This question was posed by a fellow ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher, but he is a strange man and used Hawaiian Pidgin. In an attempt to translate and make things smoother I shall restate his question…. and translate the answer I wrote back to him in kanji….because I knew he has difficult reading it. We really love each other at work~
Question via Facebook : How can I become fluent in English?
When you say ‘fluent’ I think most people really mean ‘efficient’, and it isn’t terribly difficult to become efficient in a language if you only want to focus on one aspect: speaking, reading, writing, listening.
However, in my nine years teaching ESL experience I have to say it is my professional conclusion listening is by far the most important aspect. I mean, think about how babies learn to speak. They listen and they listen and they listen, then they can say one or two words, then graduate into sentences, and finally you can’t shut your children up.
So, the first step towards ‘fluency’ is listening. Listening in addition with visual ques is even more helpful. If I say “momoiro” to an English speaker they will most likely shrug and say “What?” If I point to something light pink and say “momoiro” the meaning is much more likely to come across.
But, if years of studying are not for you, and let’s face it… it takes years of studying if you want to be able to participate in the daily conversations of any foreign language, then you are left with option B.
Move to the country of your choice and mingle! I found bars a very good place to chat to old retired people who wanted nothing more than to speak at me in Japanese, and gradually I began to understand them.
On one hand, my speaking is fantastic! I can communicate in pretty much any situation. Ask me to read anything above late junior high school level Japanese (hiragana/ katakana/ kanji) and I might cry, more so if you ask me to write it by hand. I can totally type it out by computer of cell phone though!
Speaking and listening are closely linked, on the opposite end reading and writing are closer. Choose one end to devote your time to, and then work on the other. Don’t overload yourself trying to learn it all at once.
Also, textbooks are trash. Use your interests. I used anime, manga, Kamen Rider, video games, chatting to random people (in rural places I am often the ONLY foreigner and therefore kind of treated like a wonder), and shamisen lessons.
Take it slow and learn what you want. It took 2 years of Japanese in high school, 2 years in university, and about 2-3 years of living in Japan until I could really join in conversations.