Problems when doing a Masters in a different language

I’m always impressed when a student says they want to go to the UK to study their Masters.   I couldn’t imagine doing this or any of the other modules so far taken in a different language.  Sometimes I feel I am moving through thick mud with some of the material and when it comes to writing a thesis of 20,000 words it seems impossible at times and that is in my own language.  However there are those brave souls who choose to put themselves through the pain and tears and I would like you to meet my friend Nok.  Nok is currently working on her Masters at Chiang Mai University and is about to start writing her thesis.

Here’s what she has to say about taking on such a large task.

Nok discusses the issue of writing in a more formal academic style and this is not just a challenge for ESL students, in my experience I had to retrain my brain and learn this ‘new language’.  When I first took on this Masters I know looking back my first assignment wasn’t really written in the language that is expected or that I am now more familiar with – I would quite often use the same word over and over again or use basic vocab.  For me what helped develop my vocabulary was the creation of a word bank.

To start with I would read the material provided for the class and highlight all the interesting words, I would then make a simple word doc. and add the words to it – it’s that easy.   After reading many papers I started to build up the bank and now find it invaluable.

If you haven’t started a bank yourself then check out this website it also features a handy link to the Cambridge Dictionary.

Whilst researching this topic I came across a blog called “Academic Productivity” although this was written back in 2007 there are still some handy tips on how to become a better academic writer.

The lovely people at the University of Essex seem to have had enough of bad writing and so produced a booklet which identifies problem areas (they cover a lot).  You can download their PDF booklet from either their website or straight from here How_to_improve_your_academic_writing

A fun way to expand your vocabulary is to play Knoword you have 60 seconds to answer as many questions as possible.  You are given a letter and a clue and you have to guess the word – I am terrible at this game but you do get addicted to it.  You can also down load a version to your smart phone so instead of playing angry birds you can work on your words.

Many thanks to Nok for the interview, I have a lot of admiration for her and I wish her luck with writing her thesis.


Today’s interview took place at iberry a famous coffee shop in Chiang Mai. For more details check out their website:



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2 responses to “Problems when doing a Masters in a different language

  1. Nan

    This is very interesting and of course helpful for Master’s Degree students.

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