I am sharing this because I think that to become fluent and confident in the use of another language, other than your native one, is a lot more than just daily study from a book, online course or class. To become truly proficient in the use of another language, in my opinion, requires you to “Live” the language you are learning. What does this mean? Well, for starters, once you have the basic foundation down, grammar, vocabulary etc, you need to engage into an environment where you can use this language as part of daily life. This can mean
Joining a local club, such as the common “English Corners” for those living in some countries,
It can also mean taking trips (when money and time permit) to those countries where the language you are learning is commonly spoken,
Or it can mean to frequent areas where the language is spoken and socialize.
For me, having grown up in Southern California, which has a large population of hispanics, as well as being situated close to the country of Mexico, the Spanish language is very common to hear, and growing up, I had many friends that were of Mexican heritage. I often would go to their homes, and more often than not, we used Spanish as the language of choice. I also would frequently make weekend trips to Mexico, where I was able to engage in daily conversations with people.
Later, I would also learn the Samoan language, or at least the basics. This was because my previous father and mother in law, did not speak very much English, and for me to communicate with them, learning to speak some basic Samoan was very important. This also gave me an opportunity to learn the culture.
Lastly, in a sometimes tough and slow way, I have learned some of the basics of speaking Mandarin. What I found, was that no matter how many Rosetta Stone courses I took online, how many study books I read, nothing replaced the experience of actual conversation with a native Mandarin speaker, whether online, or during my trips to China. “Living” the language means to experience all the wonderful things that are associated with it, the ability to understand a joke and laugh, friendly greetings and when you are proficient enough, to share life experiences.
There are no magic answers or shortcuts to arrive at this point, it takes time, commitment and a true desire to achieve this goal. But…...it is worth it in the long run.