How to learn English – Based on my experience

I had a few people who told me that my English was great.

The answer is No! It is not. I made a lot of grammatical errors, troubled with prepositions, limited vocabulary, fragmented sentences, articles, and so much more. After all, English is not my first language.

But hey, I write a blog.

I am good with presenting in English, I can write an academic level report, can read books, watch movie without subtitles (as long as it’s not Game of Thrones), and be very comfortable with it.

Isn’t that the very purpose we learn a new language? To communicate, not to write an exam.

I always told people in this day and age, no matter where you are from and how nationalist you are, you “Must” be able to communicate in English. By being able to talk in a common language, I hope it will bring the world closer together. English is just happen to be the lingua franca.


Let me share my experience.

Like most of you, my first encounter with this foreign language happened when I was in elementary school. It was a mesmerizing experience, even until today I can still recall it. My teacher showed the word ‘One’ and told me this is called ‘One’, it is pronounced ‘Wan’ not ‘Oh-ne’. I asked my teacher why it is pronounced like that, I don’t see how ‘O-N-E’ can produced the sound ‘Wan’, but it’s just the way it is. My teacher was confused how to answer me.

What the heck is to-be?

Then I tried to force myself more, to learn English in order to understand a game I was playing back then. Game was the motivation. Of course I failed.

Come the junior high school years, I enrolled in a bilingual school which teaches science subjects in English. I learned the basic grammar and the rules. Past tense, verb 2, past participle, verb 3. I got good at it and trying to challenge myself again by reading non-fiction book in English and trying to watch movie without subtitle. Of course I failed.

Then I went to Turkey during my senior high school time. This was a very important and interesting time in my life learning curve. My school back then uses Turkish as the teaching language. I met friends from all parts of the world and some of them did not know how to speak English. As the school dictates, we adopt Turkish as our primary language.

Back then, I started seeing my friend ditched their English skills in favor of Turkish. They got really good at it and started losing the sense in English. It seems like you cannot learn two foreign language at the same time unless you are a polyglot.

I did not see any improvement in my grammar skills. We had a problematic class. Imagine, you have a group of students who are almost native English speakers and another group who had no idea how to put ‘am’ after ‘I’. So, our English class ended up with movie time, which I love it, and a super easy final test.

Then, it was like “uhh, I don’t want to trade my English with Turkish”. I do the simple math, trying to guess how many countries out there in the world that speak Turkish, then Compare it with English. This is not a good trade.

So, I decided to be more creative.

Started to converse more often in English with friends from Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya Bosnia, Albania, Pakistan….everyone basically. Some friends did not like it and told me to speak Turkish. I just don’t care.

I enrolled in additional English course outside school.

Downloaded and copied a tons of movie. Remember the movie class? I mean our problematic English class. It sort of build my taste in films. I boost a collection of movies in my hard disk drive which I am proud of! Anyway, learning the language from movie. I still used subtitle but an English subs. I can see incremental improvement.

Bought a non-fiction book, this time could understand more than half of it. I guess it is an improvement as well.

I took a TOEFL test!

The result was pretty good.

Then I graduate high school and went to Malaysia to do my degree. Turns out I need to do a preparation year before enrolling into university. I took the preparation program’s English test and straight failed. Need to enroll in a more intensive English Program.

I want to say huge thanks to a teacher who, sort of bring me together. My 3 years of learning grammar in junior high school and my 4 years of high school practical skills are combined in this program. It is not just about the language skills, it is more than that. That one semester I spent in 2013 was beautiful. It was the melting pot for my imagination, dreams, and belief  and the beginning of a world that I want to see.

I guess that’s kinda my journey…

Yesterday, English is a skill you must have. Today, you should learn another third language. Tomorrow, you might consider to add programming language into your skill set.


a massive thanks to all my teachers..
Jey Burkhardt, Mark Auger, Mete Sipahioglu, Yunus Ak, Joe Louis-smith, Faruk Ozkan, Mr. Yassin, Ms. Inong
IEP ESLEO Class of 2013 fall semester

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