Let me rock your day. Quick Linguistics lesson first.
Language lives in your brain as some analog symbolic cache of sounds. So you hear a sound and your brain recognizes it and it tells you that someone said “Hi Steph” Those are just sound waves. All of the language you know is just that wave forms stored in your brain (Broca’s and Wermicke’s Areas).
So you feel like your grammar is improving, but you just don’t have enough words, right? OK, find a genre you like. Maybe you like Stephen King (I don’t) but his book has been translated into many languages, and I believe Klingon… I don’t recommend that you pick up a book originally written in Spanish. You will be looking up ten words every sentence (which tend to be long in native Spanish). So get a translation which are usually very good. Also keep the English version handy for reference.
Now, instead of looking up every word, skip over words whose meaning is obvious from context. Maybe mark the word with a marker and look it up later. Just look up the words you have no clue about or ones you think are cool. Also, note phrases you’d like to use. You will also find your self learning cool English words when you look up unknown Spanish words.
I keep track of cool words and phrases in an Excel file. This way you’ll never be stuck trying to remember “that word with m.” Also you’ll kick butt when you write those little paragraphs in the fall, cause you’ll the words appropriately, not fished out of a dictionary.
Use wordreference.com as your dictionary when you can. Why? because apart from having definitions of words, it translates phrases and idioms. Very handy. It ain’t as good a bilingual friend, but word reference never says “shut up already” as I often do to mis amigos…
The same goes for French,
BUT. As you read, read out loud some of what you do. Make sure to keep your A, E, I, O, U. short. Spanish has no long vowels, in fact some of the shortest in all languages. It will do you no good to read Spanish and not speak it. Remember, language exists in the brain predominantly as sound symbols, not neat little letters and words. Many people learn the written words but can’t understand the spoken thing. You’ll make your classmates very envious by reading a book this summer, in Spanish, making sure to read out loud and keep ’em vowels short.
http://www.uiowa.edu/~acadtech/phonetics/# Click on the Spanish Flag.
Also, as a means to remember what you learn try the following tips: Practice in chat rooms. 95% of Spanish speakers us MSN messenger (true fact). Also, if you use the RAE (Real Academia Española) dictionary online to look up words in Spanish, which is a great way to practice while practicing, take note of the etymology (the origin of the word). Then type that word into http://www.etymonline,com That way you can make the connection with the word, and have some solid ground into which you can plant your new knowledge. EXAMPLE: Spanish: “Raís” is the same as the “radic” in Eradicate (Sp. Eradicar) just happens that Spanish elides (gets rid of) middle consonants in simple words and preserves the stress with the accent mark (Sp.. País from L. Paganus, Eng. Pagan [no joke!]) Also, root, eradicate and wort all come from the same Indo-European root.
So, yeah, read translations of bestsellers, trade paperbacks, classics, etc.
Also, La Estrategia del Caracol is an EXCELLENT movie from Colombia, but it may be hard to understand, get a subtitled version.