Last month I was studying Swedish in Sweden, it was an intensive 4 week B1 level course and I learned a lot. In order not to lose what I learned, I decided to practice it weekly, the problem is that since the pandemic, no Swedes have come to language exchanges, as they used to do before… So I decided to publish a post in the group of Swedes in Barcelona. I had some answers, although I only met one of them, Johan, two weeks after my return.
As I started speaking Swedish, I realized that in two weeks I had forgotten many words and had lost fluency. When I regretted not remembering some basic words and taking a long time to form sentences, Johan told me that my knowledge of grammar was much better than his wife’s, for example, who has lived there for many years.
Learning grammar doesn’t make you fluent, although it does make you speak correctly. The only way to speak a language fluently is to practice it and speak it regularly, ideally every day.
As many times it is not possible to speak it with other people, what I do is speaking it with myself; for example when I go to do the groceries, I make the list in Swedish and try to speak Swedish in my mind before speaking to the salesclerk. I also count in Swedish and I comment on everything I am doing (like “I put a package of rice and three cans of tuna in the basket” in Swedish obviously).
The more you practice a language (speaking, listening, writing and reading) the faster you start to think in that language and, by stopping translating everything in your mind before you can speak, you will be able to speak fluently.