Studying in another country means immersing yourself in a different environment. An international student should adjust in order to survive. And so, learning a language of the country you want to study in is one of the important factors to consider to make the adjustment easier and to maximize the study abroad experience.
Language—a means of our communication—may be a stumbling block to an international student’s effective learning. The necessary skills of reading, speaking, writing and listening should be given attention to completely understand not only academics, but more importantly the people and the culture of the country per se. Sometimes, it requires painstaking efforts do this task, but in the end you will reap the rewards. It does not hurt to be fluent in two languages, right?
In my case, using the English language is not a big problem at all. This is so because English is widely used as a second language in the Philippines. You can even hear Filipino say random English words during normal conversations! Furthermore, it is the medium of instruction in schools more often than not. Even people from other Asian countries would study in our country just to learn English. In general, we practice and understand the English language and it has been an integral part of our daily living.
Even though I have developed the skills in understanding English, I still encounter some difficulties. Speaking English demanded careful practice because Americans speak in different accents or modes of pronunciation. Try to acquire their twang or speak in an esoteric manner particular to your place. Avoiding the perception of speaking gibberish—you have to twist and twirl your tongue in order to master the skill. Well, that was a bit exaggerated…
Ready your Dumbo ears because some Americans speak way too fast. Now and then, you would notice mouths motionless as they speak. Just put a puppet beside them and you will get a ventriloquist! Pay attention to every single sound and corresponding word. But if understanding the person is insanely difficult and calls for a divine intervention, better tell him or her to stop! Pardon yourself and ask the person to repeat everything in a slow and understandable manner, perhaps the most neutral accent.
Based on my experience, as I go along and mingle with people, I get accustomed to their way of speaking and eventually speak the way they do. Exposure is the key. One thing that could help is by listening to US radio or watching US television programs. I would watch DVDs with subtitles at times because it would improve my listening comprehension(not to mention my reading comprehension). I also mimic the dialogues, so I can exercise my mouth and get an idea of how a statement or sentence should sound or be said properly.