My Spanish competency has improved from absolutely nothing to being able to understand simple sentences, based on unconsciously deciphering what is being said based on my relatively wide-ranging understanding of Latin roots. (Not based on any formal learning of the language.) Some words, however, escape my understanding, even when written down (which normally helps me with understanding content better than hearing the word). I will have to work on this if I ever have any hope of learning Spanish. (It is, after all, like a whole other language!)
Why do I now want to learn Spanish? Well, I've decided to limit myself to an eventual job search in areas of the world where I can speak the language. Student loans aside (and that may well be another concern), I would like to try and find a place to teach somewhere other than Michigan - somewhere where national and international concerns are part of people's minds. Originally, I thought about learning Mandarin, since China is becoming quite the up-and-comer. However, only three countries speak Mandarin: PRC, ROC, and Singapore. This doesn't really widen my options viz countries in which to teach. Coming to Chile has made me realize that the world's second language may well be Spanish (and is - for all intents and purposes - the lingua franca of the Amwericas, no matter what the US and Canada - and Brazil, French Guyana, Suriname, Belize, and much of the Caribbean - think).
So I plan to learn Spanish. How am I going to do this as a PhD student? How am I going to keep interested in pursuing it when it doesn't impinge on my research or ability to live in Ann Arbor? Truth be told, I'm not really sure...
However, there is an opportunity to learn, and I will try and sign up for a class in Spanish with all the young Freshmen. That should be interesting (if I actually can get in). One wonders, though, about the teaching method used during a semester - do people learn via rote memorization and learn grammar rules form the point-of-view of a linguist, or is there an attempt to learn something more than this?