Tiffany told me that she started learning English when she was 13, and that was also the year she first read National Geographic magazine (國家地理雜誌).
Of course she couldn't read the magazine then; she couldn't even understand simple English. But she was so drawn into those beautiful pictures of Yosemite National Park (優勝美地國家公園) in the magazine that it seemed the size of her heart mattered more than did her ability. She looked up all those words one by one in a dictionary. After one month, she finished the article. She only had faint idea of what the article said; a brilliant start nevertheless.
Pretty soon, those school grammar books could not satisfy her curiosity; she had to go to bookstores to find other books. While other students were struggling with English, Tiffany just wanted to know more through the language, however ineffectively. At 16, she entered Taipei First Girl High School without much trouble, as she did Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures of National Taiwan University 3 years later.
Now, Tiffany, an English teacher, is in her early 50s. She has published many books on English learning and owns a small English school. I met Tiffany only once at a friend's company and the conversation last for about 30 minutes.
If there were no Yosemite National Park or National Geographic magazine for Tiffany, there were still English tests, pushy teachers or parents, but, to be sure, they would not be as effective as the attractions of Yosemite.
Would it be nice if everyone could, intentionally or accidentally, find his or her own Yosemite as early as possible?
*Tiffany is not her real name.