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when my wife came to Canada, her English level is Junior High in China. (Finished college level but forgot most of it ). I was an English major in China, but after arriving in Canada I found most of my undergrad efforts on reading 19 century novels has been a waste of time . I want her to learn English is a different approach. After 3 month in an ESL class, I encouraged her to enroll in an adult high school. There she interacted with a lot of native speakers on a daily basis. I taped sit-coms and movies and watch them with her, and stop once in a while to explain the plot. She also did volunteer work at a community center with kids. When she was alone at home taking care of our baby, she tunes in to CBC radio 1. She didn't torture herself with a lot readings and looking up the dictionary, but now she can enjoy the movies, talk to her doctor in English, and fill out the census form for our family. Her writing is still not good, but one interesting thing happened recently. I got a TOEFL test for her last week. After an hour she told me listening comprehension is very easy for her. Grammar is a little bit challenge but still OK - she difn't know which answer was correct but in most cases guessed it right. The most difficult parts are reading and volcabulary. Ten years ago when I took the TOEFL, my feeling was: listening is the most difficult part; never trust my "language sense" in the grammar part because it is often unreliable. You can see the difference now.
I found my approach is paying off - she just leaped over two major pitfalls in learning English. Finally I want to say to speak English well, don't treat it as a knowledge. You need to enjoy it, just like little kids enjoy their interactions with the people around them. Pretend it is a new tool you can use to reach out for that wonderful world around you, and take heart every time you make yourself understood.
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