Survival Tips for International Students

¿¿International GTAs

In addition to all of the above, you have an extra challenge in learning the ropes of the American classroom, and possible, some more English.  We recommend:

Address the language issue directly at the first class meeting

  • Encourage your students to let you know if they have a difficulty understanding you with a special gesture
  • Tell your students which sounds you have particular difficulty with. Teach them your pronunciation.
  • If you speak the variant of English that is different from American English, pay attention to your:

Vocabulary:        
Watch for the words that are different in the two variants of English e.g.   a relatively innocent mistake:  corridor – hallway; venue – place;  You may embarrass yourself:   rubber – eraser

Spelling:    
e.g.    tyre – tire; programme – program; neighbour – neighbor; colour - color

Pronunciation:  Americans say “Schedule”  pronounced “Skedule” (sch is pronounced sk as in school) And LABoratory not laBORatory.

Understanding students

The rule – if you don’t understand, ask for clarification! Plus, there are useful books on idioms exist such as the Handbook of American Idioms and Idiomatic Usage by Whitford and Dixson.

In summary: If you don’t understand a student:

  • Ask him/her to repeat 
  • Restate his/her question in different words.  Ask if your understanding is correct
  • Don’t lose your patience
  • Recognize that some students may use your accent as an excuse for poor performance

If English is a Foreign Language for you

Work to improve your English.

  • Take an English course
  • Spend informal time with your American friends.  Ask many “whys”!
  • Listen to the radio.
  • Listen to your professors.  Observe their behavior     
  • Watch TV (educational programs, Learning Channel, news, children’s programs)
  • Try not to live with friends who speak your own language
  • Speak English as much as possible
  • Simplify sentences
  • Be honest in self-review!
  • Listen to yourself – record yourself and watch and listen

Be aware of non-verbal communication  See “cultural awareness”

  • Be aware of behavioral differences.
  • What you consider a normal behavior may be misinterpreted in a different culture.
  • Observe the way Americans behave

The prejudices of some students

  • Best way to overcome prejudices:  be friendly, respectful, honest, compassionate and helpful.
  • Realize that some students’ prejudices against foreigners are not related to you personally.

Observe American teachers in the
classroom

  • What do they wear?
  • Where do they sit or stand?
  • How much do they move about in the classroom:
  • How much do they mover their hands and arms while they talk?
  • What gestures or expressions seem to indicate agreement with what is being said?
  • Disagreement?        Confusion?         Friendliness?       Boredom?         Impatience?     Interest?
  • How fast do they talk?  How loud?
  • How far do they stand or sit from the person to whom they are talking?
  • Where are their eyes directed when they are talking to an individual?
  • To a group?  When they are listening to someone?