Recently, I have embarked on a new studying adventure, studying Brazilian Portuguese. Although this is technically the 4th language, I am studying to speak, it is the 2nd, its studying I can completely steer on my own, as opposed to languages, you study in school. The first language, I consciously studies on my own, was Japanese, but the part, I studied, is forgettable small compared to what I learned when I actually spoke and used this language in Japan, thus, I don't think it is really comparable.
Between the day I started my first Japanese lesson and the decision to study Portuguese, some time had passed and withing this time, I had watched quite a decent amount of TED talk videos, partly about language learning. With this knowledge plus other knowledge about studying in general, I approached this task in a very different matter. I did not want to have to spend hours studying grammar and vocabulary inefficiently, before I can build my first sentence. I did not want to not productively bone u on verb's conjugations and adjective treatment. I did not plan to buy any books or other expensive studying tools to explain the language to myself. From my experience, this matters have been proven to be boring, ineffective, not motivating, expensive and dull.
I used basically one tool, a internet page called italki, that was created in order to connect language enthusiast around the world to help themselves studying. In this language, I focussed on two main functions. The first one is the notebook function. You can write a notebook entry in the language, you are studying and people then can correct your entry. This was, how I practiced writing. I used it as a diary and posted every day a small entry, where I wrote about my day, a certain topic or my thoughts. The next day, before writing the next entry, I would look over the corrections, people gave me and tried to understand them. If I did not understand something, I copied the sentence or word on a sheet on my computer(we'll come to that later).
The other function was the language parter function. It allows you to find language partners, people who are speaking your target language fluently and are studying your mother tongue. You can find and filter people by an easy search tool and then message them to start a conversation. This is especially helpful for specific questions you have about the language and more individual language- practicing. As with the notebook, I wrote sentences that the other person than corrected and the other way around. This is to study writing and reading. The next step then is, to connect with this person on a device like skype where you can hear each other. I always used this opportunity to get unanswered questions (see above) answered and practice pronounciation and accentuation. By skyping, one practices listening and speaking. I scheduled one skype meeting of about 1,5 hours per week.
As mentioned above, I did not want to cram vocabulary or grammar. I basically started by writing how I thought, it might me right, getting corrected, trying again and so one. I used a dictionary and a verb- conjugation page to write my entries and by the time, I was able to memorize frequently- used words and important grammar, not because I consciously studied them, but because I used them very frequently in a reasonable context, that I was able to memorize them.
In contrast to conventional study methods, this method is cheap (you don't need more that a computer with internet connection), effective(on average, 20 minutes a day are invested for maximal results), interesting and diversified (because you get to know different people, write about something different every day), motivation (because people can give you direct feedback on your studying process) and not dull (because your whole studying takes place in an interesting and vivid context).
For sure, studying still takes some time and effort and is difficult sometimes, but overall this method is way less painful then conventional cramming and swotting.