Once thing I am always asked by students learning English is how to get the opportunity to speak English if I don't have foreigner friends.
This is a worry for a lot of English language learners, especially where I am in Bangkok, Thailand. The education system , the main in Thailand, seems to be geared towards grammar and structure rather than practical use and consequently, this leaves a big gap or black hole where students can not put into practice what they have learned.
There are many possible reasons why this is, perhaps the Thai English teachers themselves don't have the practical use or know ways to practie their English skills but whatever the reasons, speaking English is by far the most productive way to learn any language.
As you may know, I have taught myself to speak Spanish and Portuguese as well as French when I was in school and also a little Thai from living here in Thailand. Once thing I did when I was learning Spanish was to force myself to speak every day in Spanish. I didn't have many Spanish friends and the ones that I did have as friends had excellent English skills so everyone spoke in English.
My confidence in speaking Spanish was quite low. Like most language learners, I was afraid I didn't have the Spanish vocabulary or structure or grammar and was a little afraid of making mistakes and the person I was speaking to not understanding me. It was a big problem I felt so I looked at ways to get over this obstacle.
One thing I decided to do was use my time more wisely. Before work, when I was having my breakfast, I decided to buy a Spanish newspaper. I then proceeded to read the articles but out loud. That's right, I didn't use my eyes only, I also used my mouth and spoke out loud the articles. If I didn't know the vocabulary, it didn't really matter because the most important thing was I was speaking a new language and I was getting used to the new language. I started doing this for about 15 to 20 minutes every day, every morning.
After a while I realised I was beginning to understand more Spanish. When I heard spanish conversation, I began to understand more of what people were saying. I also began to understand the grammar and the uses of grammar - remember at that time I wasn't as good as I am now with the English language, I knew how to speak it obviously but like most people, I didn't understand it's uses.
After one month, I was looking for an appartment to renet in Spain and I saw one and the big test was I had to make a call in Spanish to go and view this apartment. So I wrote down what I wanted to say and practiced it a few times. The big thing was if I was going to understand the reply on the other end of the phone. It was really nerve wracking but I managed it and I got the apartment to rent.
To the advice to those who have the excuse that they want to speak English but don't have people to speak to, is speak to yourself, read aloud. Take 15-20 minutes per day at the beginning and read and speak. I guarantee that within a month, your confidence and skills will improve dramatically. Remember a teacher or a good teacher is only there as a guide, not someone to listen and copy word for word as that is totally pointless. The most productive work and learning will be done by yourself.
Find a book that you enjoy, it could be anything at all but the most important thing is you have to enjoy it. Then begin reading, after a week or so it will become easier and you will be learning.