In this awesome, Robin-Michael-free thread on the Antimoon Forum, wolf727 writes about his views on language learning, which are remarkably similar to mine. His post is so spot-on that I feel I have no choice but to quote most of it here:
When I used to be in England I used to say to my clients who were moving to Spain at the time, if you really want to learn Spanish do it now. Don’t wait till you get to Spain. Because if you are serious about it, really serious, you would start now.
Doing it later means you do not intend to do it. You have to sit in your room, do some basic grammar since you are a beginner, but the most important thing is to read, read, and read. Reading is where you get your input from. Everything else takes second place; they’re just a bonuses.
They got depressed when I told them that. They didn’t like me telling them that nor did they want to believe me. Because it meant it needed effort. They used to look at me as if I was nuts.
The same goes for taking adult evening courses in Spanish. They think that by deciding to take a Spanish course at college means that automatically as if by magic at the end of the course they would be able to speak “good” Spanish. I used to tell them the real effort is when you are in your room reading Spanish.
They sit in the classroom for two hours and do no further study at home during the rest of the week. The only time they do some Spanish is when they are in the classroom and again there, they just read a passage out loud, write a few words in their notebook and that’s it.
I used to say to them you’d be better off just staying at home reading for two hours looking up words in a large dictionary. Putting your name down for evening classes was just an excuse not to do the real study.
I read up something similar once. A course was held for those who wanted to learn how to write a novel. The author walked into the classroom and asked: “How many of you here want to learn to write a novel?” They all put up their hands. Then he asked: “What the hell are you doing here, then? Why aren’t you at home writing?” With that, he turned around and walked out.