I started learning German using Pimsleur. It’s an audio course you do using an ipod, for half an hour each day. I got my roommate excited about the program, and so we decided to learn German together. He’s a musician, and will find the language useful for his craft. I just wanted an excuse to learn a new language.
The program teaches you to be conversational. You’re taught a few words, along with excellent prononciation. Then the program asks you to say things to another person.
It doesn’t tell you what to repeat. It asks how to say things in the target language. You have to remember, and sometimes improvise. It lets you practice saying things out loud, the same way you would in a normal conversation.
I’ve used it before, for Italian. After 3 months, I could have conversations during my trip to Italy. It gives you everything you need to know to improve rapidly. And you sound nice enough that people enjoy speaking with you. Italians thought I had been learning for years.
The best part is that you can do it whenever you have a half hour of chores. I do it while cooking lunch, and cleaning. I always felt that half hour was wasted. Now I get to learn a language instead.