This post might be useful if you’re learning a foreign language. I’ll write about how I learnt English.
The way I learnt English is simple. After I decided to go to university in Australia, I started studying English with enthusiasm. To be able to study philosophy in English, one must get really good at English. That was the case for me and served as a big motivator. It helps to be clear about how much (at least for now) you want to master the language you’re studying. You may not want to read philosophy books in Japanese and just want to be able to have a decent conversation without the help of a dictionary; that’s totally fine as long as you’re aware of that. Also, it helps if you have a meaningful motivation for learning that language. What makes it ‘meaningful’ is totally up to you, but if you feel you’re obliged to study the language because you need it to pass a school exam and you don’t like it at all, you’ll probably have a hard time in learning it.
There are two things that built the foundation for me in learning English.
Here’s the first one. I focused on getting my English pronunciations right as much as possible. I didn’t aim for 100%, because you don’t need to get everything right from the beginning. If you can pronounce the vowels and consonants in English, then you’re more likely to understand what’s being said, at least to understand the phonetics of what’s being said if not the meaning. It helps to know what’s phonetically important in the language you want to learn as well. Tone, pitch, intonation, stress. I think it’s fairly safe to imitate what you hear, though.
The second one is this. I read aloud English texts. Since almost every English learning book comes with a CD or two these days, I could read the texts aloud to the recording of those texts. That was pretty neat. In addition to reading aloud, I did this exercise recommended by a prominent Japanese interpreter—reading aloud and writing down texts at the same time. Choose a page long text and do it for 3 pages per day. And do it for 3 months every day. Once you’ve done that, your linguistic intuition for that language will be sharper.
You’ll probably have to study more if you want to master the language you’re studying, but these approaches will get you a good foundation in going further.