International Education: Language Barriers

When I think of travelling overseas for the purpose of studying, I envision something exciting, challenging and rewarding. I imagine making new friends from all walks of the globe and first and foremost the multitude of languages at my fingertips waiting to be butchered by my Australian accent.

For international students, ‘a crucial element in the achievement of success…is not only their academic adjustment but also their adjustment to the social and cultural environment. While academic success may heighten a student’s confidence, social and cultural adjustment can be important factors that lead to this academic success’ (Kell & Vogl 2007).

A Vietnamese exchange student in my class spoke of the difference between what he expected from international study and what he was welcomed with when he arrived. He thought his English was quite good, and noticed when he got here that he felt uncomfortable and worried about speaking to local students because he thought he would be scrutinised about mistakes he made.

In Peter Kell and Gillian Vogl’s conducted a study of three focus groups of international students and post graduate students from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds, including Japanese, Chinese and Arabic. After they were interviewed there was a similar comment across the groups about the difference in formal English and the colloquial or conversation English that is frequently used. Introducing international students to conversational English used here would help break down the language barriers and improve the quality of life of international students studying here in Australia.


  • Kell P & Vogl G (2007), “International Students: Negotiating life and study in Australia through Australian Englishes” Centre for Research on Social Inclusion, 3/9/16, file:///Users/celenewatson/Downloads/international_students.pdf
  • Studies in Australia (2016), “International students in Australia”, 3/9/16,
  • Kharona S (2016), “Lecture 3: Internationalising education and cultural competence”, UOW eLearning, 3/9/16




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