I watched an interesting video today about the different stages of language learning. I quite agree with the analysis of the presenter, Steve Kauffman. Here is the basic premiss.
The first 90 days is an exploration into the language and culture. It is to gain a grasp on how the language works, the structure, the basics and the rhythm. It is to explore and not worry about speaking.
Let me just state that this is based on you spending an average of at least 1 hour per day towards dedicated study.
The stage following the first 90 days is about building vocabulary. Over the next 6 months after your first 90 days. Start to implement routine speaking with a tutor or language partner. Start to speak and find more opportunities to speak. Start to get into intermediate content. A basic rule of thumb is to find content that is still mostly known. So if reading a book. Don't read something where most words are still unknown. This can easily be too difficult and discourage the learner. Use something where the majority of the words are known and you can continually add to your word bank.
This will bring you to 9 months in the language. Now you should feel comfortable to step into more advanced content and step up your speaking with a partner to 3 times or more a week.
After this step for 3 more months you will be 12 months in. This stage should put you a a level of fluency to get whatever point across you need to and to understand any basic conversational content with a local speaker or video content.
The stage that follows is growth. This stage never ends. You continuously improve and feel more and more comfortable with the language.
Now this whole process is relative. It would take longer with a harder language and it could be shorter if you spend more time daily dedicated to the language.
This can all be done without living in the country where your target language is spoken.