Improving Your English Before You Arrive in Australia


This article is sponsored by Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment

While learning English is not easy, it doesn’t need to be boring. Check out some practical tips and tricks for you to start improving your English before you leave home, and some hints to ensure you don’t fall into some common traps after arriving in Australia.

You can do it all while having fun!


Read in English every day

Reading in English on a regular basis will expand your vocabulary and lead to an improved understanding of grammar. You should also start checking out Australian newspapers and news sites on a regular basis. This will not only help your reading skills but will also help you understand Australia a little better.

Keep an English diary or notebook

You can write whatever you wish, as long as it is done in English. Maintaining a journal is an excellent way to record and organise your thoughts while learning to express yourself with the written word. You can keep a diary about your preparations to study overseas, about movies or songs you have discovered, about the dreams you had; the possibilities are endless.

Listen to an English language song for a few days and try to understand the lyrics

Pick a song and listen to it over and over again while concentrating on the words. Write down as much of the song as you were able to understand and compare it to the original lyrics. Make sure to listen to the song a few more times with the lyrics in front of you; you’ll be surprised by how much you can understand after that!

Watch English language movies with English subtitles and read the dialogue out loud

English subtitles in English movies are a great way to see the written and spoken language together (while having loads of fun). A good way to practice your speaking, listening and reading skills is to pick a character in a movie you are familiar with and read the subtitles out loud every time that character speaks.

Find a friend who also wants to improve and make it a rule only to use English between the two of you

The chances are that you will have a good friend that has a similar level of English as you do and who wants to improve it just like you do. Make a pact with him or her that all your interactions will be in English, including emails, social media posts and messages, phone calls and conversations.


Avoid living with people from your own country

Many international students find it easier to make friends and live with people from their own nationality. This has a very negative impact on your English skills, as you will end up speaking mostly in your native language. To avoid this, consider homestay options or sharing accommodation with people from other countries, forcing you to speak as much English as possible.

Try to meet as many locals as possible

The best way to improve your speaking and listening skills is by having conversations with native English speakers. While this might seem hard at first, you will find that Australians are welcoming to people that show an interest in them. Find common grounds through your studies, sports, music, and other interests. Your institution’s clubs and societies are a good way to start.

Watch the news with closed captioning

Closed captioning is like subtitles for TV, most of the Australian free-to-air TV stations have made the option available to viewers. Listening and reading at the same time is a great way to expand your vocabulary and learning how to spell words correctly. Also, by keeping up to date with the news and current events, you will have plenty of things to chat about with your new friends.

Work in retail, hospitality, or customer service

International students are allowed to work up to 40 hours per fortnight while the university semester is on, and full-time during holidays. There are a variety of jobs that international students can perform; some require little interaction with locals, giving you little chance to practice. Seek a job that forces you to speak as much English as possible on your day to day. If you can’t find one straight away, you might want to consider volunteering.

Join an external class or sporting group

Do you want to learn how to paint or take photographs? Or perhaps you want to practice your soccer skills? Extra-curricular activities are usually much more casual than formal training, which might make you more relaxed and inclined to contribute to discussions. These activities are also great ways to find other people that share similar interests to you.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and ask others to correct you

There is no need to feel embarrassed about making mistakes as you try to improve your English. It is an important part of the process. Make sure that you ask your local and other international friends to correct you when you make a mistake. Most people will be happy to do that, but won’t do so unless you ask them first. They will often feel proud to be helping you along.

Don’t forget to check Australia’s biosecurity requirements when packing your personal items to come to Australia. Some food, plant material and animal products are not permitted and should not be brought to Australia. Airport clearance is quicker if you don’t bring food, plant material or animal products. Most of these items can be easily purchased in Australia. If you pack these items you must declare them for inspection when you arrive in Australia. If you don’t declare all items, you may receive an on-the-spot fine or face prosecution.