Reading: Right now I can read perhaps 40 characters, all told. I'm much better (comparatively) at reading BoPoMoFo, which is the phonetic system that is used in Taiwan (and nowhere else, I think) to help children pronounce things. I find it really helpful for pronunciation. I can read some basic stuff, if I can sound it out...
Writing: At the moment, I'm really only writing in BoPoMoFo. And I'm not that great at that, either. But I think that writing in that system helps you learn the rules that will help you correctly memorize how to write some of the monstrously complicated characters...generally, you draw lines from left to right, top to bottom, but there are (always) exceptions and different rules. But again, I can sound out basic stuff and write it down.
Speaking: BoPoMoFo is extremely helpful. It's great! But TONES! I thought I was learning them well, and then I realized I didn't know anything about how to speak them. If I attempt to speak without thinking about it very hard, I just don't use tones correctly, and what I'm saying becomes gibberish. That and I didn't really know the tones for the words I was speaking, which caused a lot of confusion on other peoples' parts. I am probably the best at speaking out of all these things. I know enough words to get around. I would estimate that I know perhaps 250 words.
Understanding: I suck at understanding Chinese. If someone isn't speaking slowly, I all but give up. For this, as well as the other items, I am going to have to get involved with a class. I think I do slightly eb
Getting motivated: I sometimes lose the ability to soak in any more vocabulary. It comes back eventually, but really, it's just sort of a steady pace. I think that if I was in a more English unfriendly environment, I would learn everything faster, but I think I would also be more motivated. It's actually easier to be motivated to learn if I am learning by speaking in Chinese, I find. Tina is especially good at helping me get back into the swing of things...either she's an excellent teacher, or I'm way better at learning Chinese whenever I'm talking to her. I think the former is far more likely :).
Grammar: My grammar is imitative, at best. I know some phrases, and I try to base what I want to say on the phrases I already know. This is the thing I often turn to learning when I feel frustrated by vocabulary. It's not quite as hard, if I already know the words, but so far I'm not so good at integrating it.
Dictionaries and other materials: Kids' books are the best. I learn a lot from looking at things which are the equivalent of the Cat in the Hat in Chinese. I would kill for a copy of One Fish Two Fish in Chinese. I also have these great flash cards with BoPoMoFo on them.
Today I learned the word for science! It's ke shwei (First tone, second tone). Literally, it means "Able to learn."