Resources: Notes on Life and Language in the United States

The (Sometimes) Lonely Road to English Improvement

Posted by Lindsay McMahon on Thu, Jun 21, 2012 @ 08:21 AM

English improvement BostonDoes this sound familiar? You have relocated to the United States for work, maybe to a small city like Boston and you want to focus on your English improvement. 

You try to spend as much time with native speakers as possible but you often don't understand what they are saying when you have dinner with them. You feel left out. You feel lonely.


At times, striving for any goal can make you feel lonely.  Anyone who sets a goal to become remarkable in any way (fluent in a language, successful in business, etc.), will feel some loneliness on the way to their goals.

However, if the goal is important enough to you, you will keep reaching for it. In this post, we will talk about how you can work with the loneliness while continuing to reach for your English goals.



3 things to keep in mind:

  •  people become quite remarkableYour discomfort is temporary: While you are living in the U.S. and taking English classes, you are faced with a choice every day. You can speak your native language with people from your home country or you can reach out and find native English speaking friends. Which option is more comfortable? Probably the first one! That doesn't mean that you should do it. Unless you have decided to move to the U.S. permanently, you are in a short-term situation. Why don't you accept some discomfort and challenge yourself to spend more time with native English speakers?


  • If your goal is worth reaching, it should make you feel uncomfortable: If you are not feeling at least a little bit lonely while you are living in the U.S. and working to improve your English, then you aren't pushing yourself enough. Did anyone say it would be easy? I often felt lonely while living in a Spanish-only home in Buenos Aires, but that loneliness meant that I was putting myself into a challenging situation, a situation where I could grow and improve. Accept the present moment and keep moving toward your goal.


  • Set your goals and make yourself accountable: What level of English do you plan to reach by December? How many new phrases are you going to learn? What will you be able to do with your new English skills? To overcome your sense of isolation and loneliness as a language learner, you can focus on clearly articulating your goals. Write them down and tell your friends and family back home exactly what you will accomplish. Keep a blog and post videos of yourself to show how much you have improved each month. This will help you keep your eye on your goals. It will also help you keep in mind that you are on a deadline. Your time in the U.S. will come to an end at some point and you will want to return home with better English skills than you had when you came.


Remember, it's ok to feel lonely when you reach for your goals. It's normal! The thing is, you can choose how to react to that loneliness. Will you shield yourself by spending time with people from your home country and rarely practicing your English or will you take risks, set your English goals as a top priority and keep moving toward them? The choice is yours!



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Photo credit: jcoterhal

Topics: Advice for English Students, How to Learn English

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