DIY: A student’s guide to improving your English

Growing up in Toronto provided ample opportunity to explore different cultures and learn new languages. However, it wasn’t until an experience abroad that I’d learn the art of mastering a new language. The key is to immerse yourself.

For those who, like me, came to Canada from elsewhere or for whom English isn’t a first language, studying at U of T – notorious for its isolationist reputation, jokingly, comparable only to that of Donald Trump’s USA – doesn’t mean you’re doomed to graduate with a flimsy, if not utterly deteriorating, command of the English language.

The U of T community is not isolationist – contrary to popular, albeit, false belief. The choice of isolation is left with individuals. You’re free and encouraged to use the plenitude of campus resources to improve your English.

Better English is, after all, in your hands and it’ll certainly reinvigorate your experience here at U of T; by opening new doors, you’ll begin to see the plethora of possibilities and appreciate the boundless opportunities that Toronto boasts. Improving your English is a sure way to attain a more enriching, interconnected and positive learning experience.

Here are ten tips for improving your English:

1. Change your devices into English – like your phone and computer. Language is like a muscle and with more use the stronger it’ll get.

2. Talk, listen and read in English as much as possible. Switch your social media platforms to English. Make it a rule to communicate only in English, even with fellow expats. Push yourself and others out of the comfort zone and build better English together, that’s the real meaning of socializing anyways.

3. Keep an English vocabulary journal. Make it a daily habit to learn new words by incorporating it as part of your routine.

4. Use words in a variety of contexts so as to build more versatile and robust communication skills.

5. Subscribe to an English language magazine of a personal hobby or interest. Doing so will diversify the breadth of your use and knowledge of English.

6. Except in special cases or emergencies, take on the challenge of speaking only in English for an extended period of time – like for three or six months. This will ensure you’re more fully immersed and improve your English much more quickly.

7. Go over to the Communication Café to strengthen your language abilities and build your confidence for expressing and communicating ideas orally.

8. Try the reading-eWriting program offered by FAS to better improve your reading comprehension and writing skills. They’ll even let you follow the program, if you prefer, using your own course materials.

9. You can also join the free non-credit and no-pressure mini-courses. There’s no homework, they promise!

10. Lastly, make sure to check out the English Language Learning Student Association (ELLSA). They’re an officially recognized student group who host fun social events and are always looking to help those seeking to improve their English. You can also connect with them on Facebook.

Ultimately, English, like any language, is not easy and requires steadfast commitment for its mastery. For new and native-speakers alike, language skills are always a work in-progress. Don’t let yourself get discouraged, remember, however bleak and frozen the middle of winter may seem and feel, like summer, better English will come with time.

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