Do ya speak English mate?


Living in a globally connected world has meant that the idea of travelling overseas and studying for a period of time is no longer an unlikely choice for many students. Universities such as Wollongong, offer students the opportunity to study at Universities all over the world. It allows them to broaden their cultural, educational and personal experiences whilst become independent and still completing their degree. Not only are Australian students going abroad but many international students are travelling to Australia to complete part of their education. Although Australia is considered one of the most multicultural countries in the world, many international students still face challenges in assimilating into a different culture.

English is the most spoken language in the world. However, learning a foreign language and being able to fluently communicate in a foreign language are two completely separate concepts. As part of my International studies degree I am required to learn a second language, which I chose to be Spanish. Although I am able to read basic Spanish I have much difficulty in speaking it. For many International students who have learnt English prior to coming to Australia their experiences in speaking English in a class do not prepare them to speak English in countries such as Australia. Kell and Vogl (2006) explain that Australian English is featured by “informality, abbreviated expressions, rhyming slang [and] descriptive similes”, all of which cannot be taught without an understanding of the “…cultural context in which [they are] situated in”.  As a result many International students, although fluent in English, have a hard time communicating with local students, not being able to understand the ‘Australianised’ language. When asked to go to a ‘barbie’ to have some ‘snags’, these international students have a hard time understanding what ‘English’ really is.

University is a time for people to find themselves and create their own identity. Marginson (2012) explored the concept of identity, with a focus on International students in his study of higher education. His idea was that our identity is not fixed, but rather influenced by experiences allowing it to always develop and change. The idea of self-formation, that is managing and creating ones life and identity, is seen as a strong aspect of studying internationally. Marginson insists that students crossing both cultural and geographical borders, self-formation involves cultural plurality. Many students achieve this through the strategy of hybridity, which “…combines and synthesizes different” cultures rather than isolating them and trying to live ‘separate identities’. If these students are to incorporate and embrace aspects of the new culture they are living in whilst maintaining their own culture they will create a transformed self.

Mutual understandings and effective communication is the key to International students successfully immersing themselves into a country. It is safe to say that international education is a prime example in defining globalisation. Physical and mental obstacles such as language and cultural identity often challenge the environment globalisation has created. Nevertheless, the encouragement of international communication through concepts such as studying abroad help in breaking down these barriers, thus allowing different cultures to interact and form relationships.


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