A friend was doing research on struggles of learning new languages when going to a new country. Yanbin and I were perfect candidates because both of us are not native English speakers but came to the US to stay. We reviewed a few critical moments that had the greatest impacts for improving our English.
From third grade all the way to undergraduate school, I had formal English classes every week, a couple of hours in total. I studied it pretty much for English exams. Similar to other students, I was great at grammar and reading, while pretty bad (and nervous) at speaking and writing.
When I was in my sophomore year in undergraduate, I decided to study abroad after graduation. This meant I had to boost my English for GRE and TOEFL exams. I did so many sample exams, mesmerized so many words and talked in English when nobody looked… I was trying to figure out a way to improve my English scores, especially speaking and writing. I spent a week writing down answers to sample speaking topics and remembered them. This gave me a fairly good score in speaking test, but I knew I wasn’t grasping the gist of English.
After I landed in the US, I sadly confirmed it. I went to open a bank account and can’t understand a thing if the clerk ever spoke a bit fast. So I decided to join a couple of student organizations just to get more opportunities to talk to others in English. I went on road trips with my English speaking friends and kept talking along the way. I volunteered and interned. All these really helped me to confidently communicate with others face-to-face.
It was not until I started working, did I realize that not only I should be able to talk with people in person, but also able to articulate my ideas to a group. I got introduced to Toastmasters and started an amazing journey of increasing confidence in public speaking as well as communication. Believe or not, even my karate classes have helped me to better speak English, as they taught me so many new terms in a realm that I’ve never touched before.
Now, committing to my daily doodling & writing project is a good way to help me get better. So far, it’s been 10 months and more than 45K words in writing. I can definitely feel the improvements.
Improving English is an ongoing process. I don’t think I’ll ever say “I’ve conquered English” — someday I’d like it to be a tool that I can naturally use to accomplish whatever I want to do.
What a good day to end this month and start a new one!