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What can I do to improve my English skills?

Living in a location where the language spoken is not your first or even second language can be a difficult part of adjusting to Columbia. It is useful to keep in mind that in the English speaking world, terms and phrases vary widely, so in a sense, everyone is getting used to Columbia’s language and academic rhetoric. One option for first year students looking to improve their English skills is a section of University Writing designed for English Language Learners (non-native speakers). This section is identical in content and rigor to other sections with added support and instruction on sentence-level issues and expectations of American academic writing. Please email your Advising Dean before class registration if interested. Columbia is home to the American Language Program (ALP), another option you may discuss with your adviser.

One of the more informal ways to strengthen English skills is to practice with native speakers. Engage in conversations with your floor-mates, peers and friends. Watch TV shows and listen to the radio or your friends’ music playlists. Reading a U.S. based English newspaper everyday will build vocabulary and comprehension skills; if you’re crunched for time, start will a small section and expand as your reading speed increases.

Official resources used by many students include the Writing Center, located in 310 Philosophy, for writing consultations in a variety of subjects (academic and personal), and some of the consultants have a specialty in English as a Second Language. For practice with conversational English, The Language Resource Center offers Language Maintenance Tutorials (LMT), which are non-credit courses for a fee. English is one of the LMT options and you can register for Individual Tutorials or Group Conversations. LMTs are open to Columbia students at the undergraduate and graduate levels.


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