A few months ago I went to a museum (the Brooklyn Museum of Art, if you must know) and was patiently browsing through the collection (it was the 19th century American collection, Gilbert Stuart and Remington and such), when I found my attention being diverted by, and towards, a Spanish speaking Colombian tourist with a bosom that could have been crafted by Praxiteles (I suppose it’s relevant for me to mention that I’m alluding to the Aphrodite of Knidos statue, as Wikipedia has chosen to have his article mostly deal with nude statues of men), and one of the finest waist-to-hip ratios that I have seen in quite a while.
Naturally I sidled up to her and…began to speak English…BUT THERE IN LAY MY PLAN. She responded in a chipper fashion that her English was not particularly great. With a dapper reply of “tu ingles es mas mejor de mi espanol”, she flashed me a dazzling smile and we began to tour the grounds together. Her slightly broken English and my substantially more broken Spanish were sufficient to converse with each other, and sufficient enough for me to make high-larious jokes about the ceremonial masks of Congolese tribesmen which were housed on another floor. But more importantly, I gradually became more comfortable as I rediscovered the two years of Spanish I studied in high school.
Our tour continued (with a quick digression for me to get her name, and also un beso upon the cheek, which is a custom I wish was more common in Northern latitudes), but sadly we eventually had to part ways, but not before exchanging phone numbers.
I tell you this story not to brag (long story short, the relationship didn’t work out, and the girlfriend I referred to in an earlier article is not the girl referred to here), but to also suggest to you a unique and dynamic way to learn a new language-put yourself in an interpersonal situation where you feel compelled to use that language. For my purposes, meeting a pretty girl is the fastest way to rouse me to action (pun intended), but I suppose the situation you exploit could be a completely platonic one as well-any skill can be exercised by putting yourself into a situation where you feel utterly compelled to use it.
Try it for yourself, and see if it works.
Addendum: Obviously you need SOME background in the language before trying this. Pick yourself up a dictionary or something.
Second Addendum: Can you tell I wrote this article at 8 AM this morning?