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Keep English Switched On: Get to Know Your Classmates

Strategy #3: Get to know your classmates

In this semester-long series, our expert Learning Instructor for International Students Julianne Reynolds offers tips for keeping English “switched on” in your daily life at Penn. If you’re only using English in the classroom, you’re missing out on a lot of learning opportunities. Follow these short and sweet tips to flip the switch to English.

Get to know the other students in your classes, especially ones who aren’t native speakers of your first language. One way to do this is to get to class early and make small talk with someone sitting next to you. Good topics for small talk include difficult assignments, the weather (seriously – especially if there’s a storm brewing), and current events on campus.

But don’t just take it from us:


“Small talk is a relatively easy way to start a conversation with others and doing it more often will gradually build up your confidence. However, one important thing to keep in mind is to try not to think of the person you are talking with as a tool for practicing English. Friendship is cultivated by a genuine mutual interest in each other, so try not to pretend to be someone else and talk about things that you literally have no interest in. Be yourself and try to talk with people you want to get to know more. Also, don’t be afraid to ask if other people say something you don’t understand. People usually understand that you are not a native speaker and are usually happy to teach you (and you need to acknowledge to yourself that you have a lot to learn!). You can also ask people to correct you if they found that you’ve made a language mistake.”– Amelie Chang, Professional Counseling and Mental Health Services, GSE, `16.

Learn more:

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