How to Study at University

Practical tips and general thoughts on how to study at a Western university

Once more, with feeling

Point: Improve your subject and language knowledge at the same time There is a fundamental problem when you are trying to learn stuff in a language that you are also trying to learn. If you are trying, for example, to learn sociology in French while trying to learn French. Or learning mechanical engineering in Spanish […]

Count ums

Point: When you give a presentation, replace your ums and ahs with pauses There is something that I would advise most people not to do. But I will advise you to do it. Why? Because you are not like most people. You are a university student. At a Western-style university (or planning to go to one). Who has […]

Forget your memory

Point: Don’t memorise your presentation, remember it It can be frustrating. I know. When you are delivering a presentation your teachers tell you not to read your speech. “Don’t hold your notes in front of you and read from them,” they say. “It sounds boring.” So you commit your notes to memory, and what do […]

Be a devil!

Point: Take the opposite opinion for the sake of the argument Imagine this. You are leading a seminar or discussion. It seems to be going okay. Everyone has prepared. But the members of the seminar don’t seem to be much interested. A few have answered your questions, but you had to ask them by name. […]

As everybody knows, not everybody knows

Point: Avoid expressions like obviously and of course It can be surprising what other people don’t know. Some people – quite intelligent people, sometimes – don’t know the most obvious things. Some people – often female people – don’t know the offside rule in football, for example. Other people – often male people – don’t know […]

If a bird can do it …

Point: Try mimicking English sounds I was walking around an aviary in Hong Kong recently. An aviary is a kind of zoo for birds. There were many kinds of colourful birds, some flying, some walking, and some just resting in the branches. Visitors to the aviary, especially the children, were enjoying watching the birds, pointing […]

Do what you gotta do

Point: Four steps to better pronunciation Sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. Women too, of course. That’s what they used to say in the old American wild west; and, I’m sure, the old New Zealand wild south; and the old Chinese wild centre; anywhere and anytime that life was hard. They meant […]

Fear of glossophobia

Point: Memorise the beginning and end of your presentation What kind of person are you? That’s a pretty personal question I guess. You don’t have to answer it. (Although you might like to think about it sometime when you have nothing else to do. Like after the exams.) Let me be more specific. What kind of […]

Being understood

Point: Speaking clearly is vitally important. Have you ever had this kind of conversation? Native speaker: What are you studying? You: Science. Native speaker: Nursing? You: No. Science. NS: Accounting? You: No! Sci-ence! NS: Oh. History. Why didn’t you say so? Frustrating, isn’t it? No matter how carefully you speak, they don’t understand. You begin to […]

Just another mutterer

Point: Practise speaking anywhere. When you see someone walking towards you, head down, muttering to themselves, what do you do? Cross the road? Pop into a shop? Pretend to answer your phone? In some cases that might be a smart thing to do, but have you thought – that person might just be practising speaking English. […]

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