“Do not be afraid to ask for help. Nobody gets through college on their own.”
These wise words from Michelle Obama are true for any student.
They are especially relevant to students who are taking all their classes in a foreign language.
School is hard enough already!
Having all your class discussions and assignments in a non-native language only adds to the workload.
Whether you are preparing for college or already enrolled in a program, sometimes, you just need a helping hand to make sense of all the academic English you encounter.
That is what we will give you today.
There are many resources available both online and on-campus to help non-native English students succeed in their studies. Below, we will cover four of these resources for exam preparation, writing skills, vocabulary building and more.
Help is right here—do not be afraid to ask for it!
4 Academic English Help Resources for an A+ Education
1. Prepare for Exams with Academic English Help
A formal English exam can prove your English proficiency level to schools and identify your strengths and weaknesses.
Many English-language schools require this for non-native English speakers who want to apply to study.
The two most common exams are the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) and the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language).
The IELTS tests your proficiency in English. It is accepted in many colleges in the U.S. for entering into undergraduate or graduate programs.
Of course, you should only take one of these tests if you are ready! Programs like Academic English Help can prepare you.
Academic English Help is an online program (available on computers, smartphones or tablets) dedicated to helping students pass their IELTS. The course they offer is more than 100 hours long. It comes with slideshows, quizzes and practice tests that cover the listening, reading and speaking sections of the exam.
There are also video lessons and an entire YouTube page with even more resources, such as interview examples. The program also has support and chat services if you have questions.
If you are more interested in taking the TOEFL, Academic English Help has a sister website for that called TOEFL Test Help. It is made by the same company and offers similar courses for passing the TOEFL exam.
By using these programs, you will not only have a better chance of passing an exam, you will also be learning important skills for understanding and using academic English!
Before taking the IELTS or the TOEFL, make sure that you have the requirements and that the school of your choice accepts the test.
2. Use the Purdue OWL for Academic Writing Help
Part of being a student is knowing how to write research papers and persuasive essays. A great resource for mastering these skills is the Purdue OWL (Online Writing Lab).
This website provides multiple guides and resources about how to properly write or format your papers. It is recognized and used by colleges all over the U.S., and will be extremely helpful when you are writing essays.
It covers many different writing skills, which you can browse on the left sidebar. Here are two of the most important topics covered:
- Techniques for different types of writing assignments: The Purdue OWL thoroughly explains concepts or vocabulary used in formal writing, from rhetoric to logic in arguments to narrative essays. There is even a guide to writing a proper email.
- Correctly citing and referencing your work: References and citations are used to give credit to the original author if you mention their research or ideas in your own paper. In American colleges, it is considered unethical to claim information as your own (even if you do it by accident).
Being aware of this is very important because the standards are different in some countries. For example, when I worked at a university’s writing center, there were many international Chinese students who were not familiar with citations and references. They explained to the writing center staff that the concept of plagiarism does not exist in China.
The Purdue OWL has an extremely helpful guide to using the correct references and formats in academic writing. The most common ones are called MLA format and APA format. Using these formats can be very confusing, but your professors will expect you to be familiar with them and use them.
Even if you have a fantastic paper, your professor may give you a lower grade if you do not provide references correctly, so make sure to check out those guides.
3. Practice English in Context with FluentU
Okay—sometimes academic English just gets boring. You are reading formal papers and memorizing technical terms… it is just not as fun as diving into a good book or jamming to English music.
That is why FluentU is so helpful.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Each video comes with captions you can click to get an in-context definition of any unfamiliar word. You will also hear how that word is pronounced and see other videos it is used in. That means you are learning new words the way native speakers really use them, all while enjoying interesting English videos.
The videos also come with flashcards and exercises to make sure you remember the new words long-term. You can even squeeze in some English practice between classes on your phone with the FluentU mobile app for iOS or for Android.
Best of all, when you are ready to take a break from school but want to keep your English skills sharp, there are many more videos on FluentU to explore. Movie trailers, funny YouTube clips, music videos… you name it!
In fact, you can see experience how to learn English with the FluentU language learning program with this video on FluentU English’s YouTube Channel.
In this video, the host explores the movie trailer for a movie called “Gifted” featuring Chris Evans. The movie revolves around a man (Evans) who cares for his niece (actress Mckenna Grace) after the death of her mother. Evans’ character discovers that his niece is gifted (or “very smart”), and a battle takes place between Evans—who wants to give the girl a normal life—and her grandmother, who wants her to become a successful mathematician.
As you can imagine, there are loads of words and phrases to learn from this video as well as the phrase ad nauseam, a phrase that originally comes from Latin but is used in English all the time. Videos such as this one show that FluentU is a great way to see words used naturally.
Check out this video and many others like it on FluentU English’s YouTube Channel.
4. Take Advantage of Your School’s ESL Support
Many schools and universities offer English learning classes to international students. Usually, they will test your English ability through one of the exams mentioned above. Depending on your score, they will place you in a class that matches your level of English speaking, whether you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced learner of English.
Some schools will not let you take regular English classes (the ones that native speaking students take) or other classes until you have passed your English language class, because they want you to be ready.
There is an added benefit to these classes: You will find other ESL or international students who may also want to practice English. If you make friends with another ESL student, the two of you can practice your English together.
Some schools have English practice clubs, where the whole purpose is to let non-native speakers practice their English.
Additionally, most schools offer free tutoring services to their students. These tutors can help you understand reading material from your classes that is difficult for you. They can also help with essays or writing assignments.
Sometimes ESL students do not know how to use grammar properly or have trouble expressing themselves in writing. It is the tutor’s job to help you write down what you want to say, so it makes sense to you and your professor. A writing tutor can also help you with references or MLA/APA if you are still confused about them.
Also, if nothing else, just talking to a tutor in English can help you practice and learn the kind of English that is used in college.
All of these resources are designed to help you in an English-speaking university. It may seem scary to learn all of this, but it is a challenge worth taking. By understanding academic English, you will do well in school, which can open an endless number of opportunities for your future.
And One More Thing...
If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:
The FluentU app and website makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a truly personalized experience.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or from the Google Play store.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.