A few years ago I read a very touching article in a magazine. (I think it was by the well-known sinologist Simon Winchester, but I might be wrong.) The article was about a trip he had made deep into rural China many years before. On this trip he didnt meet anyone who could speak English and some people had never seen Europeans before.
Then one day this sinologist got off a train at a very isolated spot, and a beautiful young Chinese woman approached him and began to speak in fluent English about great English writers: Austen, Dickens, the Brontes, Swift, Shakespeare. She had taught herself to read English over many years and was desperate for an outlet（出路，使用英语的机会）.
After this brief encounter, the writer of this article and the young woman wrote to each other for many years before losing touch. It was impossible for them to be together: she was already married.
Im telling you this story because I want to show that it is possible to become really good at a language without being able to practise it with native speakers every day. However, I do also think that this young woman must have had a really astonishing natural ability for language – something most of us dont have.
Somebody who does have an such an ability is my colleague here at the BBC, Feifei Feng. Feifei arrived in England speaking near-perfect English and is one of the most impressive language learners I know. She seems the person best-placed to answer your question. So here are her tips:
Learn how to think in English. This is undoubtedly the best way to improve your fluency. When you are thinking about a topic, try to make English sentences in your head. This will also make you aware of what vocabulary you still need to learn in order to express yourself.
You also need to work very hard on your pronunciation. Unlike the young Chinese woman in the story above, you have access to lots of recordings of native English speakers. Go to our website – bbcukchina.com. We have downloadable audio programmes and we make the scripts available. Use your pause button and repeat sentences that you hear, trying to match the pronunciation. If you prefer movies, watch DVDs. This will improve your listening ability too. The message is: expose yourself (给自己接触某事的机会)to as much audio of native English speakers as possible.
I would also add something to Feifeis advice. I dont think its a coincidence that in the story I tell above, the young lady loved to read books. I think that reading can do wonders for (对...产生奇效) your vocabulary and also for your grammar and fluency since books are, after all, full of examples of perfect English sentences. Instead of interacting with English speakers, do the next best thing: interact with English-language books, radio programmes and films.