Here are my detailed steps to really getting to KNOW a language. This system is for someone like me who really wants to KNOW a language rather than just be able to drink a beer with someone and talk about the weather. I've spent years now researching, taking into account the advice of accomplished polyglots, and running down my own roads of successes and faliures. A couple notes before we get into it: I think a tutor is good after you get a feel for the language. If you start from day one you'll be wasting a lot of money learning how to say "dog". Also, I don't think Rosetta Stone is really necessary since there is already a flash card program worked into this program that's free.
The first step is a four parter. Now, this will look like a very narrow plan but in reality it's very lenient in certain areas, especially if you already have an understanding of language in general. If you don't have any kind of understanding of language or the language is very exotic from anything you've studied before then I'd recommend following it closely.
Sept 1 Part 1 Start a Pimsleur Course
This first step can be skipped if you already have a lot of experience in language learning or you're past the beginner stage of your language. I don't skip it though completely for two reasons. Number one is I learn some common phrases right off the bat and number two is I get to here how the language sounds immediately and get to understand some of those sounds. What I do is just skip through the lessons maybe doing every other one or starting later in the course, which is of course against the law of Pimsleur, but this is a guide to KNOWING a language and we're just using Pimsleur to get an idea and feel for the language. So even if you're a beginner with the language the good thing about using Pimsleur my way is that you can just do it in the shower and not be so militant about when, where, and how like the course would like you to be. Pimsleur is definitely not priority number 1 when wanting to KNOW the language.
Step 1 Part 2 Go to www.lingq.com
This site is set up by a polyglot who really knows what he's talking about. However, rather than paying any money for the lessons you should just do the free lessons the site has available. Lingq is unfortunately pretty new so only the main world languages are available. As long as you're learning Spanish, French, German or a few others Lingq is great. The way it works is you read a dialogue you find 'lingqs' which are words you didn't understand which become flash cards for you, then you download an audio version of the dialogue and listen to it. Well listen to it A LOT. So this means in line at the store, in the car or anywhere else, and when possible you should shadow and speak along with it. Periodically find a new dialogue create lingqs and listen, listen, listen!
Step 1 Part 3 Buy a Grammar Book!
I know grammar's boring. But to KNOW the language you'll have to KNOW the grammar. Don't worry though, I'm not saying to studying and memorize grammar rules. Remember this first step is to get our feet wet and to get and overview of the language. So just read it and try to get an abstract understanding. Don't do any close studying or memorizing of any rules. Eventually you're going to run into a form in your reading or listening and you're going to go back to it in your grammar book and slowly make it more concrete in your understanding of the language. In my opinion though it's good to start right from the beginning just to get the feel. A grammar book is important the same way Pimsleur is important except that Pimsleur can be skipped and with the grammar book you need to plug through it.
Step 1 Part 4 Michel Thomas Method
This method gives a good overview of the grammar mixed in with the spoken word. This system gets you saying long sentences pretty fast, but like in Pimsleur you're not going to get the large influx of vocabulary. Again though your feet are just getting wet for the more intense stuff. You will however, get a lot of main verbs and main verb forms thrown at you which really helps with all the reading you'll be doing in the next steps. Michel Thomas is very important but to a certain extent it can skipped through too, but I still think you should get yourself through it because along with the other three parts it will really help you with the next steps that involve a lot more attentive listening, reading, and writing.
So that's the first step, if say you've decided that you were going to KNOW German and only know how to say Danke. The next steps will be covered in other blogs. Always make time to journey....