Improving Your English

The better you can use local English, the easier everything will be for you. English classes can be helpful at lower and intermediate levels of foreign-language ability, but independent practice is probably the most helpful for people who have mastered basic grammar and vocabulary. Here are some suggestions for practicing English on your own.

Mental Preparation
You may know you should practice English with Americans, but you are afraid to try it.

Remind yourself that:

  • If you want to improve your conversational English, you will have to practice every day (or nearly every day).
  • It will not be easy to improve your English if you are more than about twelve years old (young children learn languages very quickly).
  • Sometimes Americans might not want to talk to you.

Remember that:

  • You lose valuable opportunities if you do not take advantage of your time in the United States to improve your English – opportunities to make friends, to learn about another way of life, and to better prepare yourself for your post-graduation career.
  • There is much to be gained from improving your English: academic work will be easier, so will socializing, and in fact all types of interactions with Americans; you will probably be more respected back home if you use English well, and you may even be able to get a better job; you will have more ready access to people and ideas in your field.


Make a commitment to yourself: “I will practice English at least ten minutes every day.” (It’s easier to start with a modest objective. You can plan for longer practice sessions later.) Then make a plan to fit English into your daily schedule: “On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I will practice English for at least ten minutes during the noon hour.” And so on. Decide when your daily schedule has room for some English practice. Start today! Don’t put it off.

Overcoming Anxiety

The idea of speaking English with Americans you don’t know probably makes you nervous. Here are some suggestions for overcoming your anxiety:

  • Remind yourself again what you can gain from improving your English.
  • Remind yourself what you will lose if you do not improve English.
  • Ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that can happen if I try to talk with an American and get a negative response?” What is the worst thing that could happen? Maybe the person will say “no.” Maybe the person will walk away from you. The person might even say some unpleasant words to you, or behave rudely. Could you survive that? OF COURSE YOU COULD!
  • To get an idea what to expect in your interactions with Americans, review sections below about interacting with Americans and the communicative style of Americans.

Prepare Some Topics

You may be reluctant to approach Americans because you don’t know what to talk about, but there are hundreds of things you could discuss! Get some ready in advance. Memorize them, or have them written down so you can refer to them. Here are a few possibilities:

  • Reasons you (both) came to Mines
  • Your plans for after you graduate
  • What (both of) your families are like
  • Description of the houses you lived in when you were children
  • How you celebrated birthdays when you were children
  • How various American holidays are celebrated
  • How you spend your weekends
  • What you like to read about
  • Slang expressions you have heard but have not understood (write them down when you hear them)
  • Something in the day’s newspaper
  • Plans for the coming summer
  • Popular television programs or personalities
  • Places to eat in Golden

Locate someone to talk to

How can you find someone to talk to? Here are some suggestions:

Find people who share interests with you.

  • If you play sports, go to the Recreation Center or the Intermeral Fields.
  • Join a club or student organization based on your interest. Orgsync has a list of students clubs. 
  • Talk to people who spend time in the same places you do, people such as classmates, library staff, neighbors, and departmental adminstrative assistants (volunteer to help the departmental adminstrative assistants with some small task, and talk while you are doing it).

Find people at leisure (that is, people who are not obviously busy). For example, you could approach people who are:

  • Sitting on a bench at a mall or in the park
  • Watching TV in a public place, and waiting for a commercial to end
  • Sitting on the grass
  • Waiting at a bus stop
  • Waiting for a performance or a class to begin
  • Leaning against a wall, looking relaxed
  • Sitting beside you on a bus

How to Approach Prospective Conversation Partners

Be committed to practicing English. Have a topic in mind. Look for someone who seems available to talk. Don’t hesitate! Walk up to the person and:

Introduce yourself. Say, “Hello. My name is ____. I’m new here, and I am hoping to improve my English. Can you talk with me for a few minutes?”
Say something about yourself: “I’m a student majoring in ____. I’m from _____.”
Bring up a topic. For example, “I have heard some slangs here that I don’t know the meaning of. Can you tell me what they mean?”
After the conversation, say “Thank you,” “I enjoyed talking with you,” or “I hope to see you again sometime.”

Persist! If your first few attempts to start a conversation do not work out, don’t be discouraged. Keep trying. And after you have some successful conversations, keep it up!


After you have followed these suggestions, you will find that it is relatively easy to approach people, to find topics, and even to talk for longer than ten minutes. Then you will be well on your way to improving your English.

International Student Conversation Group

Activities for International Women -- The First Baptist Church of Golden normally has three different groups who meet through out the semester.
English Discussion Groups ("Table Talks") -- Here groups practice speaking in small-group format discussing interesting and relevant topics with native English speakers. (Fee $20 each six weeks)

English Beginnings and Intermediates -- Emphasis in these classes will be on reading comprehension and conversation in a more formal stting with some grammer work. (Fee $20 each six week session)

International Women's Book Club -- Join us as we read aloud and discuss books from different cultural backgrounds.  All English levels welcome.

English Discussion Groups for International Men -- Practice speaking English in a small-group format by discussing interesting and relevant topics with native English speakers.

Please contact Trudy Thomson at (303)-279-0165, or email:

Golden Orators Toastmasters

People (even native speakers of English) who are deeply committed to improving their ability to speak English in public will want to consider joining Toastmasters. Toastmasters is a non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations. The organization has more than 292,000 memberships in more than 14,350 clubs in 122 countries. Members meet weekly to give presentations and critique others’ presentations in a friendly, supportive atmosphere. People interested in the possibility of joining can go to a meeting and observe.

They meet on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month.  See their site for more information.

Language Schools

Mountain Language Institute (MLI) 
Red Rocks Community College 
Language Consultants International (LCI) 
Spring International 


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Last Updated: 08/04/2017 08:23:15