Think of your L2 as a hail of bullets. You get “shot” by exposing yourself to media — by putting yourself in the path of the bullets.
(Un?)fortunately, your brain, by way of the forgetting mechanism, is able to “heal” itself, erasing the effects of the bullets.
As it turns out, though, your brain is not an invincible healer. So, if you want to get “killed” or “maimed” by your L2 (i.e. become permanently and irrevocably unable to forget it) then all you need do is get yourself shot more and/or faster than your brain can heal you. You need to get shot so many times that you can’t heal. You need to overwhelm the healing mechanism.
When we talk about getting better at (remembering) a language, what we’re really talking about is losing the ability to forget it. We are actually “tattooing” our brains. I mean, just try to forget the language you’re using to read this. Go on, try. I’ll give you a whole week. Try. You haven’t “learned” the languages you’re now amazing at, you’ve had them carved into your brain: you think they’re decorations, but biologically they’re just…scars 😉 . (Given time they can heal, but it turns out that after a certain point it’s harder to forget a language than to learn it, if harder = takes longer).
Increase the frequency with which you get shot. We often call this “immersion”, although lately I’m preferring the term “contact”. Increase the number of times per day you “touch” your L2. Increase the number of discrete points of time where you are exposed to your L2. Get more bullet wounds.
One way I do this with Cantonese, for example, is to have a batch file that automatically opens live Cantonese Internet radio once an hour every hour, no matter what I’m doing. If I’m not at home, my cats get to listen to it. All I have to do is feed my machine a little bit of electricity, and it works as a diligent, hands-free and nearly-infallible getter-of-things-done.
In addition to the frequency of bullet wounds, you’ll obviously want to increase their absolute quantity as well. Frequent bullet wounds will “hurt” you (just look at how all American English speakers have some exposure to Spanish, and thus feel more affinity towards the Spanish language than to more genetically related languages like Dutch, Frisian or German — then again, I suppose any behavior that brings you closer to Salma Hayek is a good idea 8) ). But to really get yourself &$&$ed up, you’ll need to get hit by a large overall number of bullets as well.
Funnily enough though, increasing bullet quantity directly can be quite stressful for a lot of people a lot of the time. So just focus on the frequency, and the quantity will usually start to take care of itself.
Sorry for the graphic metaphor…Too much Counterstrike, rap music and action movies, I guess 😀 . Plus I just enjoy negative-sounding metaphors for positive activities — everything from drug abuse to cancer to, now, gun violence.
So how do you get yourself shot?