If you ask almost anyone to list their lifelong goals, one of them would most likely be learning a new language. But this is much easier said than done. You can take classes for years in another language, but without proper and consistent use of those skills, you'll never become fluent. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to retain information and put your new language skills to use.
1. First, determine your ultimate goal in language learning
Before you start any vocab or grammar practice, you should decide why you ultimately want to learn the language. Do you just want to be able to communicate with others on social media? Do you want to hold a conversation with a native speaker easily? Do you want to add the skill to your résumé? Do you just want to be able to read your favorite book in a new language? Whatever the reason, you should know it before you start. This will give you focus and motivation to keep learning when things get a little tough.
2. Research tools that can help you learn
Everyone has a different learning process and how you want to learn the language can change based on your personal goal. For the basics, you want an app like Duolingo. If you just want to read and write, you should focus on more vocabulary based tools like Memrise or Rosetta Stone. If you want to be able to talk with a native speaker, tools like Pimpsleur and iTalki are your best bet. You can also do freeform learning with Readlang or Google Translate. Just read articles or watch programs in your target language and look up anything you don't understand.
3. Set aside time in your schedule for practice
You can't possibly become fluent in a new language if you only practice it once every other month. However you're learning, you need to be diligent to see any progress. Many language learning apps encourage you to do lessons once every day, but just practicing a few times a week should do it. As long as you're learning consistently, you'll retain more information and be able to build on skills you've already developed.
4. Listen to your target language as much as you can
One way to passively pick up new things in the language is by listening to it. There are plenty of podcasts, songs and shows you can listen to and watch. Studies have shown that the best way to learn a new language is through immersion. However, you don't have to travel to another country to get that experience. Listen to Spanish radio in your car or put on German music in your spare time. You could also find a few YouTubers you like that speak the language you want to learn. The goal here is to understand as much as you can of what they're saying.
5. Have conversations in the new language
Especially if you want to become completely fluent in the new language, holding conversations with others is crucial. You can do this online, but you can probably find a group that meets in person near you to practice their language learning. Even if you don't have anyone to practice with, you can still talk to yourself. When you're home alone or in the shower, act out a conversation in your new language. Pretend you're asking where the train is or what a person's dog is like. This is a great, stress-free way to practice new vocabulary and grammar.
6. Ultimately, don't be afraid to make mistakes
Don't expect perfection right off the bat. It takes time to learn anything new, especially a second language. Anyway, no one really speaks English that perfectly, even native speakers. Don't be too hard on yourself or you'll get frustrated and give up. Allow yourself to make mistakes. After all, that's how you learn.