Narrow and deep.
Concentrate on a few words at a time, try to get material at your level for reading and listening (no more than 10% unknowns if you're reading alone for pleasure or to improve your Chinese), and repeat, repeat, repeat.
This is hard to do because there aren't many materials that answer this description at present...but like I said, we're working on it... [img]images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif[/img]
Remember that you need to hear a word used in a novel context (not just reading the same stuff over and over) about 50-70 times before it really sinks in, so don't be too hard on yourself for the whole "I know I've seen that before" thing.
What is your Chinese level? We may be starting up a class in Taipei. Can't say much more about it at this point, but it would be either foreigner-taught or taught by a Chinese teacher learning a new method [or maybe team taught]--(hey, you've got the whole city as a language lab...why insist on a native teacher if the methods are not going to be appropriate for Westerners??)
For listening, I really enjoy using the "Pinyin Dictionary" (can't remember the actual name, but it's yellow and black!) by Lanbridge Publishing. It lists all the words in pinyin order without regard to tone or character, so you have a fighting chance to find a word you've just heard on the radio or TV without having to check under 16-million characters for "bao" to see if there happens to be a compound that matches what you heard.
The other thing I swear by is my Palm Pilot (actually, a Handspring Visor). I have the Oxford E>C,C>E dictionary on there, and another program called "SuperMemo" which is a kind of intelligent flashcard program that remembers your performance and gives you tests based on what you did last time. I have about six file "packs" of flashcards going at any one time, depending on what project I'm working on at the moment. You can put in several fields, so you can have characters, Pinyin, and English and arrange them as you like.
You might also consider adopting my TOP romanization ("Tonally Orthographic Pinyin"). Basically, it's a way to represent the four tones of Mandarin by using capital and small letters, instead of tone marks or adding silent letters to a word as in tonal spelling. I came up with this in 1995 when I was preparing for my dissertation defense and was basically sitting around the university library all summer doing sight translation from English to Chinese under the supervision of a number of (paid!) Chinese grad students (the object being to increase my vocab). You just use capital and small letters, like this:
First tone: all CAPITAL letters: MA ZHUANG
2nd tone: last letter CAP: mA zhuanG (it goes up, you see...)
3rd tone: all lower case (it's low): ma zhuang
4th tone: First letter CAP: Ma Zhuang (the tone of voice goes down).
Neutral tone can be represented by all lower case followed by an "!" or a period, depending on what you like. (In typesetting, I would use italics...)
This system has several advantages. First, you "visualize" the form of the word, so it helps you remember the tones. Second, you have to re-write the whole word to change the tone...no more scribbling over the tone mark and ending up with no clue what tone you meant. This reflects the real identity of the tones in Chinese. It's also easy for people who are touch-typists, because it's usually easier to capitalize than to add a number.
If you like Pinyin, there is a set of tone-marked fonts called Pintone that are very convenient and easy to use.
I don't promote TOP for written stuff (although I can read it easily since I'm used to it). It is just a learning aid, not a revolution to the orthography of Chinese in general. Most Chinese people say they "can't accept it" because it "looks weird" (yeah, right...ahem, like a lot of characters don't!!) [img]images/smiles/icon_wink.gif[/img] but then again those people were mostly teachers of Chinese who never actually had much teacher training in the first place, and were just doing the best they could (pick a random English teacher in Taipei and ask them about pedagogical theory and you'll see what I mean.)
Well, this is long-winded (as usual) but I hope it gives you some suggestions. If you're advanced, there are other methods I can share with you to improve your vocab and diction.