Monday I took my Spanish placement exam. I am down to the last two semesters of my college career and I needed to take three Spanish courses to graduate. I've been putting off Spanish classes because they're one of the classes that are almost always offered in the evenings and being a part time student that's invaluable.
Anyways, I probably should have done this sooner, but I didn't. A few years ago I decided that i would try to place out of some Spanish but buying Rosetta Stone and studying my butt off over the summer. This past Winter I bought the Rosetta Stone for half price and spent this entire Summer studying 30 minutes to two hours a night four to five days a week.
I supplemented that with a free language learning website called Duolingo. The setup is pretty good and I got the hang of it really quickly. I typically used my lunch breaks to work through the site, but also used the site pretty extensively on my final day of studying. One of the great things is that once you've learned about 50% of the language you can work on real world examples, by helping the site translate them. You can do the translating yourself or review translations from other people and either up vote, down vote or edit a translation. It's a really good resource, especially for the price.
Two other resources I utilized in my studying was Spanish baseball broadcasts and Twitter. Spanish baseball broadcasts are good, because they use a lot of baseball terms I was able to understand and use as points of reference. Twitter also makes for a good reference point, as it gave me a gauge on how much I was learning.
Of the three courses I needed to graduate, I was able to place out of two of them. I took German in high school, so I was starting from scratch with Spanish. The exam was certainly over my head, but I had learned enough that I was able to pick my way through the exam. There were more questions using excerpts from books and articles than there were questions about what does this word mean. From my understanding the exam apparently got harder as you answered more questions correctly.
If I had to do my studying all over again I would focus more on doing translations using real world examples from Duolingo. I thought Rosetta Stone did a good job of building a base with it's program and Duolingo did a good job of filling in the gaps. However, I think you could get by with just Duolingo.
Rosetta Stone does have an online resource to further help your learning. Unfortunately, it's only available for free for a month or two. After that it requires a subscription. I waited too long to try the online resources, so I can't really comment on how effective they are.
One thing I wish I had done was watch some movies in Spanish to see how effective that would have been on helping me learn the language. But I've really enjoyed my time studying a new language. It's very satisfying and something I would recommend everyone do. I plan to continue learning Spanish. I just won't be doing it as hot and heavy.
If anyone has a suggestions for resources or want to share their experience learning a new language I would love to read them in the comment section below.