My road to English fluency
As we all have experienced, the primary school would be one of the few places to start English education. At that time, I honestly am telling you that I used to suck at English. I remember getting so relieved after getting a non-red mark or score when I was in third grade in English. I had like a 6.0 score or something out of 10 on English.
Something changed during my junior high and senior high years, though. I got moved to a school where they teach in English, although most of the students don't really speak to each other with English. "We're Indonesians after all, so lol at speaking English with each other."
I remember being absolutely stricken when my long composition or essay that I handed in to the teacher for English was full of red blots and marks that notified me of my grammar mistakes and such.
Another big change was when I first had cable TV in my home, and when my parents bought me the Indonesian version of the first four Harry Potter novels.
The novels first spurred my interests in reading. At the time, I was still in my seventh year (which is the first year of Junior High). I then subsequently bought the Indonesian version of the Lord of the Rings, of which I still have until this very day. Thus, when the fifth Harry Potter came out, I devoured it like a man deprived of food for a week. Besides Harry Potter, my interest in reading gained a step. I then proceeded to read English books from various authors: Douglas Adams, Dan Brown (I now realize how cheesy his novels are at times), Michael Crichton, and other works such as To Kill A Mockingbird (a classic), et cetera.
The cable TV, as silly as it sounds, provided me with lots of English inputs throughout the 3 years I watched the TV like a worshipper. I used to turn on HBO and Cinemax every single day after school, watching it with subtitles on. I also used to watch football on TV every single week, and had exposure to different kinds of accents that English offers.
As time goes, I supposedly became "the best" in English in my class, if the words of my teacher was to be trusted. I still have lots of mistakes in my essays during my second year in secondary school, but the ideas that flowed through my mind by reading all those novels and all those books and watching all those television programs and by feelings invoked by English music had my essays marked as really good. Even though there are still lots of red blots on my paper.
That reminds me, my music taste also developed from thereon, whereas at first I started with Linkin Park, I moved on to Coldplay, Keane, Oasis, and then I moved on again to other stuff: Mew, Radiohead, et cetera. I never actually listened to Indonesian music. That's a bit off tangent, though, I'll save it for another time.
Somehow, during one of those years as well, my thinking started to become English. I would occasionally think to myself using English instead of Indonesian, and sometimes I would get comfortable using more English than I do Indonesian. It all started with just English thoughts in my head instead of Indonesian.
However, by the point I (almost) finished high school, my speaking was still bad. I had lots of pointers when I speak that would expose me as a non-native speaker. Since I came to the US though, my speaking skills have improved, and I am glad to say that most of the people I meet over here mostly have no clue that I am not a native speaker of English, even though I have never studied abroad before this at all. I now am a writing tutor where I pretty much help to better people's essays (even people that speak English as a native language!) and had 112 on my iBT, which I took a year ago.
By this time, I realized I have developed a sense of wrong sentences, or something like that. I can tell which sentences sound weird or sound wrong, but I can't tell you which grammar rule or what grammar explanation did I use to proclaim that sentence as wrong.
So all I have to say is: keep up your English learning. For more serious learners, try and browse sites in English, watch television in English, read books in English, listen to English music, just anything in English. That might not be feasible sometimes, but just keep it up and bit by bit you'll be fluent surely.
As a postnote, here's a site that you might consider useful to learn similar to the way I did. I discovered this site a few weeks back, and was surprised at how well it worked and applied to my life.