I took lessons on and off for about a year and a half when I first got here in various forms before I got bored:
-- first arrived: 3x a week one on one conversation.
-- after that dropped to 2 x a week
-- then got bored so did UBAs intensive summer course, would recommend if you can get into a higher level as the classes were a good size, for lower levels may be tonnes of people. Summer courses were everyday for 3 hrs a day for 3 or 4 weeks -- did a January session one year, they offer them for February start as wel and then I think in March they go back to their 3x a week 3 month courses
-- then went to a one on one once a week for a couple of hours to do grammar...
-- then I got bored with the whole thing and haven't taken a class since 2007.
I read in spanish, watch the news, tv etc in spanish. But my work is all in English, and with my husband we speak a mix, so if we're not hanging out with his friends and family very often I do get a bit rusty (with my friends we speak a mix)
4+ years on and I have a strong accent still that I'll never lose, and I still understand more than I speak, and my written is pretty atrocious because I have an english keyboard so rarely bother with accents (only for año pretty much since it means anus otherwise and is giggle inducing for me, juvenile I know)
I'd definitely recommend some intensives to start, and then some one on ones... but at some point you'll get bored so if there's another activity you like, or a class you've always wanted to take, you may benefit more from doing that then just a regular class. Whenever you encounter a new situation (ie going to the dentist and you need to know how to say cavity) you end up having to study up a bit to figure it all out.
I know it very well. I've been learning since I was 13-years-old, so almost a decade now. I took 5 years in high school, and I got a minor at University. My boyfriend is Argentine, and we only speak Spanish (on a daily basis). I'm by no means perfect. I sometimes use the voseo, other times I use tú. I almost never pronounce the commands correctly, saying things such as "¡Canta la canción!" instead of "¡Cantá la canción." One day I'll get there. ;-)
I'm probably one of the few people in the United States who actually learned a foreign language in the public school system. Generally speaking, foreign language instruction is pretty atrocious at high school, and even worse in a university.
Anyway, I relish the fact that I know not just Spanish, but also Brazilian Portuguese. I love defying that wonderful stereotype about people from the United States not knowing foreign languages...
Rule number one when moving to other countries: Don't hang around with ex-pats. Seriously, it is crucial to speak the language, and you won't ever learn it if half your day is in English. I hear so many ex-pats complaining about Argentines, when in reality, the only Argentines they have relationships with are their plumber or the cashier at Disco. You can't form real friendships without language skills.
Sorry for adding my two cents... it's something that drives me crazy here.
I agree with Sylvie that it is best to surround yourself with as much native speakers as possible. Learning a language is not so much about taking classes. You can take Spanish classes every single day, but if you switch to English when leaving the classroom you'll never get it.
Nevertheless, I strongly disagree with Sylvie's remark about hanging around with expats. I think they too can help you improve your Spanish by pointing out common mistakes, 'false friends' and such.
sylvie that is very true. I have made several friendships with Argentines who speak in English and well they don´t really go anywhere. I need to speak more spanish. It is just very frustrating learning to speak all over again... an expensive.
I'm back to taking Spanish lessons 3x a week as my Spanish is passable but by no means fluent. And it definitely adds to the frustration. I can get by but trying to explain nuanced issues in Spanish is super difficult for me.
It's hard because I work in English (we have to due to the global nature of the business) so I get lazy about practicing. I have some local friends with whom I only speak in Spanish but with the rest - English is their native language as well so we use that.
And yes, it's great to say "Only hang out with porteños" but for many of us who didn't come with a partner, it's not the easiest to break into a social circle here.