Your Spanish, that is!
I started learning Spanish about 8 1/2 weeks ago using another set of CDs and a book as well as this set, but I have gradually switched over to using this set of CDs alone and am currently working on the 8th of the 9 CDs.
This set works for me, because:
1) It is great for developing your accent. Constant repetition developes the right muscles in your mouth, tongue and lips for speaking Spanish. At first I really struggled with certain sounds, but by striving to mimic the speaker, I have really come a long way. Pronouncing words and phrases correctly and fluently is incredibly important if you want to speak decent Spanish, and this is one of the biggest strengths of this course. You start off just trying to get each word right, then getting whole phrases and sentences exactly as spoken, with all the accents in the right place, 'r's trilled, and vowels elided as required.
2) Constant repetition of the pattern sentences helps to reprogram your brain in Spanish without any real effort on your part. Sometimes I will drive for long distances repeating every phrase 3 times while my brain is elsewhere, but find that later in the day those same phrases are running through my brain and that I am wanting to speak to English speakers in Spanish, which shows that the program is definitely doing its job.
3) I find myself making up original Spanish sentences in my head, based on the pattern sentences.
All these changes have occurred in the last few weeks, without any effort on my part and without me devoting any special time to the projects, except time when driving, walking, or lying in bed with a Walkman type CD player. Now I am over the worst bumps in starting to learn Spanish. I know the 30 most common verbs, even if not fluent in all their tenses, I know the 20 or 30 most common prepositions, how to use reflexive verbs, the numbers, the days of the week, the months, the seasons of the year, the weather, lots of nouns and adjectives, the use of many idioms with the verb 'tenir', the mysteries of the verb 'haber' , several ways to say 'excuse me', and, most important of all, how to ask someone to speak more slowly, or "mas despacio", as we Hispanophones like to say.
The materials are extremely well organized, though you do not need to know this, and new concepts and vocabulary are introduced in a logical order a teaspoonful at a time, so that you never feel you are learning vocabulary or grammar, yet you are speaking Spanish, so you must be digesting something.
( I realised how well organized the materials were when I foolishly skipped Level 2 discs II and III to go to Level 3 disc I and found I was struggling with new material overload.)
I am not sure that there is any correct or incorrect way to use these discs, but my method is to play each disc 10-12 times, first just listening a few times and repeating in my head, but not aloud, then listening and repeating, and finally giving the translation in Spanish before hearing the Spanish version. When I am heartily sick of a disc, whether or not I know everything on it, I move on to the next disc. When I have completed all, I will go back, revise, and reinforce my knowledge of all the materials--at least that is the plan.
I really recommend this course. You have to put in the work of repeating phrases, but that is about it. After that you can just open your mouth and let the Spanish flow.
Obviously the course will not give you every word or phrase you need, but you can use an online translator to make up the sentences you really feel you want and you will have enough knowledge by now to know if the translation program has got it right, and to be able to edit any errors or misunderstandings.
*** Addendum 2/24/04
Soon after writing the above, after about 9 weeks with the CDs, I made my first trip to a Spanish speaking country with wonderful results. Mostly I avoided being around English speaking people and initially I was pretty tongue tied, but by the end of three days I was starting conversations with strangers, ordering meals without reference to the menu, and had learned almost enough Spanish to get a job as a soap opera writer in Spanish. By the time I left I did not want to stop speaking Spanish and in fact continued on the plane and in the airport in Miami. I was even thinking and dreaming in Spanish, for goodness sake.
Since my return I have had conversations with Spanish speaking people I have met, and it is amazing how friendly they become when you are trying to speak their language, however badly.
Don't get the impression that I am now miraculously fluent in Spanish. My Spanish is still pathetically bad, but I am still working with the CDs as I drive and improving all the time.
Maybe there are other better courses for learning Spanish, but all I can say is that this one has hit the spot for me.
***Additional addendum written April 11th 2006:
I used this program for about 6 months from the time I bought it, and after that I just flew solo and picked up Spanish by talking to Spanish-speaking people. It is almost two years now since I stopped using the program, and my Spanish now, while not exactly fluent like a native speaker, at least sounds fluent to people who don't speak Spanish. My vocabulary is still limited, and I can't tell you half the names of parts of a car, or of fruits and vegetables (except everyday ones like apples, oranges, pears, and passion fruit (chinola), but I can hold reasonable conversations in Spanish and deal with my Spanish speaking tenants with no difficulty, I would not hesitate, for example, to pick up the phone and make a hotel reservation or dental appointment.
So there you have it. I still recommend this program very much, but you do have to be motivated to learn Spanish. A friend of mine just returned from living in a Spanish-speaking country for a year and a half and still hardly speaks any Spanish. Wasted time, if you ask me!
Additional addendum #2 written July 12th 2007:
Pretty much fluent in Spanish now. Can talk for 1/2 hour on the phone. This course plus a couple of Cliff's Notes books is the only course of study I have ever done. Give it a try.
By the way, I was well past 50 years of age when I started to learn Spanish, so there is hope for us all!