I like to start with a dictionary. In Spain it was the Larouse Mini; in Amsterdam before that, it was the "Ster" woordenboeken. Now, in the Netherlands again, I'm using a set called "Prisma." Well, to say that I'm using the set isn't accurate; I only really use the Dutch-to-English. As well, in Spain, the 6 months I lived there, the Español-Íngles half of that Laurouse Mini was black with use, the other half nearly-unopened.
A dictionary, a newspaper in the local language, a notebook and pen, and a cup of coffee....
I don't recommend this method, and I can only imagine the squawks of detractors. But, it's the way that I do it, and I like it. I like, for one thing, the active nature of it. Proper study is tedious, and the methods are more particular. I don't really know how to study properly, and there must be a million different ways. I find it more liberating and more natural to just try to read the language.
It's very slow at the start. Thinking of it as "reading," at the start, is only going to be frustrating. At the start, the matter is to learn words.
Well, I say "at the start." I still haven't learned another language. I don't speak Spanish. I lived in Spain, and I did work at the language for 6 months. I don't feel like I speak Spanish. I had a job, speaking Spanish, though; and I made friends with a co-worker, who spoke only Spanish. So I don't know. I had conversations.
Anyway, I think it's good to learn a lot of words. For me, it isbut I enjoy it. I'm lazy, too, about regular studyor even just downright stubborn. Rebelious, though that's a dramatic word. I don't want to study by any orthodox method. I'm sure that organized study is important for learning such things as verbs. Verbs have to be organized, somehow.
Grammar. Okay, that's the word for it, and I might as well admit it. Grammar is important. Write that on the chalkboard 100 times.
And it's easy to be skeptical of dictionaries; there are many weaknesses in my method.
What I like about it is that I can do it.
And, I just like it. I like learning words, in bulk, erratically, in the absence of a structured plan. That's just what I like.
As of the autumn of 2008, I've been using the dictionary-and-text method of cramming the Romanian langauge into my head. Romanian is exquisitely phonetic, and so I'm blessed.
I'm dead-set determined I'm going to learn to speak Romanian.