Living in Australia

How to Improve Your English

If you’re planning to visit, work or live in Australia, then it’s in your own best interests to polish up your English language skills. When you can communicate properly, everything is so much more enjoyable. You can make new friends and find your way around more easily, reduce stress and even save money. Embracing the language in a new land is one of the fastest ways to become more comfortable, sooner.

The trouble with English

Whatever your native language, English can be challenging for most people. There are so many rules that don’t seem to make sense! In fact, English is considered one of the most difficult languages to learn, alongside Japanese, Mandarin, Finnish and Russian. And to top it off, Australian English can be even trickier. Aussie slang is difficult to master but thankfully, if you can become quite fluent in regular English, the slang can come much later.

Happily for you, Australians are quite friendly when it comes to international visitors trying to communicate. Don’t ever be shy to speak English in Australia because your attempts will always be welcomed.

Instant translation in the palm of your hand!

Thank goodness for the internet and smartphone apps! In the ‘old days’, if you didn’t speak the local language, you would have to carry around a phrase book to be understood in a limited variety of situations such as transportation, restaurants, hospitals and accommodation.

Now, you can simply type in what you want to say in Google Translate (Android or Apple) in your own language and it will instantly translate it for you. You can either attempt to read it back, show the person who can read it or press the little speaker button and the words will be read out loud. Most smartphones come with Google Translate already installed.

Apps that can help improve your English

Duolingo is a really clever little app that can help you learn English even if you’ve never spoken a word of it. Even as a beginner, you’ll quickly pick up common phrases, sentences and verbs. You can set yourself a target of 5 to 20 minutes a day and improve your English bit by bit, perhaps while on the bus or train or while eating your breakfast.

Best of all, Duolingo is free! Other apps include Awabe, which can teach you more than 4,000 commonly used phrases, Learn English Daily, which helps improve your pronunciation and Beelinguapp, which teaches you English by having you listen to audiobooks.

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Enlist the help of an English language tutor

On Tutoroo, you’ll find lots and lots of English language tutors in your area. You simply type in your location, select ‘English’ and hit ‘Search’. Hourly rates vary - and you could even work with someone who speaks your own native language too!

You can also try Tutoring for Excellence which is more suitable for international students as these tutors can help with other subjects too. Need help with Physics, Biology or Maths? Easy! The tutors specialise in all levels of English from English as a Second Language through to advanced and can assist with speaking, reading, comprehension and writing. This organisation offers assistance in many different locations.

You can do a Google search for ‘English language tutors’ but make sure you include the word ‘language’. An ‘English tutor’ could bring up results that include tutors who can assist you in the school or university subject ‘English’. That subject goes into literature, poetry and writing and not so much the basics such as grammar, punctuation and speaking.

Specifically, the search term ‘ESL’ (or ‘English as a Second Language’) will be useful for you. Or you could even try ‘ELL’ (‘English Language Learners’). What is the difference? The latter usually refers to English taught as part of the curriculum in a general education classroom. More commonly used in a primary or high school, it’s a way of integrating the language as part of the regular classroom activities. But still, you could try both ESL and ELL when conducting your searches.

Explore the Adult Migrant English Language Program

The Adult Migrant English Language Program (or ‘AMEP’) offers eligible migrants up to 510 hours of free English language tuition. Depending on the type of visa you hold (permanent residency or one of the eligible temporary visas), and you commence your tuition within 12 months of your arrival, you could apply.

AMEP courses can help you with improving your everyday English skills and gain a better understanding of using Australian money, getting around on public transport and reading and writing in English. It also covers information about Australian customs and culture.

Furthermore, there are courses focusing on Pre-Employment English which cover workplace culture, how to write employment applications and how to prepare for a job interview which will, of course, be in English.

English language courses at TAFE

TAFE stands for Technical and Further Education. Courses at these colleges provide graduates with a Diploma. At TAFE, you can take classes in General English, International English Language Testing System (IELTS) preparation and English for Academic Purposes (EAP).

There are also short courses such as ‘Communication English Non-Student Visa’ (for international students). This Queensland TAFE course, for example is designed for people on temporary visas who don’t quality for AMEP. TAFE courses vary according to state so first choose the website that applies to the state that you’ll be visiting or staying in:

The English language tutors in all TAFE institutions are highly trained and will provide you with top quality education.

Searching for a non-institutional tutor

You can search for a private tutor for studies in IELTS and ESL at TutorFinder. Those links will take you to a page where you can select your region. From there, you’ll find a list of tutors, their hourly rate, student star ratings and a list of the subjects they can assist with.

In fact, each tutor’s profile is quite comprehensive and includes bios written by the tutors themselves. Some offer one-on-one tutoring as well as group tutoring. Hourly rates may vary according to geographical location (i.e. how far they have to travel to meet you) and a number of other variables.

How to improve your English online

Maybe you want to brush up on your English before you get to Australia. Why not study online? One of the more fun ways is to use English Central. It provides more than 10,000 English video lessons and recommends you watch one per day. You can choose videos that match your skill level and your interests and you interact with the video by filling in the blanks. If you want, you can even book a one-on-one conversation with a private tutor.

Working on your English in the real world

Children find it incredibly easy to learn English, simply by attending school and talking to other kids. For adults, immersing yourself in English-language activities is the best way. Here are some examples:

  • Watch TV shows you like, without subtitles. Sitcoms are excellent.
  • Listen to the presenters on the radio as they are likely to speak very ‘local’ English to where you are staying.
  • Listen to English-language music. When you listen to songs over and over again, you tend to pick up the language and can easily repeat it.
  • Write down any new words or phrases you learn in a book or keep them in a note on your phone. It will help you to remember them and you can refer back to them.
  • Put yourself in situations where you have to speak to others. It could be buying a pre-paid public transport card, shopping for clothes, ordering food at a restaurant or sitting in a bar.
  • Watch English-language videos on YouTube. You can pause as you wish and listen repeatedly.
  • Read children’s books for simple language.
  • Try to talk to yourself in English. Whenever you get the opportunity, aim to think in English and by thinking out loud – speaking – you’ll activate the part of your brain that helps you pay greater attention.
  • Join Facebook groups that focus on your interests. When you’re interested in something, you tend to pay closer attention. (Just don’t hit the ‘translate’ button!)
  • Keep the radio or TV on in the background while you’re tidying up, cooking or ironing your clothes.

Don’t be left in the dark – learn English any way you can

The whole world opens up when you can speak another language, particularly English which the native or official language of more than 50 countries around the world. It can be difficult to be brave when communicating with others in a different language. You might be worried that you’re not pronouncing words properly or that you’re using incorrect words.

People usually understand and make allowances. The most important thing is to not give up. The more you think, write, read and speak in English, the sooner you will start to even dream in English! That’s when you’ll know it’s really happening for you. Dreaming in English is a sure-fire sign that you’re really making progress.

Being bilingual is a valuable skill. Be proud of every conversation you have that produces the desired result. Living in or visiting Australia which be much more rewarding for you, without a doubt.

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