I've never been very skilled at learning languages (well, non-computer languages). I "studied" French for seven years in elementary and high school, the end of which I had memorized a few words for different types of clothes and body parts, how to conjugate verbs, and how to ask to go to the toilet, s'il vous plait. After seven years I don't think I could speak a complete sentence. In elementary school I was "diagnosed" with having some kind of auditory processing problems which means that it supposedly takes my brain longer to turn raw sounds into meaning. In grade 5 I even got a detention for not being able to respond to a phrase from my teacher that I really should have known (I actually did know the answer, I was just too afraid to speak). But it was about this time that I completely gave up all hope of ever being able to learn a new language.
Fast forward a few years and I'd decided to take a 100 level Spanish course for fun in third year University. Without a doubt I struggled more than most of the class with it, but at the end of four months I could speak and respond to very basic phrases that I'd more or less memorized. I probably had a similar skill level in Spanish after four months as I had through my entire seven years of French.
When I went to Argentina for three months I was now in a seemingly perfect space for learning Spanish "properly" and maybe even becoming fluent in it. I had a Spanish tutor three days a week for a month and also practiced Michel Thomas's method in parallel. The end result was that I was able to do very very basic communication, understand menus and notices, and sometimes get the gist of conversations of people I'd eavesdrop on. But really, my spanish was and still is pretty pathetic. But the Spanish thing did give me a lot more confidence with regards to being capable of learning a second language. Something I'd long ago given up all hope with.
I tend to make a number of goals for myself whenever I visit a new place. Usually related to food (try parilla, or blueberry schnapps), sight seeing, physical activities (i.e. surfing in Brazil, hiking in Slovenia), and language (usually basic greetings and numbers).
I'm going to be in Thailand in just over two weeks from now (arriving on Aug 23) and I'm setting a BIG goal for myself for this next trip. I've been to thailand before, and last time I wanted to get certified for scuba diving, take a thai cooking course, and of course eat lots of curries, pad thai and other delicious street food.
My end goal this time is to be able to read Thai (nothing more than being able to pronounce it and understand a menu) and have enough conversational skills to be able to negotiate prices of things in Thai. I've started trying to learn thai script already as I've heard it's important to not get caught in the trap of learning the "romanized" version of thai. We'll be in thailand for just shy of three months, so while it definitely will not be easy I believe it will be do-able.
The main approach I plan on taking differently this time versus all of my previous attempts, is to make a fool of myself ;). I've always been too afraid to say anything at all for fear that I'll make a mistake and totally embarrass myself. I have to come to grips with the fact that that /will/ happen, but hopefully I don't accidentally offend too many people. Basically I'm going to start with using standard greetings as soon as we arrive and slowly try and grow my confidence and knowledge from there.
I'll be posting updates about my progress each month to help keep me motivated, and I'll make my first update probably towards the end of my first week or two there. Hopefully I'll be making decent progress. For now, if anyone has recommendations for techniques to memorize the thai alphabet that will be much appreciated :).