Talking Points: Getting the conversation started with international students

A large part of university life is spent talking. For whatever reason though, talking can become a daunting task – if you’ve ever experienced public speaking anxiety, you know the feeling.

Now consider an international students learning English for the first time, can you imagine how difficult it might be for them to get talking?

“Many of the international students I’ve spoken to want to meet Canadian students, but they find it very difficult. Often, they are hesitant to speak because of their lower English proficiency. They may find it embarrassing, “explained Nancy Chislett, the English Language Centre’s assistant director.

If you encounter an international student about campus, make the effort to say hello – you just might have an excellent conversation with them, and make a new friend.
Chislett offers some tips on talking:

To speak and be understood:

– Be patient
– Slow your rate of speech, if necessary
– Use simplified English, if possible
– Remember that speaking louder probably won’t help
– Enunciate
To listen and to understand:

– Be patient
– Ask for repetition, if necessary
– Re-state what you’ve heard to clarify if you’ve received the message
– Ask the student to write it down, in case it’s a pronunciation issue
Keep in mind that not all international students lack proficiency in English, and a lack of proficiency isn’t a reflection of the student’s skill or level of education.

“English proficiency in one language skill does not mean they are poor students. They may excel in other areas, which is consistent with most people learning any language,” said Chislett.