Last year, when I was in military service in South Korea, I was taking a subway to go home during my break. I was waiting for my subway, wearing a military uniform and carrying a backpack. Then one girl came to me and asked, “How do I go to the Sinsa station” (one of the famous subway stations in Korea)? She was a Korean-American and asked me in English. I was very frightened and surprised to hear the question in English, but I explained slowly with my bad English. She understood my words, showed appreciation to me, and left the station. She asked me because I was wearing a military uniform and at that time, I felt very proud of myself to help other country people during my military service. This experience made me decide to go abroad and study English and led me to build confidence and communication skills.
Learning English can lead second language students to build confidence. Asking questions or solving problems using another language requires the confidence to talk to strangers, especially using a second language. For example, about one month ago, I had a problem in my dormitory room. My lights were completely dead when I was alone in my room. I was very frustrated. It was night, and I had no other lights except my phone light. I had to finish my homework and clean my room. I was afraid to talk in English, but I tried. I went to the ground floor and explained my situation to the residence attendant. He called someone, and the mechanic gave me a desk lamp to brighten my room, so I could finish my homework. The next day, during my class, someone came to my room and fixed the lights. It became completely bright and that made me very happy and proud of myself because it was the first time that I solved a problem myself using English. After this experience, I can talk more easily to Americans using English.
Meeting strangers and talking in English can also improve my communication skills. After I arrived here, I was living in my dormitory room alone. One day, I was bored being alone and decided to go to the market to buy some food and goods myself, so I went to a market not far from my room and bought some items. But I had a problem. When I was paying with my card, the manager asked me something, “Sir, do you have a ~.” I cannot remember what it was, at that time I was very confused to hear some new words by an American stranger. I had to ask what he said, but I was afraid of that situation and I answered, “I don’t know….” After that time, I thought not only is learning grammar, writing, and reading important, but also using English in conversation important too. So nowadays, I always say hi to residence attendants when I pass them and keep conversation when checking for packages. I can improve my English in conversation like that, and I recommend international students to meet some strangers.
In conclusion, using English helped me to overcome my fear of conversation with Americans, and it made me have more confidence. I recommend international students go outside and talk with Americans, not just study English by themselves. Experience and conversation with Americans are the most important thing to learn English.
Yeonjae Lee is a International student studying in the Intensive English Program (IEP). Yeonjae came to United States, from Seoul, South Korea in January 2019, after being discharged from military service for 2 years, and loves to play sports, shop clothes, and hang out with his friends in his free time.