It is normal when you first begin studies to find it hard to understand different accents or what people are saying when they speak quickly.
With time and effort, your ‘ear’ soon adjusts and you’ll get used to the way the English language is spoken in Australia.
Try and make practice a normal part of your day. Here are some ideas for improving your English language skills.
- Writing Centre
For more personalised advice visit the Writing Centre where you can get assistance with your assignments and any aspects of your study that you are having difficulty with. Writing Centre staff will not proofread, edit, or correct your assignments, but will help you identify areas for improvement and build your skills so that you can succeed in your studies independently.
Find out more about the Writing Centre at the Writing Centre Website.
- English conversation
English Language Learning Improvement Service (ELLIS)
The State Library of South Australia (SLSA), located next to the Museum on North Terrace, offers free weekly conversation groups. They provide an opportunity to practice English in a supportive environment.
For a monthly information sheet outlining class times and other important information visit the Information Desk or ELLIS tutor desk, or phone the State Library on 8207 7250. Discover more about this service by visiting the website and navigating to ‘English Language (ELLIS)’ under the ‘Services’ menu.
Centre for English Language (CELUSA)
The Centre for English Language (CELUSA) at the University of South Australia has a library with books, tapes and videos. Students and their spouses who are not enrolled in a CELUSA course can use the library facilities for a joining fee. Phone: 8302 1565, or visit their website.
South Australian College of English (SACE)
The South Australian College of English runs free English language classes for adults. The College is located on level 1, 47 Waymouth Street, Adelaide—for more information phone 8410 5222, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit them online.
WEA (Worker’s Educational Association)
WEA offer low cost courses for spoken English and English as a second language. Classes are two hours per week for 6–8 weeks. Located at 223 Angas Street, Adelaide, you can contact them for further information by phoning 8223 1272 or visit them online.
- Radio and TV
‘International Links’, Sundays at 12 noon ‘International Links’ showcases the contribution students from overseas make to our community. Students from one of the three universities talk about themselves, their countries and the studies and research they are carrying out in Adelaide.
The program is also broadcast on the Internet so that families and friends who are overseas can hear the broadcast live.
Presented by the International Students Association Radio Adelaide you can tune into International Links at 101.5 FM on the radio dial. For a comprehensive program list visit the Program Guide section of their website.
Talking Print program
Radio 5 RPH (1197 AM) provide an excellent service in which you can read the newspaper along with the announcer who reads the articles aloud. This will help you get used to the Australian accent and will familiarise you with the conventions and rules of English. It is an excellent way to improve your reading and listening skills, and over time you will find that your English grammar and expression improves as you develop your ‘ear’ for the language, just like a native speaker.
The schedule for particular newspapers is as follows:
Mon to Fri 10.30 am – 12.30 pm
Mon to Fri 1.05 pm – 3.00 pm
The Saturday Advertiser
Sat 10.00 am – 12.00 noon
The Weekend Australian
Sat 12 noon – 1.30 pm
The Sunday Mail
Sun 10.30 am – 12.30 pm
Some of these are also available via download from the website. For further information, check the Radio 5 RPH program Guide.
Watching movies and TV in English— especially news programs and current affairs—is a good way to practise your listening skills. You may find it very unfamiliar at first, as many TV presenters and actors use colloquial language (slang and idioms), but over time you will adjust to this and will find it easier to communicate at university.
You will also become more familiar with many aspects of Australian culture. Making friends who speak English is another way to practise your conversational skills.
To improve your English it is very important to practise using it outside of university as well—use every opportunity you can to read, write, speak and listen in English as this will accelerate your learning.
Don’t be afraid to ask someone to repeat themselves if you don’t understand what he or she has said. If someone has trouble understanding what you say, work together to make yourself understood.
- Tips for understanding lectures
Read the course outline and be aware of what the next lecture topic is. Think about how the lecture fits into the broad structure of the course, and how it connects with past lectures.
Preparation for lectures and tutorials is essential: read as much as you can about the topic before the lecture. Even if you only read a little bit, you can familiarise yourself with the new words. You will be more prepared for what is coming, and it will be easier to keep up with the lecturer. Extra reading will also improve your learning, and can help in essays and exams.
If you are completely unfamiliar with a concept, idea, or subject, try a more general resource such as a reference book, subject-specific dictionary, or even Google or Wikipedia before moving on to more complex resources. Make sure you don’t use Google and Wikipedia as references in your assignments though!
Catch up on what you miss during a lecture by using the course outline and the textbook. If you still think you are missing things, talk to your classmates, compare notes, and meet with the lecturer or your tutor during their consultation times.
Be selective—avoid spending too much time on catching up, and not enough on what is happening in your lectures now. A lot of the earlier work will be incorporated into the course as the lectures continue.
Revise regularly—set aside some time every week for going over what you have learnt that week and fitting it in with your overall knowledge of the subject. This will help you to retain the information and will make your revision for exams or assignments much easier.
Ask if you can record the lecture. You can then play back the lecture in your own time. You can listen again to things that you missed or did not understand. If you have a small recording device, ask your lecturer if it is all right to tape the lectures. Alternatively, many lectures are recorded and may be available via MyUni.
Lecture notes are available online for many courses on MyUni. These notes might cover the full lecture, or they might just outline key points. Use these notes as a guide. They can be helpful, but remember that study requires more than just having a set of notes made by someone else. Your goal should be to persist in trying to understand the lecturer and to take your own notes.
There is a very useful topic called ‘Writing and Speaking at University’ on MyUni, which has interactive online resources to help you with many aspects of your study. In particular, the section called ‘Grammar for Engineers’ is very useful, even if you are not studying Engineering.
- English language classes where you live
Many local councils have support services for migrants and overseas students needing additional English language assistance. These classes are low cost and an excellent way to meet other overseas residents or students living in your local area.
Fullarton Park Centre
411 Fullarton Rd, Parkside
T: 8372 5180
Open: Tues and Fri 10.00 am – 12.00 pm
101 Goodwood Road, Goodwood
T: 8372 5426
Tues 10.30 am – 12.30 pm
North Adelaide Library
176 Tynte Street, North Adelaide
T: 8267 6813
Mon to Tues, 10.00 am – 2.00 pm
My Language Portal
The My Language Portal website is especially designed for people from a non-English speaking background and contains links to information in many languages.
Contact your local council or your local library to find out about additional services. Taking active steps to develop your English skills is part of a positive approach.