I’ve noticed—as I struggle through class participation and oral exams—that the people who most easily pick up the oral aspect of Japanese are the people who already know another language: for example, the bilingual girl from a Spanish-speaking background or the Chinese students who speak perfect English. Maybe it’s because their brains are already adapted to switching between languages. But I don’t know; I’m not a psychologist.
Sometimes I wonder if my own difficulties with speaking Japanese can be traced back to my high school education instead. I took Latin for six years before switching to Japanese at UD, a language virtually without an oral component. But I think my main problem is not learning any language from a young age.