I’m always surprised when I ask clients who gives them feedback and they say “no one.” It must feel terrible to be so isolated, but then again, maybe it’s a matter of not noticing things beyond your awareness. I also notice very few of my clients speak conversational English outside of work. That makes sense when trying to preserve your native tongue with your family, but it’s important to have a network of people you can talk to in a social setting, for many reasons, including improving your spoken English.
The concept of “top of mind” is critical. It’s back to “use it or lose it”. If you read a lot of words or learned them in high school, but you never use them, you’ll forget them. There are too many other things competing for your time and attention. You have to have someone to talk to regularly to reinforce the patterns. It’s always spiked my interest when I ask non-native speakers who they talk to in conversational English that they often have no one in that role.
I usually suggest talking to someone who’s already in their circle of influence. It’s killing multiple birds with one stone. Time wise you can’t do everything, and someone you’re already involved with is probably doing something you like to do or have to do like go to church, or attend parent-teacher conferences, or go to sports matches to watch your kids together, or go to movie night or whatever. The activity doesn’t really matter so long as you have shared interests you can talk about. Having someone to talk to casually, comfortably and informally will start to change how your conversational skills function. As comfort and confidence go up, people tend to speak better and better with little formal training. They jump to get over the hurtle, and then continued progress isn’t such a difficult thing.