“Learning English” was always a hard thing for me. To be honest, it is not that surprising, since I am an international student who came to Canada for university. As a University of Waterloo Math student, I see lots of international students around me who have the same problems every day. I think the main reason of this problem is the poor English teaching style in high schools. Well, for me it was that reason. Let me share my experience about learning English in high school.
Learning English in High school
I am a student who came Turkey. I lived in Turkey for 18 years and of course I graduated high school from there. Learning English in Turkish high schools is so hard because of many reasons and I would like to list them below:
- You can only learn English in “English” lectures. Well I’m saying that because my roommate is from India and he told me in India schools teach all the courses in English language even if their native language is different.
- People mostly don’t care about English lectures because they must completely focus on Turkish University Exams which don’t contain any English questions. Furthermore, my high school cancelled all the English Lectures in the last year of high school, so that students could focus for the exam better.
- Since you are aware that the teacher who is trying to teach you English is Turkish, if you don’t understand anything you quickly turn back to Turkish which is bad. I believe without having hard times you can’t learn anything.
- The way they teach English is not good. Every single year they teach the same things, which is mostly grammar learning. Practicing, talking and communicating is only 10% of the course. The rest is mostly learning and memorizing the grammar rules.
- This part is funny – Every single time the teacher enters the room, this dialog takes place:
Teacher: Good morning class!
All the Students: Good morning teacher!
Teacher: How are you today?
Students: Fine thanks, and you?
Teacher: Thanks, sit down.
I am not complaining about this in terms of respect, because it is a common thing in Turkish high schools that you greet the teacher when he/she enters the room. What I’m complaining about is that every single time, the students say the exactly same quotes and some of them don’t even know the meaning of this. This dialog just represents how they try to teach English just by memorizing words.
I learned 11 years of English in the Turkish education system and when I first arrived in Canada I couldn’t even order a wrap in the café because I didn’t know how to.
English in University Life
My experience about English in University is pretty much the same with all the other international students. It was very hard but at the same time interesting in the very beginning. In the first couple of weeks I felt very different because that was the first time I couldn’t speak Turkish for a long time. I was always trying to avoid talking to people because I was not confident of my English skills. However, now I got used to it. I am a little more confident about my English when talking with native speakers but I still need to improve it in academic sides (that’s the main reason why I enrolled in ENGL 119). University of Waterloo is good place to practice and improve your English skills because people here are mostly patient and they try to understand you even if you have struggles when you are talking.
I would like to share some suggestions of how to improve your English skills as an international student:
- Try to have some friends whose first language is English so you can practice easily and naturally.
- If you have lots of friends from your own country, try to reduce the time you spend with them or try to talk English with them. Especially, if you talk your own language so much in front of other people it might be disrespectful in some situations. I know this part is hard but I got lucky because very few people from Turkey are going to the University of Waterloo.
- Attend and care about your English courses. Not just because they have the same amount of credit as Math courses, but also you will need the stuff you learn in English course in the future such as interviews or presentations.
So what do you waiting for?