower when I speak a foreign language.

I know you just said you guys are reluctant to correct people's mistakes, but could you honestly say my written English is indistinguishable from that of a native speaker? In other words would you be able to tell I am a non-native speaker from the way I write? I'm asking because I had a guy I met on Tinder tell me that he could guess I was a non-native speaker even though I did not make grammatical mistakes.
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Swanbow
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(Original post by Anonymous)
Thank you for your kind words. The thing is I used to have social anxiety even before I moved to England, but my confidence goes even lower when I speak a foreign language.

I know you just said you guys are reluctant to correct people's mistakes, but could you honestly say my written English is indistinguishable from that of a native speaker? In other words would you be able to tell I am a non-native speaker from the way I write? I'm asking because I had a guy I met on Tinder tell me that he could guess I was a non-native speaker even though I did not make grammatical mistakes.
No problem. Social anxiety sucks, and I hope it gets better for you. Try not worry about what others think, I know it is difficult but its how you feel about yourself that matters most.

Your English is a bit rigid, but in I wouldn't presume you were a non-native speaker from the way you write. I'd just think you were educated, considering the many grammatical mistakes that native speakers make :lol: Maybe he thought that because of you name and picture on Tinder?
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Anonymous #1
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(Original post by Swanbow)
No problem. Social anxiety sucks, and I hope it gets better for you. Try not worry about what others think, I know it is difficult but its how you feel about yourself that matters most.

Your English is a bit rigid, but in I wouldn't presume you were a non-native speaker from the way you write. I'd just think you were educated, considering the many grammatical mistakes that native speakers make :lol: Maybe he thought that because of you name and picture on Tinder?
By rigid, do you mean I should spice up my writing and include different sentence structures?

Maybe my name and pictures influenced his perception a bit, but he insisted that the main thing that gave me away was my "too proper" English.
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Swanbow
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(Original post by Anonymous)
By rigid, do you mean I should spice up my writing and include different sentence structures?

Maybe my name and pictures influenced his perception a bit, but he insisted that the main thing that gave me away was my "too proper" English.
You can do, but in fairness I see nothing wrong with how you write now. Maybe the few odd slang terms or abbreviations could be included.

''Too proper'' English :lol: To be honest though it does seem that some foreigners make a better attempt at the language than some natives.
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Anonymous #1
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(Original post by Swanbow)
You can do, but in fairness I see nothing wrong with how you write now. Maybe the few odd slang terms or abbreviations could be included.

''Too proper'' English :lol: To be honest though it does seem that some foreigners make a better attempt at the language than some natives.
I'm aware that slang is my weakness. I'm just trying to be careful with it as it's too easy to mess up with something you can't directly learn from a formal resource (e.g. dictionary). But thanks for your feedback!

In relation to the last sentence, this is my (controversial) opinion: someone who speaks a foreign language fluently enough to study in it is likely to be smarter than the average population, hence their better grammar. Also we generally learn English in a classroom setting focusing (admittedly too much) on grammar.
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Swanbow
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(Original post by Anonymous)
I'm aware that slang is my weakness. I'm just trying to be careful with it as it's too easy to mess up with something you can't directly learn from a formal resource (e.g. dictionary). But thanks for your feedback!

In relation to the last sentence, this is my (controversial) opinion: someone who speaks a foreign language fluently enough to study in it is likely to be smarter than the average population, hence their better grammar. Also we generally learn English in a classroom setting focusing (admittedly too much) on grammar.
The best way to learn slang is just to interact with native speakers. It is a big step, but societies will help you to mingle with native speakers and you'll gain confidence in speaking English.

The magic of English is it's flexibility and it's diversity. That is why it has been so successful and managed to thrive by incorporating so much from so many different languages. That is why I don't get bothered by grammatically incorrect sentences from various regional dialects, or get bothered about perfection in execution. All that matters really is making yourself understood.

I grew up in a country where multilingualism was a fact of life. Everyone knew a bit of each other's language, and the local English dialect was scattered with words from various different local languages. As a result people seemed a lot more aware of cultural differences and were more open to new things. It is important to learn new languages, and I think that the reluctance of the British to learn different languages, and the government's reluctance to do anything about it, is impeding this country in an increasingly globalised world. But I agree that someone who is fluent in another language usually has their wits about them.
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doodle_333
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no, I've had plenty of international friends during uni, you have to realise that some slang/expressions will be difficult to understand as it just isn't translatable but it's not a big deal you can still communicate just fine

I have met the odd international student who didn't seem to understand much english at all which confused me a bit as how can you study here if you don't understand anything I say? but I have no problem with explaining a few things occasionally and I don't really care if you get the order of sentences wrong or something small like that - I'm usually just impressed that someone speaks 2 languages so well
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IanDangerously
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No, I'm just happy that people can actually speak the same language as me. There's no need to speak in slang, as long as people can understand what you're saying it's all good.

Some of my friends from overseas who come to Manchester for football have picked up bits of our local slang from me, maybe see if you can learn the odd colloquialism from a friend and drop them into conversations with other people if you're really wanting to sound more local?

The other thing to bear in mind though is that there's no universal form of conversational speech in England, every region has it's own slang words and accent, and there's a lot of regional grammar differences. The only way to fit in with everyone is to speak correct English because you could take 6 different people from different areas of the country and they'd all say the same thing in completely different ways.
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pickup
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I guess you're falling into the trap of taking the easy way out of the problem all foreign students have when they go to a foreign country ie sticking to the circle of friends, probably foreign students, in the same situation as you.

This is a big mistake. It is much more pleasant to use them as a ready made social circle but you will not get the benefit from your stay here if you continue in this way.

Make every effort to cut all ties with these people. No talking Chinese, German whatever your language is - at all. And if you continue to see them you will inevitably fall back into your bad old ways.

The reason why you are here is not just to study but to learn about British culture and way of life. You do that by mixing with British people, experiencing 'culture shock'. Join clubs, do sports, in and out of University.

Future employers will value your stay here if you have learned self reliance and it has strengthened your character. Conversely if all you can say is that you spent your time with your own nationals they will not be impressed.

In your favour you have realised that there is a problem. I lived abroad too. I made a conscious decision to keep away from any English speakers unlike friends who just took a flat together. Consequently my fluency improved hugely theirs hardly at all. I'm not pretending it won't be hard and you'll feel lonely and isolated but this will make you put in the effort to make British friends. You don't say how long you are here for. If just for a year you are running out of time. Hopefully it is for longer.
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A lot of international students have skills native students do not have. For example, plenty of native students will not have knowledge of the IPA and the phonemes. Also, natives may know how to use the language but often wont be able to tell you about structures whereas a lot of international students can tell you as they learnt English in their own country with a heavy focus on grammar. I have seen international students talk English to a level far beyond many natives in the UK.
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Anonymous #1
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(Original post by pickup)
I guess you're falling into the trap of taking the easy way out of the problem all foreign students have when they go to a foreign country ie sticking to the circle of friends, probably foreign students, in the same situation as you.

This is a big mistake. It is much more pleasant to use them as a ready made social circle but you will not get the benefit from your stay here if you continue in this way.

Make every effort to cut all ties with these people. No talking Chinese, German whatever your language is - at all. And if you continue to see them you will inevitably fall back into your bad old ways.

The reason why you are here is not just to study but to learn about British culture and way of life. You do that by mixing with British people, experiencing 'culture shock'. Join clubs, do sports, in and out of University.

Future employers will value your stay here if you have learned self reliance and it has strengthened your character. Conversely if all you can say is that you spent your time with your own nationals they will not be impressed.

In your favour you have realised that there is a problem. I lived abroad too. I made a conscious decision to keep away from any English speakers unlike friends who just took a flat together. Consequently my fluency improved hugely theirs hardly at all. I'm not pretending it won't be hard and you'll feel lonely and isolated but this will make you put in the effort to make British friends. You don't say how long you are here for. If just for a year you are running out of time. Hopefully it is for longer.

I think you got the wrong idea from my post; I am not hanging out with people from my home country. They are all from different countries and it just happens that English is a second language to most of them. When we hang out together everyone speaks English as that is our only common language.
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pickup
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(Original post by Anonymous)
I think you got the wrong idea from my post; I am not hanging out with people from my home country. They are all from different countries and it just happens that English is a second language to most of them. When we hang out together everyone speaks English as that is our only common language.
Well yes, the problem is the same. You're not mixing with the British which is the point of being here.

You learn English by being with native speakers: you learn about the British way of life by living and being with the British. You want to make maybe life long friends with British people. You need to meet and make friends with English solicitors and barristers. They will be of infinite use to you.. Have you applied for work experience in English solicitors offices or mini pupillages in English chambers? The contacts you make will be invaluable.

Speaking English and socialising within a foreign group just will not cut the mustard.( be good enough). You are taking the easy way out, quite understandably.

You just have to be strong and leave this group. No ifs no buts. There is no other way to improve your English. You will regret it for the rest of your life if you don't. And, you will have squandered a fantastic opportunity to grow as a person. The test of a mature person is whether they can look after themselves, think about what they want out of life and work towards it. You will learn survival skills, the ability to get on with people from a different background that will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life.

By staying in this group you are continuing to infantilise yourself. You are not taking responsibility for achieving what you claim to want ie to improve your English. You have already lost 2 terms don't lose any more time.

I know I sound harsh and unsympathetic but having done it myself I speak from experience. You will be so proud of yourself when you succeed.
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Anonymous #1
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(Original post by pickup)
Well yes, the problem is the same. You're not mixing with the British which is the point of being here. You learn English by being with native speakers: you learn about the British way of life by living and being with the British...
I wouldn't go as far to say the problem is the same, because I certainly have improved my speaking skills by hanging out with my friends. However I agree that ideal situation would be mixing with the British crowd rather than creating our own international bubble. I certainly did make an effort to become friends with British people, but they didn't seem to take much interest in me. In some way or another things didn't work out with them and then I just became intimidated to approach exclusively British social circles.

I will not go as far as cutting off ties with my current friends as I feel this is not only unfair but also unnecessary. I will, however, try to meet more British people. Thank you for your advice; I appreciate it and I definitely see where you're coming from. I am also puzzled by those who travel all the way to the UK just to mix with people of the same nationality as themselves.
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