How you’re psychologically disposed to that language will play a paramount role in determining your ultimate progress. Having said that, I’ll pose the following question. Do you wish to assimilate or adapt a language?
What do I mean by that? By assimilating, it becomes a natural extension of you. You don’t think of it as some external possession in need of much nurturing. It may become sour over time (as any aspect of yourself not continuously exhibited, your mother language included), but you can naturally carry it back to full dominion with small effort. Yet, it remains part of you. You don’t really need to question it, or fear losing it. It’s there, as the eyebrows on your frowning forehead.
Does it ever become that natural? Maybe. Maybe not. But it’s of no relevance. Employ the visual. Assimilate. Desire ten times more than what you might content yourself with, but desire it sincerely. Desire to command that language naturally, with the same intonations, facial gestures, jaw movement, filler phrases and articulation of a confident native speaker. Obviously, you have to want it and be able to visualize it. You must almost imagine yourself as the very native speaker, with all the related cultural subtleties.
With the visual firmly in place, your consciousness will largely carry you forward. You will consume the language by whatever means at your disposal, be it video blogs, podcasts, news, vocal repetition, conversation practice, etc. You will pay attention to the facial movements of speakers as they articulate the expressions. You will appreciate the small nuances. Your personality will mend itself into the language tradition. I’m sure you’ve heard of the idea of a new personality born with each new language acquired. What I state is similar, except with one caveat. One must assimilate the language for that to occur. The rest is paperwork, as you fill in some technical gaps with very basic theory and such. Psychology is the dominating factor.
In contrast to assimilation, many settle with adapting a language. However, I consider this a less pleasant road to a less than desirable commitment, full of irritating traffic and sour weather conditions. By adapting, you don’t really accept the entire range of elements underlying in the language tradition. You simply want to dress your existing personality into a façade of craftily acquired language constructs, and usually out of respect for extrinsic necessities.
The majority of speakers adapt, not assimilate. They articulate with too strong of a native accent, showing few signs of colloquialisms, expressive phrasing, or cultural innuendos. The native personality struggles and pleads: why this silly act? What are these awkward filters you impose upon me? Have I not demonstrated uncompromising loyalty to your cause?
The more you lean towards adaptation rather than assimilation, the more likely you are to encounter a longer journey full of obstacles; the more likely you will abandon. Regretfully, the eventuality strengthens when particularly attached to the mother language and mother culture. The more attached you are to something, the less likely you are to assimilate something alternative.
Therein lies the dilemma. Strongly embracing your roots, owing your cultural identity, proudly commanding your mother tongue are all admirable traits. But they lower your willingness to adapt, to experiment, to be more culturally independent. I’ve become largely oblivious to culture and roots years ago. This too presents certain pitfalls, although I no longer worry about such things. Yet the benefits stand out clear: the relative ease with acquiring new languages, the ability to live as a digital nomad without nostalgia or cultural craving, and the flexibility to welcome unfamiliar situations. Alas, not everyone can trigger the desire to assimilate with ease. Psychology plays a powerful role. But it sure feels rewarding when attained.
Assimilate, my friend. Or face much burden in language development.