That's a good site - some interesting articles. I've been following the great railway debacle in the Lao press (such as it is) the last few years. In 2012 a lady in Vientiane province who maintains a garden containing the most species of Dok Champa tree (frangipani) in one place anywhere in the world had her land forcibly bought and cleared in preparation for the rail route, so great that they have now confirmed it will go ahead. Not so good though, will be the devastating effect that the link will have on Laos as we know it. It will, first and foremost, be a low speed freight route, not the flashy white bullet train through the mountains that is being depicted in the state controlled media. It will carry out wood till it is al gone, and facilitate more and more mineral extraction to line the pockets of the officials who are already driving round Vientiane in Hummers, Porche and even Rolls Royce. At the moment there are some towns in the north where Lao is increasingly becoming the second language after mandarin - I was in Namkeung recently and the main street is exclusively Chinese now. The rail link will spread this right through the country. Even in Vientiane, the rate of Chinese immigration has gone exponential the last 3 years. I am not anti-Chinese or anti-immigration, but the problem is that in Laos it is unchecked and unplanned, and everything happens for short term gains for the few people at the top. I can't see this railway bringing any good - even if it was free. The fact that the Lao govt are going to go into debt forever to pay for it, when they can't pay their teachers and need aid/loans/grants to pay for every single big ticket item, makes it so much worse. Looking at it as a trade corridor alone we may think that Laos will benefit from this enormously - but recent experience shows otherwise. The much talked about (road)trade corridor between Thailand-Laos-Vietnam (Mukdahan-Savannakhet-LaoBao-Danang) has had very little beneficial effect on Laos. Trade passes right through between Thailand & Vietnam, with Laos benefitting only from haulage fees and selling food to the drivers. Well that's my Friday rant over with. Not a great fan of huge infrastructure projects, with huge financial burdens, that have not been fully justified and planned in careful detail by qualified people first. The Chinese partners must be grinning ear to ear.
I'm much liking this memrise site. I think the use of combining the major methods of learning make it very effective. That said, I know that this step is only part of the process, albeit, a large part. Learning the vocabulary will only help to build a foundation, and putting the language to use by conversing with native speakers is key in any language for a number of reasons. I think necessity often trumps desire, but in the case of language learning, necessity may be rare for native English speakers. I also think necessity can sometimes be limiting. Some linguists speak about creating an environment of necessity by way of self-immersion, even if you are not able to leave your home, as a means of expediting the learning process. By that, they mean, forcing yourself to use the target language throughout the day, in everything that you do, whenever possible. Not sure how that's supposed to work, but the gist makes sense. I suppose that would involve conversing over VoIP and the like, especially.
Indeed Methos, and learning a language requires lot of efforts, whatever way you do it. So I guess that any method is good providing you spend enough time doing it, and usually it means, as Dixie said, being immersed in a situation that requires you to learn it.
For me the best way to learn is to immerse yourself with in the language you want to learn. Its amazing how quickly you learn when you have to. When I was in Brazil very few people I was with spoke English, after two months I was able to have a one on one conversation, however if I was in a group situation with everyone chatting I lost my way. I am currently learning Thai, I have computer aides etc, but it seems that whenever I use a phrase from a computer my partner corrects me. I listen constantly to my partner and her daughter talking and although I still struggle to speak Thai I seem to be able to pick up on most conversations they are having. I will carry on as I am for now and when I eventually go and live in Thailand I hope I will be better equipped to fit in. So like anything else...if you have access to a native speaker..practice, practice, practice....