Over the last few years I have been growing an interist in learning new languages. I think it comes from my interest in building new relationships and I cannot do that as effectively when interacting with people who speak a differnt language. I have tried a few tools, and I am always looking for better ways to learn language.
I choose learn languages which I can use in the near future. It gives me a deadline and a great motivation to push through. Also, my goal is to interact in the language as fast as possible since using it will accelerate my learning better than a class or program.
In high school I had three years of Spanish. At that time I was not nearly as interested in language learning. We were taught in a method similar how we learn proper English in school. Start with the alphabet, learn words, learn the proper way to structure sentences, etc. We were never tested to interact with native speakers which crippled my ability to use it in the real world. I still retain some of it but not enough to do anything productive.
I next tried to learn French in 2009 so I could interact with our French vendors while working on a project.
I started with free podcasts but they were too slow and did not give me enough in-depth information. I guess I get what I pay for.
Next, I purchased the first three levels of French by Rosetta Stone. I studied it every night. After about 3 months I had not even completed the first level. I knew some basic words in French but not enough to talk.
A couple of things that Rosetta Stone has is the ability to check your pronunciation and and to see the words written.
Last Fall I was going to Germany and I wanted to be able to interact with people. After doing some research on learning language faster I purchased Pimsleur. I listened to only 30 lessons in my car to and from work for 3 months.
I liked this method because I did not have to sit in front of a computer and I could do it with out taking other time out of my day. Plus I learned significantly more compared to the time put in compared to the other methods.
I was able to speak basic phrases and ask for things in German. I have repeatedly had some Germans compliment me on my pronunciation.
This method teaches you a phrase and then modifies the words slightly to create a new phrase. It builds on itself, and when I use it in the real world I learn more.
Over the next few months I am going to be studying the total Pimsleur package for Spanish. The nice thing about this is that I can practice on a regular basis with such a strong Spanish speaking population in the US.
If you are interested in learning a language I recommend Pimsleur over Rosetta Stone.
Update: I have just started Studying Spanish using Pimsleur. I know it works since I am trying to answer the Spanish in German (it shows me the German last August stuck). Also, they have upgraded the program to include computer learning and reading. I still just use the audio in the car and try to move to actually speaking with someone as fast as possible.