How long to regain a language?

I took four years of Spanish in high school (well, three in HS, one in junior high). I did really well in it: Straight A’s, 4 on the A.P. test junior year, even got some special award from my high school as one of the best two students in class one year.

I am now a junior in college, and except for occasionally flipping on SAP when I watch the Simpsons, or bumping into a Spanish-language radio or TV station while searching for another station, I haven’t used it in four years.

I recently took an on-line test to see how much I had remembered, and I bombed out at the second level (out of five). Ouch!

So, how long would it take me to regain my formery semi-mastery of the Spanish language? Considering that I’ve learned most of it before, it shouldn’t take too long. What would be a reasonable time period? Could I get it all back in a few weeks with a review book and some practice? What if I were to spend some time in a Spanish speaking locale? (The great city of Santa Ana is a mere 15 minutes away.) Will watching four hours of Sabado Gigante help at all, or does it need to be a bit more active? Help from linguists, ESL and language teachers, or just those with personal experience is much appreciated.

I hate to think that the net result of four years of study will be “Lo siento, pero he olvidado todo de mi espanol menos este” (Which probably isn’t even right).

It depends on how you go about regaining it. I’ve usually been taught (I’ve taken quite a bit of French) that you have to keep use a language semi-regularly to keep up your skills. That is, unless it’s your native tongue (my grandma is Ukrainian, pretty much never speaks Ukrainian anymore, but when someone speaks it she can easily converse). You would probably have to study quite a bit.

However, if you were to spend some time in a Spanish locale, you’d probably find you’d relearn it fairly quickly. I think that’s similar to the philosophy in language immersion courses.