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Franka Zlatic

Croatian in the UK. Franka is full-time PhD student at University of Nottingham, pursuing her degree in Sociology.

4 ways to boost your English-language skills at home

You’ve been accepted into an English-speaking university in an English-speaking country but you’re stuck at home and don’t know how you’ll handle English when your course starts?

Here are my top 4 tips on how you can practice your English-language skills while still in your home country.

IELTS Inside 

Whether or not you have already passed your IELTS test, why not take the chance of entering a free IELTS online course?

IELTS Inside offers a 5-week online course to learn and master all the skills needed for the IELTS Academic test. So, even if you already passed your IELTS, this is a great opportunity to check your knowledge and improve your English or your IELTS score.

The course requires 3 hours of learning per week, so it wouldn’t take much of your free time. Most courses run multiple times, which means the start date is flexible and you can choose when you want to start your 5-week training.

You can find IELTS Essentials on Instagram and keep up to date with the latest information and updates!


Read a book

Have you always wanted to read a book in English but never seem to find the time?

This is your chance. Take it as an additional preparation and studying for your future university experience, since all of your materials will be in English.

Pick a book that you’ve always wanted to read, or even better, pick a book that you’ve already read but in English. That way you will already know what it is about and you can connect the words with their meaning.  

While reading a completely new book will also be useful there is the possibility that you will pay more attention to keep up with the story rather than paying attention to grammar and vocabulary.

However, when reading a book you’ve previously read, you will automatically pay more attention to the way things are written and start connecting the words on the page to your mother tongue.

Skip the subtitles

If you’re one of those TV addicts who know all the movies, TV shows and their directors – use that to practice your English!

Since the English-speaking movie industry is one of the biggest in the world, you have a lot of choices to pick from.

Pick a TV show or a movie in English and instead of searching for subtitles in your mother tongue, try to watch the movie with English subtitles or without any subtitles.

If you choose to use subtitles it’s important to keep in mind that once we attune our brain to read instead of listen, it’s hard to simultaneously keep up with both text and listening to speech. In that situation our brain goes with the reading as it is much easier, and people’s visual senses are naturally dominant.

Once you’ve turned off the subtitles it will probably take 5-10 minutes for your brain to switch to listening and understanding what are they saying, but after that you should have no problem at all understanding what the movie is about.

If the movie has a different English accent that you’re not accustomed to, then the English subtitles will be a good idea. But if you realise you can actually keep up with what people are saying, go ahead and ignore the subtitles.

If you can, it’s best to choose a movie or TV show from the country where you will be studying abroad so you will be exposed to the accent and any specific words and phrases they use.



Most people start speaking the foreign language only once they move to that country. Try to forestall that with speaking English while you’re still at home.

You must be wondering now “to whom am I supposed to speak English to?”. Try to find someone that you could practice with.

Maybe you have a distant relative that moved out of your country years ago, or some foreign friend you’ve met on the internet?

Maybe one of your friends in your home country who understands English and you could practice together?

but if there are no options of friends, family or acquaintances, then speaking to yourself in English is also an option.

Try to imagine specific situations and lead the conversation in English. How would you introduce yourself? How would you ask someone for a direction?

Try to say a few sentences out loud so you can hear your pronunciation, your accent, and maybe even try to record yourself. That way you can be objective and see what you need to improve in the future.

Staying home doesn’t necessarily mean doing nothing. Summer period in general can be quite non-productive and especially now when there’s pandemic going on in the world. Use that time you have and this isolation to improve your skills and learn something new!

Did you find this article helpful?

You can explore more stories by international students in our blog.


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