1. Keep motivated even when you are frustrated with your progress - which will sometimes happen. Don't expect to become fluent very quickly, learning a language well takes many years. But always remember that any level allows communication. I think that very often learners expect to become fluent much more quickly than is possible. This can lead to a lot of frustration and it can also make learners feel they aren't progressing when they are!
2. Keep interested in new words - they are the key to any progress. What I mean here is that language is mostly about words - a person who knows a lot of words would communicate without much grammar. I"ve read somewhere that to speak a language in a basic way needs a vocabulary of 2000 words. This sounds a lot – but isn’t so difficult to learn with a bit of patience and time.
3. Enjoy using the language you already have - many people often say that they are "not yet good enough" - but forget what they have already achieved and what opportunities it brings. I realised a long time ago that "a little goes a long way” and I have found that it is surprising just how much communication can take place at any level.
4. Use the Internet as and when you can. There is a fantastic amount of useful material, not to mention interesting and useful blogs and chatrooms. I remember the first time I went on line which is 10 years ago this year. I thought, what a great opportunity for me, I can learn now from my own living room. These days, there is so much there for you to get for free. It’s a brilliant resource if used intelligently.
5. Read in the target language as much as you can. But don't try to read at a level too high - or you will get frustrated. Try reading for enjoyment sometimes at the level you are at - or just a little higher. You will find this encouraging. I read a book many years ago on second language learning that placed a big emphasis on reading a lot – but was careful to point out that the level should not be too high or it would not be beneficial. Too many courses in my opinion expect learners to read texts that are set at too high a level.
6. Make as many friends as you can that speak the target language - maybe you could join a language club where people learn together. I am a member of 3 French language clubs and 2 German language club. If you find it difficult to find a club, you could try to make some "virtual friends" online. This is something that takes some effort, but is really worth it. It means looking to see what is out there and where you can find the right club. I know people who form their own club for exchanging ideas and tips. I do realise also, that finding clubs and native speakers is sometimes impossible depending on where you live.
7. Don't think of mistakes as failure - this is negative. Think of mistakes as "feedback" and then you learn to find ways to reduce them by keeping a positive attitude. When did you see a young child worry about making mistakes? This is my point. When did a child think that they make mistakes? They only know it if an adult corrects them – and very often this is a parent who corrects in a nice way – so they child never thinks of mistakes – and gets on with learning. As a result – they learn quickly. We can do this as adults if we try.
8. Take every opportunity to speak the language and engage with people. If you can't find anyone to talk with, then talk about things with yourself (out of earshot or people will start to wonder...) I have some interesting conversations with myself whilst driving...! And other places too. If this is your only means to express yourself – then don’t forget to do it! Listening to yourself speak is similar to learning to play and instrument “by ear”. I’ve been learning guitar this way for 39 years and I play for myself more often than I play for other people – I’m not a professional musician. So take every opportunity to speak as much as possible.
9. Learn about the culture of the country or countries where the language is spoken when you have some spare time. For example: English culture is somewhat different to the USA but we have many similarities and we do speak the same language - or do we? In reality there are quite a few differences between American English and British English. However these variations in accent and dialect happen with other languages too. I read that one of the most important things in developing language learning is to also learn about the culture of the countries where the language is spoken. This helps make the language “real”, because it helps put the language in context.
10. Finally don't be too hard on yourself if you don't progress as fast as you would like to. Learning a language isn't a smooth process - you can learn a lot quickly sometimes - then sometimes the progress is slow. Always think of language learning as a long-term project not a short-term project