Lang8 – Lang8 is a text exchange website for a number of languages including Japanese. You can type up anything in Japanese (diary entry, letters to people, things you’re interested in etc) and a native will read it and suggest changes and improvements which you can learn from. And vice versa, you can pick out English pieces that other people have written and correct them creating a positive language exchange.
This is great for reading and writing, and you can make some good relationships with regulars. I admit I tried this for 2 weeks and then forgot about it for several years. If you want to keep it up set yourself one or two days a week that you will post a short article about a subject you’re interested in. Keep it interesting for you rather than a chore and you will reap the benefits greatly.
This is great for speaking Japanese. If you’re not confident with Japanese try really hard to speak it anyway even if their English is really good. Or arrange it so you have some time talking Japanese and some time talking English.
I did this while I was in Fukuoka and it was great fun. Always in a public place like a cafe too.
Travel to Japan for Study Holiday – If you’re serious about getting fluent it’s worth putting money aside and going to Japan for at least a month to study at a school. Often schools will only have classes in the morning so you’re free to explore the area of the Japan you’re in most days. It gives you focused study time as well as the ability to practice outside of classes as you’re surrounded by Japanese, and you have more chances to meet Japanese people via mylanguageexchane and meetups.
I’ve been fortunate and saved a lot of money to do this 3 times. Twice was with private schools and the other was with University on a study abroad. I don’t think I’d be as good as I am not if I hadn’t taken the chance to go out there to study. My advice is to search and compare schools that are ideal for you. When I was searching I needed a 6 month program (for when I’d graduated) which meant I was after a relatively cheap long-term program and found NILS in Fukuoka (I wrote a review of it here)
Other Japanese Speakers (not necessarily natives) – It’s awkward at first but still great practice to practice with other Japanese learners who aren’t necessarily natives. They are probably easier to find in your area and can boost your confidence.
Ask Friends – Perhaps a friend of yours has Japanese friends that are willing to become penpals, skype friends, or meet in person?
As always when you’re meeting people you don’t know through the internet be careful and use common sense! Meet in public places during the day. Don’t drink with them. Don’t go home alone with them. If they get creepy stop contact with them. This includes when you speak to them online. One Japanese person started chatting to me on facebook, turned out he was a 40 year old man who only befriended girls, I didn’t risk it and blocked him straight away.
But like I said, I’ve also made some amazing and wonderful friends though Uni clubs, my language exchange and meetups and learnt a lot through them as well.