Language barrier limits international students

Jackie Bergeron

Xiaorui “Rae” Li learned English in China when she was six years old. When she came to the United States, however, she didn’t feel confident interacting with native English-speaking students.

“I think it is not just the language problem but also the culture problem,” said Li, a senior accounting major. “I can understand what they are saying, but it’s still hard to get in the conversation. They talk really fast, and sometimes, the joke is about a TV show or slang. I can’t get the point.”

Qi A, a senior accounting major, had a similar problem when he first arrived in the United States.

“I used to have a lack of confidence with speaking English when I just went abroad because I was not sure if the English I learned in China works well,” A said. “In addition, I was not sure if I understood them and was responding in a right way because sometimes I couldn’t understand people in English.”

Besides social interaction, some international students struggle with their coursework.

Li and A said they didn’t really have a problem because their English as a Foreign Language classes focused a lot on reading so they could read their textbooks.

Sihui “Sabrina” Song, however, said she had a difficult first semester at Kent State because she had a hard time taking notes.

“My GPA was not that good, but it’s a lot higher this semester,” said Song, freshman business management major. “My listening is not that good so maybe I lost something during the class and maybe my friends didn’t take that good of notes.”

Yunjia “Eric” Xu, who graduated from Kent State in December with a degree in business management and a minor in international business, works as an assistant for the English as a Second Language Department and said Song is not the only one with this problem.

“I’m not blaming it on the ESL center, but I don’t think it bridges the whole gap for international students, specifically Chinese students,” Xu said. “The majority of Chinese students who just graduated from the ESL are having a huge problem understanding what’s going on, reading the textbook and even a bigger problem of organizing what is important and what is not.”

Song said her grades have improved since she began using FlashNotes, a website where students can purchase summarized notes from other students. She said she started using FlashNotes before midterms this semester and has seen improvement in classes such as psychology and marketing.

“I can check the website and get them to see the points I missed,” Song said.

Song said she finds FlashNotes more convenient because she doesn’t have to bother her friends every time she needs to check her notes and because she can do it instantly.

Contact Jackie Bergeron at [email protected].