2 months ago I decided to learn Spanish because I like to study new languages, and because it didn't seem as difficult as Chinese when it came to pronunciation. So far, it has been surprisingly fun and fairly easy - compared to either Chinese or Japanese - for me to pick up. Of course the grammar is still a challenge, but I enjoy going over new phrases and vocabulary every day.
When learning any new language, it is very important to increase your vocabulary so that you can converse about various topics. I try to read at least one newspaper article a day in Spanish so that I can add new words to my vocabulary. At first, I understood literally 1% of what I was reading, but now I can understand quite a fair bit. If there are only a few words I don't understand, I will look them all up. If the subject is something I am unfamiliar with, I will only choose maybe 5 words to look up. That way I won't overwhelm myself with trying to memorize too many new words at once.
Improving listening skills:
At first, I tried to jump right into watching a Spanish telenovela, but that turned out to be too difficult for my beginner's level. So now I listen to 10 or so minutes of Spanish podcasts every day, or every other day. Like the reading, it was frustrating at first, but gradually it has gotten to the point where I can understand nearly 80% of what is being said. And, even if I can't (when the person is talking about sports or something I have no interest in), the Spanish no longer sounds as fast it did 2 months ago.
It is incredibly important to write as frequently as possible so that you can use the new vocabulary that you have learned. However, it isn't always easy finding something to write about. I write maybe 2-3 paragraphs in Spanish twice a week about topics that amuse me. Sometimes I write about TV shows that I have watched and try to explain the plots or characters in Spanish. Other times, I paraphrase news stories, or write about what I did over the weekend. My friend corrects the grammar for me when he has the time, and afterwards I look over the corrections and try to learn from my mistakes.
This is going to continue to be my greatest weakness until I can find someone to actually practice speaking with in Spanish. Ideally, it would be great if I could practice speaking the language for at least 2 hours a week.
How do you study English? Do you have any tips that might be helpful to other students?