I practically learn to speak English in 4 months. Going from almost failing English 12 to scoring 94/120 on TOEFL iBT. While 94 doesn’t give me bragging rights (I’ve seen applicants with 100+ iBT), it does prove that if you want to, you can learn it fast. And if you’re already in Canada/US/UK, it only takes a bit more effort.
When I first came to Canada, I was hit with a massive culture shock (I didn’t know it back then. Now I do, after so many Orientations and seeing Culture Shock presentations :D). I was in grade 12, and had exactly 8 months to pass grade 12, get a decent grade in English 12 (so I can go to college), and hopefully get a scholarship (which I didn’t. But that’s beside the point.)
The first 4 months though, I spent playing online games with friends back in Vietnam. Because I’ve already learned all the topics (math 12, chemistry 12, calculus 12) back in Vietnam, homework was a breeze. I never actually brought homework… home. I would finish them all in class, during breaks. 4pm, I got home and off I went to the net to write emails in Vietnamese, play games with Vietnamese until 1am or 2am. I would be so sleepy in class the next day that sometimes I would fall asleep, yet because I had already learned the topics, I could still do the work. That wasn’t good for me though. I wasn’t interacting and making friends (because I was so fracking sleepy all the times!) I refused to be thoughtful about the fact that my host family had DIAL-UP internet! So from 4pm-2am everyday, their landline phone was busy (and they didn’t have cellphones.) At one point, their relatives were concerned about their well-being because they couldn’t reach anyone at home! And I wasn’t going to make it in English 12. My English teacher had to tell me: Win, if you don’t get better marks, you’re not going to pass English 12. And my school had to bring in a tutor and 2 or 3 times a week she would come in to give me exta help. Even better, I (rightfully and deservingly, Gisele) got kicked out of my host family. Can’t blame them. They signed up to get a kid from a different country to learn about my culture. They were kind enough to open up their home and feed me for free. Hell, all I did was playing games online and blocking their phones. I must have racked up their phone bill too. Poor Gisele and Ken. I’m sorry I should have known better then!
So January came around and I moved in with another host family. The fact that I couldn’t integrate with a welcoming and warm family, coupling with the fact that I was going to fail English 12 (even though I was the only guy who got to use the SIMPLIFIED version of Hamlet) I got the wakeup call. From January to April/May, I straightened up my acts. I made lots of friends (Kaitie, Dottie, Keegan, Mark, Betty you’re the best :), hung out with them a bunch (I was the only vietnamese kid there). I babysat all 3 kids for my host family.
Oh yeah, the best way to learn English fast is to babysit kids 7-15 years old my friends. Time to volunteer for Big Brothers, Big Sisters and/or get a second job!
Sometime in March or April, I wrote the TOEFL iBT.
So there, don’t complain that you’ve been here for 5 years and not speaking English well enough. If you really want (or have to) you can do it in 4 months. The question is, are you ready to give up a lot for it?