International students: overcoming the language barrier

Mariusz moved from Poland to study Chemical Engineering with us. After initially feeling anxious about speaking English, he came up with a cunning plan to overcome his fears.

Mariusz, BEng Chemical Engineering

Unlike most students, I came to Bradford two months prior to starting the academic year. I wanted to get a job and save up money, get to know the area better and most importantly for me as an international student – practice my English.

First week was quite challenging – opening a bank account, going for an appointment and finding accommodation. It made me realise that if I’m able to sort essentials like these, I should be fine when it comes to university life. However, the worst was about to come.

I got a cleaner job in a local warehouse, went for induction and couldn’t understand most of what my manager told me. Fortunately my tasks didn’t require much communication so I secured a vacancy, even though every time my manager was talking to me I was nodding with a hope the answer is yes.

After 2 months of working there my language skills improved, but the Yorkshire accent remained unintelligible for me. It made seriously anxious as I didn’t know how will I cope with understanding lecturers.

First days at the University

Freshers week began, not wasting my time I attended a “Welcome Party” in Student Central where I met Japanese, Spanish and Greek students. It was an uplifting experience to see that I’m not the only one struggling with English. In fact, thanks to arriving earlier I was more fluent and confident than my new friends.

The next week I headed for my first lecture. The first surprise – a guy that sat next to me said we’ve met before. I didn’t believe him until he showed me a Snapchat of myself attempting to sing in Korean during Karaoke Night. I think I could’ve had less pints, but it worked out as a pretty cool icebreaker.

The second surprise – my lecturer, a Yorkshire man speaks in a way I understand. I couldn’t believe how it’s possible.


It’s been over two years since the above mentioned events happened. During summer I did an internship in one of the leading fleet management companies as tracking administrator where I was executing dozens of phone calls across the country daily. I currently work at a call centre at the University and I can confidently say I do not feel a language barrier anymore. Well, unless it’s proper Yorkshire accent, sometimes….

Tips how to get fluent with English

Thanks to the digital world, there are countless ways of improving your English before you actually come to England. These are the things I’ve done:

  • Bradford has great support for international students and their Language Centre helps students become more confident with English
  • Change all of your devices settings to English, you will learn plenty of useful words without much effort
  • Watch British TV series, start with English subtitles. Pause when you see a word you don’t understand, note it down and learn it later. I recommend Sherlock and Peaky Blinders, both available on Netflix
  • Explore Youtube! Try to find a British Youtubers that have channels with similar content to your favorite ones and enjoy
  • If you enjoy online games, play on European/American servers and communicate with your teammates on Skype/TeamSpeak etc.

However, the best thing you can actually do is to come to Bradford before the academic year starts and get some hands-on experience. Secure a part-time job, look around for the best accommodation available and get confident with your language skills.

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