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Top tips: Getting to grips with English

Our in-house Hong Kong editor gives you her tips on getting to grips with a new language.

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Learning another language isn't easy, but there are many ways that you can improve your English and get used to life in the UK at the same time. Our in-house Hong Kong editor, Judy Lam, gives you her tips on getting to grips with a new language...


1. Use every opportunity to learn
If you are taking a break or doing some shopping, try to walk around the supermarket and pay attention to the product names, and read the labels. Most of the supermarkets in the UK are quite big, and provide a huge range of products, so you can learn about the name of your favourite vegetables, snacks, desserts and much more. It may sound silly, but it's a good chance to increase your knowledge.

Similarly, avoid wearing headphones when moving around outside. Instead, listen to others' conversations (not in an obvious or rude way) to pick up how they converse, the phrases they use, what they talk about (what's acceptable to talk about in public) etc.

2. Get a feel for 'Englishness'
When you are having a meal out in a pub or restaurant, why not study the menu to learn some new words and get a flavour for UK culture? You will find that many dishes are connected to Englishness, from a 'Sunday roast', to a 'fry-up', to a 'mixed grill' and English tea. Speak to local people and ask if you don't understand regional words or phrases. An understanding of daily life is not something you can learn from a school or a book, so you will have to learn it by experiencing it firsthand.

3. Carry a pocket dictionary
Practise using a dictionary - being able to use this resource quickly and effectively under exam conditions can save you valuable time. It's a good idea to check any words you're unsure about in a dictionary if you're out and about.

When learning new words, try to connect them to similar words that you already know, rather than converting them to synonyms in your own language. For example: difficult = not easy, delayed = late, delicious = tasty etc. Before too long, you will find that your English vocabulary has grown and you will begin to express yourself more freely.

4. Get extra tuition if you're struggling
Most UK schools and universities will have extra English language support for international students. These classes are known as EFL (English as a Foreign Language). It is an additional English lesson that covers the basics of academic writing and how to write a good essay, and also covers speaking skills, which will give you an awareness of the tenses.

Don't forget that English support is a very useful way to improve your English, but is also an opportunity to make lots of new friends. Most of the English support and EFL courses are free of charge, but do check with your English teacher or ask a member of staff from your institution's International Office.

Don't be afraid to get involved in conversations and make mistakes - it's the best way to learn, and people will be tolerant and happy to help!


Have you found this useful? Keep reading...

There are different types of English courses that you might be interested in taking, read more about their differences in our article about English as Foreign Language courses.

Read more about English proficiency exams such us IELTS and TOEFL as requirements to study a university course in the UK, US, Australia and other destinations.

You may be interested in our piece, '3 unusual ways to improve your fluency in a new language'

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