You can take the business of learning a foreign language far too seriously.
There are some serious types who bend their backs over their desk and work with furrowed brow and fevered brain. They chew over a few hundred hard to digest words, phrases and grammar points and toil away with grinding persistence day after day trying to commit everything to memory.
And who is to say that they do not learn something?
However, when it comes to mastering a foreign language cramming is not the best method if you are aiming to comprehend and communicate easily in that language.
For example, many Japanese adults have been through several years of English language study at junior high school, high school and college, and yet many educated Japanese adults cannot string more than a couple of elementary phrases or sentences together.
They have sat through lesson after turgid lesson in which a Japanese teacher of English, who is not necessarily proficient in the target language, bores the pupils into submission with a droning recitation, or a tedious explanation of some arcane principle of grammar. The whole procedure culminates in cramming for an examination in which comprehension of English grammar and vocabulary must be demonstrated, and for which no actual communicative proficiency is required at all.
In other words, the thing that is most important about learning a language, i.e., the ability to talk to people and respond to what they say in the target language, is the ONE THING that is neglected. Sure, pupils go through the motions of communicating by preparing and reading conversation dialogues to one another, but this activity lacks the spontaneity of "conversation in the real world".
If this sounds like a diatribe against rote learning, it is not intended to be. Rote learning can actually be fun. Turn a rote learning exercise into a song, for example, and it can be a joyful and effortless experience.
In fact, approaching foreign language acquisition as a "study activity" in the first place is to put the cart before the horse.
Language learning should be a playful process in which "study" occurs without the pain associated with the "effort" of studying. One way to enjoy a foreign language without the pain of sitting down and studying it is to lounge in front of the television and watch a foreign film, musical or even opera.
If you record the program and play it back repeatedly while singing along with the songs, mimicking parts of the dialogue that you find appealing, you will be reinforcing the language patterns in your own mind just as a child does. Of course, you can refer to a dictionary to check the meaning of the words you do not understand, but it is better if you "go with the flow" at first and use the dictionary as a follow-up exercise.
If you have access to foreign DVDs or DVDs of some of your favorite Hollywood movies with a menu of English and foreign language soundtracks and subtitles you will have an excellent range of language study options!
Let's suppose that you want to learn Spanish. On first viewing a movie DVD with Spanish and English viewing options, watch it in English as part of your regular viewing schedule. Next time you view it, do so in Spanish with English subtitles. Then watch it in Spanish with Spanish subtitles. Watch it again in English, this time with Spanish subtitles.
Watch the DVD again and again, until you know every scene. Play the DVD in the background while you go about your housework. Sing along as you work! Do not arrest the flow of language by stopping the DVD every single time you do not understand something. Just make a mental note of one or two of the points you did not understand or could not guess the meaning of, and look them up later.
You will discover that by repeated exposure to the language through an enjoyable medium such as films and movies you will enjoy the experience of learning a language and will make much better progress in your "studies" without creasing your brow with furrows or giving your brain a fever!