Language is not just confined to a classroom. It is used in the real world and that is where you must learn it.
The perfect environment for learning a new language would obviously be a place where everyone speaks the language as their native tongue. That, however, is not always possible.
I suggest you build your own environment. When you fall in love with, say, a new music band, you try to experience as much of them as possible. Do the same thing when learning a new language.
Get posters to help you learn the language. Buy or borrow books and CDs. Today you can even get “podcasts” that help you learn the language of your choice. You could also subscribe to a foreign language channel and read online foreign newspaper of the language of your choice.
The idea is to create an environment that allows you to immerse yourself in the language you want to learn.
But just as you can’t learn swimming out of a textbook or in a classroom, nothing can replace the actual interaction in your target language when it comes to learning languages. The best way to learn a new language is not just by learning it but by using it in the real world. Learning by doing takes you to the next level and can teach you a lot more than any book.
Applying what you have learned in real life situations is the perfect way to test yourself. You can find out your weaknesses and strengths from the feedbacks and reactions from a native speaker, ranging from hopeless confusion to genuine admiration.
Take full advantage of any exposure you get and try to absorb as much as you can with sponge-like enthusiasm. Test out expressions and words that you’ve heard and read. Be inquisitive and “bully” those around you into explaining new things to you and to teach you how to pronounce new words.
What if you just can’t surround yourself with the right language environment for a specific language?
You might live in a small town in Korea, and want to learn Spanish. Unfortunately for you, only 2 Spaniards have visited your town in the last century.
How do you then go about putting your newly acquired knowledge into practice, especially if you can’t afford to travel to Spain?
Well, if you can’t go to Spain yet, then make Spain come to you.
More often than not, when learning a new language, people who speak the language are hard to come by. So, as crazy as it sounds you will have to learn to speak the language with yourself.
Use your powers of imagination with a little inspiration from your favorite Spanish soap operas and you can create your own little world where you can use your Spanish as you please. Construct scenes and act out different situations where you conduct both sides of the conversation and make up your own sentences and characters. You can also try naming as many objects in a room as you can in your target language.
You can learn new words, sentences, and even start to appreciate poems and short stories if you apply them in this way. This will help you learn to think in the language you are planning to master and help you improve faster. Just remember to keep in mind a point of reference so that you don’t get too carried away.