To study Spanish or any non-native language you should determine your goals. Many people study a language in school to fulfill a requirement. Others do it generally as a "broadening" experience. Still others do it so that they can speak with others in their own language.
Number one tip: study every dayEdit
To speak any language fluently and be able to survive in the language among native speakers, it is probably necessary to immerse yourself in the language for an extended period such as 9 months to a year. Short of that it is best to study intensively every day for an extended period. Studying every day is much more effective than studying every other day. Studying only once a week is a sure way to forget everything by the end of the week and be eternally relearning the same little bit of vocabulary. The problem is that your mind will forget much of what you learn in the course of one day and by the end of two days it is even more. If you study every day, even for a little while, it will mean that you can focus more of your time learning new material and waste less time relearning old material. This is one of the secrets to learning a language: study it every day.
Tip for studying new words: Have your own vocabulary. It can be some note, every page is e.g. 10 words. And every day study 10 new words, 10 words from the yesterday, 10 words from the day before yesterday, 10 words from the week before, 10 from 2 week before, 10 from 3 week before and 10 from 4 week before. It's overall 70 words. It want about half or 1 hour studying. 10 new words want more time than then repeat 60 others and you have confidence that you will know for a long time.
Spaced learning software such as anki does a similar thing by scheduling reviews depending on how well you do.
Using web resourcesEdit
Learning via the web offers a lot of benefits that a standard textbook can not provide. One example are audio files which we already include in some of our lessons. Another benefit are online dictionaries that allow you to quickly look up vocabulary. Check out our Web Resources page to find out more.
Using media resourcesEdit
Once you have learned the basics of Spanish, try reading or viewing material in spanish. A newspaper, a magazine or a children's book is a great place to start. Online retailers, such as Amazon.com, have international storefronts that sell books in foreign languages.
Watching Spanish television or Spanish movies will help you practice listening. Playing your favorite DVD or television show with Spanish close captioning on or with the Spanish soundtrack will help you learn new vocabulary and will assist in putting items into context.
Areas where a significant number of people speak Spanish should have reading material available at local supermarkets and bookstores, and may have some local television or radio stations in Spanish. If you cannot find Spanish media where you live, the Internet has online editions of many Spanish newspapers and magazines available.
Keep a dictionary nearby if you have trouble with unfamiliar vocabulary. The dictionary can be a very effective study tool. Each time you look up a new word, place a dot or symbol near the word. If you forget a word and need to look it up again, add another dot near the word. Pretty soon, you will have a collection of words with two, three and four dots. This marking system helps you figure out which words are either important to remember (because you use them frequently) or which ones are difficult to remember. During your vocabulary review, you can flip through your dictionary and find important words to practice.
Regular use of a dictionary has the added benefit of putting things into context. Many dictionaries have tidbits and trivia added to the definitions, to help you see how components of language fit together.
In addition, every time you open your dictionary, you will see other Spanish words, while searching for your target word and this has the effect of reminding you of other words.
The best way to learn Spanish is by using it with other speakers. Do not be discouraged by your bad accent and choppy flow; these are things that come with being a beginner. People will understand that you are learning and will appreciate you applying the skills that you have acquired. So go ahead—say something. Ask your neighbor "¿Dónde está el baño?"
Look around your local community. Often times coffee shops, libraries, or other local organization sponsor a "Spanish club" for adults. Both native and non-native speakers attend. This is a great way to use Spanish by speaking with others (especially native speakers).
Another great way to practice your new language skills is to travel to the country where the language is spoken. Most major cities in Spanish speaking countries host a number of Spanish language schools for foreigners. These schools offer language classes at all levels by hour, week, or month of classes. Also, they normally will arrange for their students to live with a local host family, which provides another source for practicing the Spanish language with native speakers.