This is a letter which I wrote to my English teacher, Mr.Thanh.
After one month attending your class, my English has gradually turned from “feeling” into “knowing” and I am happy with that. Instead of writing an essay, I want to share with you the story how I learned English in the past. I believe it is also a kind of practicing English, but in a more interesting way. Hope you enjoy it. (I am sure you will).
Looking back to my third year at Bach Khoa university, I was a student who felt very bored with what I was studying. Even though Bach Khoa is considered the best university of technology and engineering, I was bored with the out of date curriculum and the boring teaching ways of the professors. As Steve Jobs said in his commencement speech at Stanford university in 2005, “I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how the university could me help me to figure it out“. Keeping this thought for about a month, one day, after staying up all night, I decided to drop out. I thought, “Back Khoa is one of the best technology schools in Vietnam, so I can only find the better schools abroad”. I had a heart set on finding a scholarship and decided to study English from scratch.
Saying “study English from scratch” because at that time, I hated English and my English was nearly at level zero. I used to think that I will never use English after I graduated from my university. But in this situation, I had no choice. English is the only tool that counts. I quitted all the classes and started to learn English wholeheartedly. I kept my decision in secret. Only some of my friends in the university knew and told me to come back to school, but no one could change my thought one bit.
Studying English was hard at first. I looked into all the methods on the internet about how to learn English fast and effectively. I listened to the polyglots sharing their experiences about learning languages. I found a book of Steve Kaufman, a famous Finnish polyglot and the founder of www.lingq.com – a website that provides internet-based tools to help people learn languages. The book was named A Language Learning Odyssey and I began to read it. Thinking of reading a nearly one hundred-page English book was intimidating to me. I had to look up for new words all the time and add notes everywhere. I finished the book in a week and acquired a lot of vocabulary. This book contains about 4000 words. I felt great.
About listening, I read that the only way to improve listening is listening to English all the time and having correct pronunciation. I found the Pronunciation Workshop Program of Paul Gruber, and again, I practiced pronunciation everyday. With a small mirror, a laptop and an empty dorm room, I tried to speak out as loud as I can. I also listen to English all the time, even when I was sleeping. One day, I opened a video on YouTube about learning languages and surprisingly, I understood it. It was the big curve. I did not waste any minute. This progress lasted nearly 2 months. My English was improved dramatically and I became famous, many students in Bach Khoa dormitory knew me. They finally knew who shouting English every day.
Because of ignoring grammar and focusing only on reading, listening and vocabulary, I am fine with the input but weak at outputting English. It means that I can read and listen well, but struggling with speaking and writing. However, the result I got from that short period of time made me satisfied.
I started looking for scholarships, it turned out extremely hard for a student like me to get one. So I came back to school. Since I quitted all the classes for a semester, I had to re-study the missing subjects. There was a lot of work. I must catch up with my friends so I studied like a machine with high sense of discipline in the next year, and thankfully, we graduated at the same time. I still kept the habit of listening to English whenever I can, learning mainly by ear. I listened to Steve Jobs’ speech every day and can repeat each word from his speech. It means so much to me because he is my role model.
Dropping out of university was one of the best experience I have ever had. Then a friend of mine introduced me to work for an American company, Simpson Strong-Tie. I had a direct interview with the American manager via Skype and passed it. After that the company requested for an English certificate, I spent 2 weeks to prepare, then took the TOEIC test. The score was 770 (420 for listening and 350 for reading).
Being pretty good at English makes me feel interested in studying languages in general. I will spend about 2 years from now to perfect my English then move on to Mandarin Chinese, my next target foreign language.
I am happy that I found the right place, your class. Thank you very much.