Learning new languages during my commute!
March 25, 2008 12:53 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to learn a new language during my daily commute. What is the best language learning audio cd available?

I spend an hour or two daily on my daily commute and would like to use the time to learn new languages (conversationally; I'm not too concerned with the reading/writing aspect at this point).

Most of the language programs I've come across appear to be for use on the computer, but I just want an audio cd that teaches words and sentences (ideally, teaches pronunciation, the english meaning of the word, and then a short silent duration to practice the new word/phrase aloud).

I know there are many free language podcasts available, and if there are any especially good ones I'd love to hear about them, but I'm really looking for an audio cd language program I can pop into my car cd player and listen to and practice with during my commute, instead of a bunch of mini-lesson mp3s strung together.

If it matters, the languages I'd like to learn are Korean, German and I would like to expand my English vocabulary as well. Any suggestions and recommendations are appreciated!
posted by zippity to Education (11 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Pimsleur.
posted by Memo at 12:56 PM on March 25, 2008

Best answer: The Blue just had an enthusiastic article on Michel Thomas.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 1:03 PM on March 25, 2008

Seconding Pimsleur.
posted by INTPLibrarian at 1:05 PM on March 25, 2008

I used Pimsleur, which I liked, but found it very difficult sometimes to understand which letters were actually being pronounced. This made any reading of the language a bit difficult. I had to speak to a French friend to straighten some stuff out. Its a great program but you might need to supplement it with some printed matter.

I also toyed with Rosetta and if not with the cost would have tried it. I am told it works very well.

Depending on the language their might be some free podcast options as well to get you started.
posted by UMDirector at 1:15 PM on March 25, 2008

Yes, Pimsleur.
posted by Enroute at 1:48 PM on March 25, 2008

Pimsleur, indeed. My library has many languages - yours might too. Good luck.
posted by stuboo at 2:03 PM on March 25, 2008

Pimsleur, hands-down. After about 15 hours of their Spanish CDs, I was able to say, "I don't understand sir, you need to rent a car, but you don't have a driver's license?!?"
posted by tiburon at 2:36 PM on March 25, 2008

I listened to the first two levels of Pimsleur's Italian, about 30 hours. You're still a rank beginner after that many hours, but it got me around Italy for 3 weeks, and I was able to order meals, check into hotels, buy train and museum tickets, understand that the train was stuck and it would be 3 hours before we got back to Rome via a different route...etc. I thought the CDs were excellent, and plan to try French or Japanese next.

I would supplement it with at least basic reading as well. You will have difficulty pronouncing menu items, signs, etc if you don't know the pronunciation rules for letters.

Also: even the best CDs will only get you so far. You will still need a much larger vocabulary to actually consider the language useful. For example, the CDs may teach you to say "Could you do X for me?" You will also probably pick up the word for 'open' on the CDs. But when you'd like to say 'Could you open the safe for me?', you'll need to run for a dictionary. Basically, Pimsleur will give you the basic blocks, and if you can learn extra vocab on the side, your skills will grow exponentially. [You could even do this aurally, if you record yourself saying the English word, then the foreign word a couple seconds later...you will need to know how to read for that though!]
posted by lemonade at 3:33 PM on March 25, 2008

I want to second Michel Thomas for German (he does other languages, but not Korean). He's just a great teacher and uses a very different style and approach form any other language program I've ever seen.

You don't say how you commute, but one issue for Michel Thomas is that the CD expects you to pause and start the audio routinely as you come up with the answers. It certainly helps get more info on 8 discs (as opposed lots of recorded spaces), but it could be a concern if you are driving.
posted by aaronh at 9:52 PM on March 25, 2008

Studying with Michel Thomas has greatly increased my ability to think in Spanish. Pimsleur didn't really work for me, but YMMV. And in completely friggin' dorky learning, I started with a Rush Hour Spanish tape where you sing songs using the vocab. Dorky, but I still remember every bit of that vocab.

Also, there are a bunch of really good podcasts for foreign language study. I'm using mostly Spanish; therefore, I don't have specific German or Korean suggestions. However, downloading a few to your pod can't hurt. It's worth looking into what's available for free.
posted by 26.2 at 10:29 PM on March 25, 2008

Nthing Pimsleur. It will teach you how to converse.

If you have study time outside of your commute, you will also want to get a textbook for learning grammar/writing, and the Rosetta Stone CDs for learning vocabulary.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:57 PM on March 26, 2008

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