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Listen/Watch and Read the news online
Compare & Contrast
Audio Books
Watch DVDs in English with sub-titles
Ask Questions
Bravely Speak English with Mistakes
"English Only" (as often as you can)
Want to Speak English with More Americans?
Listen for the "Rhythm" of American English
Be an actor!

Learning English is difficult. However, the more you practice, the more you learn. Don't be afraid to make mistakes -- this will greatly help you to become more fluent. Practice your English everyday - practice listening, practice speaking, practice reading. It is tiring, but the more you do it, the easier it will become.

Advice for Listening and Speaking

Listen/watch and read the news online
At some local television station websites, you can read the news story and watch/listen to the video of the exact same story. It's best to watch the video first to see what you can understand. Afterwards, read the story for better understanding, then watch the video again.

Here are some news websites specifically for ESL learners:


tip for english

Compare & Contrast:
• For a more advanced activity, go to the major news websites where you can watch a news story and then read about it (although not always the exact words).
• Afterwards read the same news story from a news website in your native language, and compare what you understood (or what and how the story was reported).
• You can search for the transcripts, or written copy of these stories on these websites. (Transcripts may be free or purchased for a small fee)


To find a newspaper from a specific country:

Audio Books
Listen to a book on CD or cassette tape that is read by an actor. At the same time, you can read the printed version (or do one first, then the other). You can find matching audio/printed books at major bookstores or the library. Make sure you get a book that is exciting and interesting to you!

Watch DVDs in English with sub-titles
When you watch your favorite American (or English-Speaking) movie, program it so the sub-titles in English are "On". If you didn't understand something, first try to guess from the context of the situation. (or of course, you can go back and watch it again.)

Ask Questions
Don't be afraid to ask questions! It is a very effective way to learn -- about vocabulary, the meanings of phrases, or how to say something.

Americans like to use a lot of idioms or phrases with cultural references. For example: "This is driving me nuts!" (I'm frustrated)
"Houston, we have a problem". (Apollo 13)

If you don't understand what they meant, ask them. I'm sure they would be happy to explain.

Here are some websites that list frequently used idioms and their meanings:

Bravely Speak English with Mistakes

When you speak English, don't be afraid to make mistakes. Relax. Don't try to be perfect, just practice. This is the best way to learn and improve your skills quickly.

"English Only" (as often as you can)
• If you often hang-out with friends of your native language group, and always are speaking your native language, suggest having an " English Hour" or "English only" meal where only English can be spoken.
• Then invite a classmate who doesn't speak your language. (Many cultures feel it is rude to speak your language in front of others who don't understand it.)
• If someone speaks your native language during this time, choose a playful "punishment". (ex: they must stand up and sing a song in front of the group). Make the "English Hour" fun -- laugh at your mistakes!

Want to Speak English with More Americans?
• Join Conversation Pairs (Writing Center), Friendship Family (ISSS Office), or a student group here at Binghamton University (see list below).
• Invite some classmates to have coffee with your group of friends or start a multi-lingual study-group. You will probably need to take the initiative with your American classmates. Don't expect that they will always invite you. Ask them questions about themselves, or about a recent movie, what music they recommend, or for advice about what you should do or see while you are here at Binghamton.

Here are some other ways to meet other Binghamton University students:
• Join a club or student group (You are in a new place, try something new!)
• If you live in a residence hall, participate in the programs sponsored by your RA staff.
• Go to the East Gym to exercise or join an intramural sports team or club sport.
• Participate in activities, trips and classes outdoors with the Binghamton Outdoors Program:
• Go to "BU Late Nite" activities
• Go on "Get-away" bus trips with OCCT
• More information about how to get involved, check out the Office of Campus Life

Listen for the "Rhythm" of American English

Each language has its own rhythm and melody of how it sounds. When watching a TV show or listening to your American classmates, listen to the intonation, the pauses, grouping of words, flow of the conversation (give & take between all participants). Try to mimic this language "rhythm" when you speak English.

Be an actor!

Mimic/imitate American English language:
• Listen at the Coffee Kiosk and notice the language exchanged.
• Notice the greeting used, how the order was placed, the phrases and vocabulary used, and the closure (if any).
• Listen for these things in other interchanges around campus, then try to imitate it

list of useful websites


Written by Amelia Shafer, International Student Advisor (Former ESL teacher, MA in Applied Linguistics).

Office of International Student & Scholar Services
Division of Student Affairs
Binghamton University
State University of New York
PO Box 6000
Binghamton, NY 13902-6000
Visit our webpage:

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Last Updated: 10/10/12