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In the ESL world that I am in I have to say that this question is THE MOST common question asked and we tend to give the same answer every time – No.
But let’s really look into this question and see if there really are any possible fast tracks that students can use.
I think before we give any kind of answer to the question, we need to ask these other questions first and evaluate the options:
- Why do you want to learn English?
Perhaps you need English to start your university course, or do a business deal. Each of these answers will require a serious commitment to learning English properly otherwise the results could become very COSTLY to you and I mean FINANCIALLY!
HOWEVER If you are moving to a new location where you need the English, you could take a short course and perhaps this will give you enough to get by.
- Why do you want to learn English fast?
Most people answer this question with simply ‘…because I don’t have enough time…’ My answer here is that time isn’t just the numbers on your watch moving clockwise, it really is the amount of energy you put into each minute or hour, not just sitting passively and watching the time go by. So HOW you spend this time can be critical. So if you are someone who is simply a ‘sitter in the class’ and are hoping that somehow by osmosis the English will seep through your skin into your veins and suddenly by a miracle of God you will be able to be fluent, you are not going to get very far.
HOWEVER if you are someone who has an intense use of this time, you really could move twice as fast as someone else in the same length of time, so think about your intensity too.
- How much English do you already know?
Let’s face it if you are close to zero English or only a little above, you really will have to face facts that no matter how intensely you learn, it really will take time to move from your conscious mind to your unconscious. These are the times to get real.
HOWEVER if you are someone who has managed to pick up your English both from your high school studies and have actively used international social networks and so on, you may already have quite a good grounding, and you may only need a short course to clean up your ‘bad habits’ in English and send you forward to your high proficiency level. So get a placement test first from your nearest language centre.
- What is your native language?
This really is a good question as English that has developed from other European languages, namely of Germanic origins. So if you already are a native speaker of a European language, chances are you will be able to pick up a lot more of the language faster as much of it will be similar to your own.
HOWEVER if you come from a country where the native language not only is completely different but the writing script and pronunciation is nowhere to be found in the English equivalent, you will need a longer time, even if it be just to perfect the script and pronunciation!
- What kind of daily time commitment do you have to learning English?
Going back to the original question, if you want to fast track that tells me you don’t have enough time, perhaps even in your day. If your reason is this, you need to evaluate your goals and make a decision for the long term. Do I really want to become proficient in English or am I really only wanting to pick up a few words here and there to get me by? If you decide high proficiency is important, you may need to step back a few more steps and look at the really big picture in your life and just allow yourself to take some time off to tackle this English first, then all other things can fall into place more easily.
HOWEVER if you decide that you really don’t have enough time in the day to devote the energy required, you need to lower your overall expectations of your bigger goals. Have a good think about this one
So my ultimate opinion is that though there are a few cases where fast track can work, no matter what your overall reason is be aware that the time you put in now will really set you up for the future. If you are trying to run before you can crawl, you will find yourself lagging behind all the rest of the world in the end.
Remember what researchers say: It takes 10,000 hours to master a language. Think about that.