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Can you study a postgraduate abroad without English proficiency?

The short answer is yes but you can only get away with it in certain cases and for a short period of time. This is the one question I always get asked, so I wanted to write a piece about it.

Before diving into it, I think that the important questions to ask yourself are:

  1. What do you want in life?

  2. Where do you want to live?

  3. What level of comfort do you want to have?

If the answers to these questions are somewhat related to the sky is the limit, the world is my place, and economically very well. Then, it is likely that you would need English in your life.

Do you really need English to study abroad?

I would say it really depends on your goals. If you can answer the hard difficult question of what you want in life honestly, then this will guide a series of decisions and actions in a structured framework, but this is subject to another post.

Let's say, you want to pursue an academic career and work internationally. Then you will need to be proficient in English and even more languages. This is simply because English has become the language of Science and international business.

The exceptions

For every rule, there is an exception, and in this case, this applies to studying abroad as well.

The only exception I know of is Europe. If you are from a Spanish-speaking country from LATAM, chances are that you can study in Spain without requiring English proficiency. If you are from Brazil you can do the same in Portugal. If have French proficiency, then you can move to France. If you have some German proficiency, then you can move to Germany or Austria.

Of course, you can also have an international experience within LATAM. Say you are from Ecuador and move to Colombia, Chile, Argentina, or Mexico (the list continues and these are just examples) for your studies. This is not what I am talking about here. I am talking about moving to a new continent and starting from zero.

Just keep in mind that this short transition only gives you some time to really learn and catch up with your English Skills. Typically, 1 or 2 years.

What are the Alternative Routes if I Want to Skip English?

If the answer to the question about what you want in life was that you did not want to live abroad but wanted to pursue studies in a foreign country only, then it makes perfect sense to study in one country where your language proficiency fits and instead channel your energy towards getting the most in your program.

In a second scenario, chances are that you can also find a job in the new country, and then you can change your mind and dedicate some time to a new language as this will enable you to travel without limitations.

How to pass a standard English Test?

A test is nothing else than that. The probability that you will pass a test is directly proportional to the effort you put into mastering the strategy to pass a given standard test. Some standard tests, are not about how good you are in the subject but how how is your strategy to pass the test of the subject. After all, I have heard that even native speakers have failed a standard English test.

Knowing English and passing the standard test are two separate things. So how to succeed? The short answer is that you need to learn a strategy on how to pass the test, and that’s it.

These tests are timed, so you will have to learn how to manage time and stress and still perform. So, the more you practice the structure of the test, the faster you get at answering questions asked in a given format. In turn, you gain time for other more difficult questions.

Last but not least, it is not the end of the world, if you tried the test and did not get the result you wanted/needed. This only means that you will need to refine your strategy.

What else do I need to know?

Program Requirements: Different universities and programs have varying language requirements that even depend on the major. Some require a high level of English proficiency. However, preparatory language courses for international students before they start their academic programs are also common.

Language of Instruction: Some universities and programs offer courses in languages other than English. See above.

Language Support: Courses such as English as a Second Language (ESL) programs and language

centers aim to help students improve their language skills during their studies.

Conditional Acceptance: In some cases, universities may offer conditional acceptance to students who meet all admission criteria except English proficiency. These students are required to complete an English language program and achieve the required proficiency before they can start their studies.

Types of Language Exams: Some common standard tests are TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), IELTS (International English Language Testing System), CAE (C1 Advanced, formerly called Cambridge English: Advanced), CPE (C2 Proficiency, formerly called Cambridge English: Proficiency, as part of the admission process.

What else can you do with English?

The possibilities are endless. If you are in Europe, chances are that you will end up traveling across Europe, making new friends, and learning about new cultures. It also opens the opportunity to work in any country in the world. In essence, it is one asset that will help you thrive in any country or at least in most of them.

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