Whenever you are learning a new skill, it's important to practice as much as possible. If that skill is a new language, you need to apply consistent effort to remember new vocabulary, recognize speech patterns, and absorb grammar and sentence patterns until they become second nature.
If you are living in a country or community where Mandarin is widely spoken, you will have many opportunities to practice your language skills. If, on the other hand, you have few acquaintances who speak Mandarin, you will have to develop your own network of language partners.
Language Exchange 语言交流
It's sometimes possible to find a language exchange partner – someone who might be learning your native language, who will meet with you to chat and offer each other corrections or advice.
If there is a Chinese community in your city, try visiting a few shops to see who speaks Mandarin. If you become a regular customer, the shopkeeper is likely to welcome your brief exchanges in his or her native language.
Take every opportunity to use your language skills. Tell everyone you meet that you are learning Mandarin, find out who speaks it and whether they are willing to help you or not. Sometimes just a brief exchange about the weather will help to keep up your motivation and confidence.
A fabulous way to improve your Mandarin is to visit China. If you can afford the time, you can work as an English teacher and stay for a year or so.
Even if you visit for a week or two, it will still be a great opportunity to practice speaking Mandarin everyday, especially if you have already learned the basics before you arrive.
At Home 在家
One way to reinforce new Mandarin vocabulary is to label common objects around your house. Your labels can include the phonetic pronunciation as well as the Chinese characters. Practice saying the names of these objects every day.
You can also trying incorporating Mandarin phrases and words into your everyday conversation. This may annoy some people, but others may enjoy going along with you. The postal carrier may appreciate a friendly "ni hao", but don’t press it if he doesn’t.