My family seems to have a love-hate relationship with learning languages. We love the idea of learning languages. We don't necessarily mind doing the work. My kids are fairly good at picking up new words and phrases. On the other hand, none of us like flash cards and vocabulary drill.
As I though about how we have learned some foreign phrases and how we struggle with others, I realized that the phrases we know are all ones that we've slowly incorporated into our daily lives. For instance, all three of the kids say "Bless you" in Russian after learning it a few years ago. Occasionally, my husband will ask me something in German, and they'll understand. It's just a few phrases here and there, but they've stuck. Perhaps it's because the phrases are common (and therefore repeated often) that they've stuck. They're just part of our family now.
Recently we've been exploring REAL Homeschool Spanish, a Spanish program that focuses on teaching common phrases and words first. All of the vocabulary is easy to incorporate into our lives for easy and frequent practice.
I printed out the first week's vocabulary and posted it on the refrigerator for easy reference. I glance at the sheet in the mornings and we use a few phrases at breakfast time. I sometimes also grab the sheet and discuss a few more words at lunchtime. My hope is that short bursts of Spanish will stick with us longer than the words I've written on stacks of index cards in the past.
REAL Homeschool Spanish is intended for the whole family to learn and practice together, but it could be used by a single (motivated) student. In addition to the weekly list of vocaulary, there are three to four activity sheets that correspond with each set of vocabulary.
The materials start off with basic vocabulary and simple sentences, but by the end of the materials it has covered most of what I can remember covering in 3 years of high school Spanish. By starting with easy phrases, it should be easy to build Spanish practice into your everyday activities instead of having to find a time that you can dedicate to study and memorization.
There are 10 units in the materials, divided into 33 groups of vocabulary words. Older students might be able to master all of it in a school year, but it would easily last over a year if you're using it with younger students. I suspect that my students will be able to catch on to the grammar concepts in the book fairly quickly but it takes us at least a week to really master each set of vocabulary words.
The REAL Homeschool Spanish materials include the book (105 pages), the activity book (179 pages), an answer book, and corresponding audio files. It costs $49.95 for an electronic version to download or $89.97 for a hardcopy. For an additional $10, they also offer a daily curriculum guide that breaks the materials up into daily assignments so that you can cover the materials in 48 weeks.