Just like to back up the recommendation for Deutsche-Welle. The online course is used as a supplement for my German 001 class here at Dartmouth, which means it's very high quality.
Also, I'd recommend reading their articles and watching their videos/programs, as well as listening to their radio. Also, search "Rammstein" on the site. They've posted quite a lot of things about them!
In my German class here at Dartmouth we are using this book:http://www.amazon.com/Deutsch-Introduct ... 699&sr=1-1Deutsch: Na Klar! (6e)
(German: You Bet! 6th edition)
Publication Date: January 7, 2011
Amazon rates this textbook as 3 stars, a rating that I highly disagree with. I rate this textbook at 5 stars--the low rating appears to be from the fact that many people don't consider this textbook necessary for a class and think that it's good and clear enough to study alone, something which for me actually raises the rating (trust me, I'm bilingual and have learned French and Japansese--a textbook this imformative, clear, and easy to study is hard to come by!). The cost is ridiculous, I agree, but I think it's worth it.
It also comes with free audio files that you can listen to or download to your computer. These supplement lessons and teach you to listen to proper German in a variety of accents while challenging you to repeat and complete the book activities/exercises:http://highered.mcgraw-hill.com/sites/0 ... audio.html
This is great because it means that you don't need to pay extra for audio CDs for this textbook. You just buy the book and you're set. There's apparently a lab manual too, but that is not really necessary.
The last thing I have to say is not a link to a German study aide, but rather advice on learning. Here at Dartmouth, students are required to take 3 foreign language courses and are proficient to semi-fluent by the end of only these 3 courses (and it only takes around 8-9 months). That's because we're taught foreign languages with the Rassias Method, named after its inventor, a Dartmouth Professor who aimed to teach students language in a way that replicates as closely as possible the way we learn language as children: through constant hearing of the language, repetition and mimicry, completing reading and writing exercises, and through simulating an environment as close as possible to living in a country where the language is spoken all the time. For more information on the method, check out the website here: http://rassias.dartmouth.edu/
Basically, this method involves several components:
1) A short language class (50 minutes long). Studies have shown that people can't concentrate for stretches more than 55 minutes long, and that language, especially, is best learned in short, intensive spurts. If you want to learn German but aren't in a class, you can replicate this step by buying a textbook and teaching yourself by going through it for 50 minutes, 4 days a week. For most textbooks, make it your goal to go through a chapter a week. Assign yourself all of the exercises and act as your own "instructor". You will need discipline for this.
2) A "drill" in the foreign language. Drill gives us intensive exposure to hearing and speaking a foreign language in a natural setting--it mimics the experience of living in a foreign country by exposing our brains to hearing and speaking in a foreign language. Drill is 45 minutes long, is done either in the morning or afternoon, 4 days a week (on the same day as classes), and is led by an advanced student or a native speaker. No more than 10 students are in a drill session at any given time. The driller is not allowed to speak in English, only in the native language. The driller has no accent in the language (perfect speech) and will say a phrase several times, first getting all students to repeat it (choral), then getting individual students to repeat it. For long phrases, the driller, will then break up the phrase into the last part, get all then each person to repeat it, then keep extending it from the end of the phrase to its start until all students can repeat it. Another drill exercise is to get students to understand a grammatical concept by leading them through example. An example of this is the driller saying "Der Mann
gebort in Januar 3. *snaps fingers, points to mouth* Er
gebort in Januar 3." The drillees will hopefully understand that the purpose of the exercise is to replace names/titles with personal pronouns. Another example is "Er
gebort in Januar 3. *snaps fingers, points to mouth* Sie
geboren in Januar 3." The drillees will then realize that the purpose is to test their conjugation of verbs with different pronouns. The driller will go around the room, giving each person a different pronoun to conjugate with, each time snapping their fingers and pointing at the individual person, thus forcing students to pay attention and think quickly.
Drill is very important because it forces you to really listen to a real person speaking the language (which is a huge part of learning how to communicate), gradually improves your pronunciation, tricks your brain into thinking that you are in a country where you hear and speak this language frequently (therefore making your brain learn it better and faster), forces you to think on your feet in the foreign language, improves recognition of terms, phrases, and even tone in the language, and most importantly, forces you to speak. Speaking is one of the most important things you can do to learn a language: Just read everything German in your book out loud. Read all the exercises, and dialogues out loud. When listening to an audio track, say it along with the audio. On Deutsche-Welle, say everything, not just during the parts where they ask you to. It has been proven that things are consolidated from our short-term memories to our long-term memories when we say them out loud several times. If you say words in a language out loud, you will be over 200% more likely to remember it later. That's a HUGE difference.
Now, most of you are thinking, "But I don't have anything like drill here! How does this help me?!?" If you are lucky enough to know a German speaker in your area, especially a native one, you can ask them to do something similar with you by asking them to create these kinds of exercises where they force you to think while repeating, speaking, and improving your memory and pronunciation. Having them read exercises off of flashcards really helps. Make sure that they stand while you sit because it makes you psychologically more attentive. A big part of drill is forcing your mind to pay attention to the speaker by playing these tricks on it, such as putting your driller into a position of power over you. Have them take advantage of this by not letting you get away with mispronunciations--they must keep saying the words until you are able to get close to what they are saying. If you don't remember the sentence or phrase, have them help you out by saying certain words. Have them look into your eyes as they drill you--you should also be looking at their face, particularly their mouth to see how they move their lips. (Don't worry, simply looking at someone's face while they speak is enough to get you to subconsciously mimic them very well). Have them snap their fingers to get your attention. AND ABSOLUTELY NO ENGLISH ALLOWED DURING DRILL. EVER. (Sorry, not meaning to scare people, but this is a biggie since you're trying to trick your brain that you live somewhere where you need
to learn German to get by).
If you don't know anyone who knows a lot of German and is willing to do this, you can approximate drill yourself by saying absolutely everything German that you read out loud several times, like I outlined. Also, other exercises that will help you include closing your eyes and saying the word as you spell it out visually in your mind, or imaging an image of the meaning of the word. You should also change up the dialogue or exercises to make them a bit more difficult once you have already done them, and then say them out loud as you do them. Make sure that you find as many examples of proper spoken German to imitate (sadly,
does not count as "spoken", nor as "proper"--Till sings in a Saxony accent
). Listen to a radio program or video or dialogue several times, then say it along with them. Maybe even pause after each line, repeat what you heard, then go back. Drill is all about challenging yourself, while speaking and listening. You have to speak A LOT, or you won't learn the language, and natives won't be able to communicate with you or understand you.
3) Wiederholung (Repetition). You must go back over the material you've learned by doing exercises. Read (and say) the dialogues from the previous chapter again. Do the same exercises again. Go back to that list of words at the start of the chapter once you've reached the end, and make flashcards for them, or find another way to practice them. Practice any grammar that you've learned. Studies have proven that real learning in humans takes place when we repeat something by going back over it. We may learn something new (forward learning), but we won't truly understand or remember it unless we practice it and revisit it (backwards learning). It takes both to learn anything, including languages. For this, as well as for forwards learning, you should set aside an hour of your day. However, you should split that hour up into 3 20-minute intervals scattered throughout your day. Language is best learned several times a day in short, intensive intervals (intensive=no distractions whatsoever). Long study periods might be useful occasionally, but our brains like to learn language in short bursts so they don't get tired out. Learning several times a day also helps to trick our brains into thinking that we use the language several times every day because we live in a place where everyone else speaks only/mostly that language, which speeds up learning. Definitely learn something or do exercises at least once a day for a half an hour to 50 minutes if you can't learn several times a day. Just a tiny bit each day makes you learn much, much faster than a lot once or twice a week. Trust me, the difference is huge. (Oh, and repetition should not be the same as your class time. Repetition is backwards learning. Class time is forwards learning. The two should be kept separate and both should be done. You should do repetition more frequently than you have class).
Sorry for the long post, but this advice is really useful (in my opinion) since you have to be conscious of how your brain works and how learning works in order to effectively learn. If you keep this advice in mind and structure your learning so that you learn every day with these methods, you will see huge gains in your language knowledge over time, as opposed to if you were learning just once or twice a week for much longer! I hope that this helps anyone looking to learn German, or any foreign language!