First of all, I have to say that everyone has a different pace when it comes to learning languages. However, if we're talking about attending college in the US, you might want to make sure you have, at least, a good level of understanding the language.
I started learning English as most of people do, at school. In Spain it is compulsory to take English courses during your basic education. Also I used to attend English lessons after my school hours for a very long time. However, that wasn't enough to sit down at an American college classroom.
Once I finished my high school, I kept studying English after my university lessons in Barcelona. I always recommend to take lessons, because it is always better to have someone teach you first. However, you need to continue learning by yourself after those classes. A couple hours a week won't help you that much, but if you take what you learn in those couple hours and do things with that during the rest of the week, then you'll be on the right track. I remember I used to chat with international friends as much as I could, I watched movies in English, etc.
|English course mates in London, UK 2008|
After those trips, I finally moved away from Spain to spend a year in Estonia. They speak Estonian there, but the language I used to talk to people and at school was English. Since there weren't native English speakers, I got used to listen to a whole lot of different accents. That also helped me a lot.
Finally, I got to move to NYC. The first months were more difficult regarding the language. However, I started getting used to it pretty soon. I think the most important factor is to loose your fear to speak.
I had to take the TOEFL test to attend Berkeley College (Test of English as a Foreign Language.) Many people have asked me how hard it is. My suggestion is that you go online and find a sample so you can see what kind of test it is. I didn't find it hard and I got better results than what I expected.
|English course mates in New York, USA 2007|
So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that there are many ways to learn English if you really want to and that it shouldn't prevent you from applying to an American school. I hope I've answered some of your questions about this topic here. Thanks for reading and see you soon!