I've been down this route over the past 3 years. What I see in many posts here is a recommendation to buy a manual 35mm camera with built in metering. I followed almost this path and I'd like to respectully disagree. (My manual focus Pentax had manual/ae and program, I used the manual setting and built-in lightmeter/led's in a similar way to a match-needle)

To start, I agree that a manual camera is essential. Not because one needs manual to learn, but because one must not have automation available, it's just far to easy to use the automation to get the shot. My experience was that I could never remember which shots were 'mine' and which were 'the camera's'. Take notes you say? Oh how I tried, they never made any sense by the time I finished the 36 shots and processed the film!

Next I think 35mm is a right pain to learn with. There's simply too many shots per roll and consequently too much time elapsed and too many frames, too many little projects etc available to work out where my errors were. I can't imagine what the confusion would be like with essentialy limitless digi shots all mixed up in a mass of manual/auto/semi-auto. In addition, I'm all fingers and thumbs with 35mm in the darkroom, minor I know, but another frustration a newbie just does not need. And those tiny, tiny contacts that tell me so little I wobbled about for quite some time thinking I was doing something wrong with my enlarger when my real problem was simply an occaisional out of focus shot! I'm inclined to think 35mm worked well in a school environment because the teachers could load short rolls at very, very low cost, not because there's anything inherently easier about using it to learn. And, when we own the camera, toughness is much less of an issue because we look after our stuff don't we?

Next, my learning got a step change when I began my own processing and printing, that sent me back to re-learn what I thought I knew about exposure. I'm still getting to grips with variance from processing technique, agtiation, dilution temperature and the like. (Loads of mistakes here, I came to dislike and stopped using Tri-x before I learned I simply had poor temperature control, it's hot where I live. Oh well, plenty of other good films out there I can blame my next lot of mistakes on...).

Next, focus and depth of field. 35mm has so much depth of field and (seemingly to me, I'm still learning remember...) so much flexibility with focus as a result (putting aside the extreme high speed lenses that us newbies don't/shouldn't buy until we've got a few skills to exploit them) that I really have only learned the importance of what element of my composition to focus on since I started playing around with 6x6. Of course my compositions are still rubbish and I often miss my focus, so I might have this one wrong... :-). But then, If I'm right, digi crop sensor's might be worse again?

In my experience my 6x6 folder and modern lightmeter is teaching me more about exposure and focus/DOF than my 35mm pentax ever did. Though it was fun buying cheap pentax primes that I did'nt (er, don't) have the skills to master. And there is significantly more scope for cropping with the bigger neg in my enlarger to address composition, descisions.
My new method is to take my folder (& tripod) to my chosen location, select a composition and make my exposures using bracketing of my focus and compostion, and my exposure by making an incident metered and reflective metered version of 1 or 2. Then run off any remaining shots on my way home or at home. Then I process the film that evening and print my contact sheet the following evening. Using my notes (if any) I then think about what worked and what did not and try a few 8 x 10's. As there's never more than 12 shots, confusion is kept to a minimum. Because i can clearly remeber most of my exposures (that one was cloudy, this one I focussed colser to infinty etc) my think seems resonably clear, to me at least. Most rolls I end up with 1 shot that I'd like to try as an 11 x 14 and best of all I can usually devise an intent for an improvement in one element of my workflow to aim at next time. (I'm going to aim for less contrast when developing my roll for example).

Given that I'm a weekend amataur shooting maybe 2-4 rolls a month the modest increase in cost per frame is totally irrelevant (to me). Others may differ on this.

If I did it again, I'd go for a TLR (or maybe a Bronica SQ, these seem nearly as cheap as TLR's now), for no other reason than I expect it to be easier to use on my tripod. (anyone want to swop good user TLR (Flexaret/Belar maybe?) for a good user (ex Certo6) Franka with a Radionar F2.9? PM me.).

But, if the OP really wants to go down the 35mm path, I have a Pentax P30n and 35-70 A series zoom you can have for the price of postage (oh, I did'nt check your location sorry, I'm in Australia, it's likley cheaper to buy one of these at a garage sale/op shop near you for the $5 it's now worth!). PM me and I'll tell you the good and bad about it.

MattC.