There are essentially two language learning styles that people have, and it’s not necessarily black or white, but they will typically have a preference for one or the other, usually a strong preference: global or linear.
Most language teachers, in schools anyway (ESLs are different, usually in a good way), use a linear, or sequential, method. They treat foreign languages like mathematics: you can’t learn X until you’ve learned the step that came immediately before it, and you can’t learn that until you learned what came immediately before it, etc. Now, foreign languages are not like mathematics: once you’ve got a small, minimum base, a foundation, of necessary information, you can go anywhere from there and skip around to your heart’s content. You’ll manage, believe me. Look, you didn’t learn sequentially (in a linear fashion) when you learned your native language as a child, did you? You don’t need to now, either, and it’s not the best way, either. Get a minimum amount of information (very basic grammar and vocabulary of, say, the 1oo or 200 most commonly used words, for example) and then just go nuts, listen to everything: newscasts, radio, TV shows, etc. Talk to native speakers! Remember how important that is? You can do that with very, very minimal learning in your target language.
A quick side note: if you’re interested in teaching yourself Spanish…
I have a short post and video (that are free to read and view of course, won’t cost you more than a few minutes of your time) on how to do precisely that with the system that I put together which allowed me to become fluent in Spanish in just 6 months after years of trial-and-error by watching Spanish-language TV shows (like telenovelas, hence the name of the system) and movies, reading Spanish books and comics, and listening to Spanish music. If this sounds interesting to you, check it out by clicking the link below (the following link should open in a new tab or window for you when you click it so I’m not asking you to leave this article here):
I also include some quick and valuable tips for learning Spanish as well as a couple of the most useful free Spanish-learning websites that I recommend.
If you’re the left-brained, analytical type and you’re really, really stuck in your ways, then I suppose doing it that way is better than not doing it at all, but I would beg you to let it go and try doing learning globally instead. If you’ll try it for a week or two I think you’ll find that your results are more impressive than if you had continued on in your usual formal, sequential style for the same amount of time instead.
People who have no formal training whatsoever and take no language classes get immersed in a country for a year and come back fluent (able to fluently speak, comprehend, read, and write), whereas people who have been taking formal classes in the language in question for years still can’t do a quarter of what that person can after only a year’s immersion in-country. What does that tell you??? There’s a reason for that!
Even the scientific, super-analytical Iversen on HTLAL, who’s learning style is the exact opposite of mine (he prefers memorizing vocabulary from lists, learning from formal grammars, etc.) prefers a global learning style to a sequential one.
A Quick Note Before We End…
I’ve got two posts that I’ve put up that I’m recommending everyone interested in learning Spanish go read if they haven’t already (if you have, ignore this, sorry): How to avoid wasting months learning Spanish the wrong way (basically this is my “how to get started right in learning Spanish” post for complete beginners) and The Telenovela Method where I cover how to use popular media like movies, music, and books to learn Spanish. Additionally you can check out the front page for a more complete list of my best and most popular posts.