I asked a friend of mine to write about his experiences learning English and to give some suggestions for what worked for him. He is a Cameroonian I met about four years ago. At the time, he was in the beginning stages of his English language studies. (We did a language exchange, but I wasn't his teacher.) When we first met, he could barely complete a coherent sentence. Now he has improved to the point where I no longer have to speak at a slower pace when we talk. I did not correct any of the grammar in his post because I wanted you to read his words, including any flaws. Communicating in English is not about being flawless. Making mistakes is a part of the process. This post is as much a writing challenge for him as it is encouragement for you.
Why and How I Learnt English
From someone who comes from a bilingual country where English is one of the two officials languages, I always found it weird to not be able to have a two minutes conversation. Having four hours of English courses weekly in high school and just three during my bachelor program wasn’t enough to reach my goal, I mean being able to be fluent in English. After an interview in a sales company that was hiring people who were able to speak and write French and English very well, I felt like it was the right time to take the bull by the horns because I missed that opportunity. That was a good one and I knew that if I don’t overcome that lack, I will miss many others.
I decided to attend English courses during the summer because I was free and I really wanted to dedicate my time in learning. Amideast, an American languages center was my choice. I made my registration without taking any level's test cause I was willing to start with basics. I attended to 6 classes (5 weeks for each class) and I was so excited due to my progress. I was able to watch English TV shows and understand at least 85%. In the meantime, the website Busuu.com helped me a lot to improve my vocabulary, my pronunciation and of course it gave me the opportunity to practice with natives English speakers around the world.
Nowadays, I am still improving myself especially in listening section and I do my best to extend my vocabulary, trying to learn many idioms.
I would like to say, due to my case, that learning English is a process that can last at least 6 months and courses are not enough. The learner has to be involved in that process and play his part. As the psycholinguist Frank Smith said, “One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way.” English language has opened many doors academically and professionally.
Serge Likwai is a native of Cameroon, a central African country, which is where he completed his undergraduate and graduate degrees. He is now a resident of Turkey where he teaches French. Serge is a lifelong learner and continues to study English, Turkish, and German. His hobbies include playing basketball and watching his favorite team, Chelsea, play football.