Last week in Italy I got compliments on my grammar and accent. Sono contenta. My self-directed learning program is working.
My strategy is simple. It's something of a left-brain/right-brain approach, something that was described as language learning verses accumulating knowledge. It's how I learned German.
In the US I learned grammar and vocabulary: structures and rules, knowledge about the language as well as its microbits. It was mostly rote learning. I spent only a small fraction of that learning-time "using German", in a conversation class. Then when I arrived in Germany everything was a big sound wall of incomprehensibility. Over the months and then years that followed, everything came together--the microbits, the structures, the sounds, the colloquialisms, the mannerisms. I became very fluent and literate and it was a joy I'll never forget.
Italian is far more fun of a language, because it's my language, and because it's fun to speak and hear. It's gorgeous. And so I'm doing the same thing except spending more time in the US on the sounds and the usage. Singing songs for example. I write and read quite a lot too, solely because of web, something I couldn't do 20 years ago when I learned German. Even when I don't comprehend completely, I'm still getting the right-brain stimulus.
My configuration of a going dilligently through a very comprehensive grammar book (in English), listening to podcasts, reading blogs and newspapers online, watching videos and movies, emailing and skying with Italian friends is fluid. C'e' un struttura, certamente, ma io la creo, e la faccio come vado e come me la serve.
In settembre, quando arrivo in Italia, faccio un corso privato per 2 settimane o piu'. Sono curiosa come lo andra' e che cosa resultati raggiungiamo. Non facevo mai questo metodo.