I got a lot of interesting answers. My friend, Dawn, let me include her response in my blog. Dawn graduated a year behind me in high school. We were both a part of "The Global Studies" experiment. Our town took our old hospital building and made it into a dorm. The first year and second years, there were about fifty students each year. The first year, about fifteen kids came from Hong Kong. The second year, about twenty students came from Mexico and Spain. I, of course, was in the Spanish program. Dawn was in the German program. Our graduating classes would have had 50 students without exchange students, but with exchange students there were about 75.
Meet Dawn - Fellow Lafayette graduate and facebook friend.
I don't think I have anything out of the ordinary. How about getting a native speaker as a boyfriend/girlfriend? Or living with a host family.
You just have to really surround yourself with native speakers, read books or magazines that you're interested, study those things, try out your new vocabulary every day, listen to the radio - tape segments of news or TV and replay them again and again. I've heard of students transcribing radio/tv segments first, and if they need help, get a native speaker to fill in the blanks.
focus on overall communication - listening, reading, speaking, writing. Go to the country if possible. And just talk your head off, don't be afraid to ask questions, and don't take mistakes personally. You're just learning something new.
When I taught ESL, I noticed the biggest improvements in the students had native friends, a host family, and who didn't care about mistakes.
When I was in Germany, there was a young man (30s?) who didn't know really a LICK of German, he went as a part of his business training. I spoke pretty well out of our group - most thought that I was a foreigner but couldn't pin the slight accent. But by the end, this guy had far surpassed me (embarrassingly so, because I was quieter and didn't reach out as much). He had a lot of drive, native friends, took more challenging classes, studied all the time. Your level of devotion will give fruit to the outcome.