The ideal way to learn a foreign language is by conversing with native speakers, but this is not always possible in the USA.
I had two years of German in college and have some reference books in German that I need to use. Eventually I wanted to learn to understand spoken German and to speak some, too. Books are helpful, but can do only so much.
Step 1: Shortwave Radio Helped for a Time.
Radio waves in the shortwave frequencies bounce off of the ionosphere and can reach the other side of the world. The Passport to World Band Radio is a Yellow Pages of foreign broadcasters and their schedules. For a decade or so I listened to German broadcasts on shortwave. Reception was often not very good due to sunspots, static, and weather. Still, it helped me to begin to understand spoken German and to mimic phrases so I could begin to converse with German tourists I encountered.
For the last few years shortwave service to the USA in German has come to an end. This is because of budget cuts and the broadcasters are changing over to digital broadcasts, but those will not be available in the USA for a few more years.
Step 2: Listen to the Bible in German
The 1964 edition of Luther's German Bible (Lutherbibel) is available free of charge at www.sermon-online.de. After opening the site, search for "1964 Lutherbibel" in Deutsch ('Sprache' window). Click on 'Suche.'
Pictured is part of the results page. Wait for the page to load. It takes a while. Scroll down to "Alle 66 B� as shown in the photo. The zipped file is a bit over 600 MB. Left click on the arrow in the left pane.
Step 3: Click on the Download Link.
In the last line of the frame you see the symbol for a zipped file. Right click on this line and select "Save target as."
When I tried to download the whole German Bible at this site, the upload speed was quite slow. My daughter has an always-on computer on a high-speed connection. She downloaded it for me over two nights. If you would like a copy, send me a private message and we will see what we can work out so neither of us is too burdened financially.
Unzipped the German audio Bible is 1.5 GB.
Step 4: Listening to the German Bible
I often find I awake much earlier than I would like. I keep an MP3 disc player next to the bed. When I awaken I listen up to an hour at a time. It is good practice for my German and it gets me into the Bible on a daily basis.
I bought this player a few years ago when iPods were more expensive than they are today. But, I can lose or break several of these players for the cost of one iPod. It works for me.
Step 5: Podcasts Are a Big Help.
A good internet connection and a fast computer allow listening in real time. But, you cannot back up what was said or listen again, unless you download programs. Deutsche Welle, like other radio broadcasters in Germany offers Podcasts. The URL is www.dw-world.de. They also offer a set of German lessons in MP3 for tourists.
Step 6: Other Sources of German Podcasts
Vorleser.net offers a wide variety of German literature for MP3 download. Most of them are free of charge. Often the text files for the same works are available, too. Some titles have a fee attached. You can play a sentence or a phrase over and over until you understand it. You can follow the words in print through the text file.
Step 7: Using ITunes
I get my Podcasts through iTunes. Listening to the Bible is good, but it does not contain some of the vocabulary you will encounter in daily conversation.
Drag Podcasts to a Playlist. Watch the time numbers at the bottom center of the iTunes screen. When you get about 1.1 hours, you have reached the limit a CD will hold. Click on Burn and iTunes will convert the files from MP3 to WAV and record them on a disc playable in any standard CD player.
Step 8: Playing CDs in Your Car
My car stereo is nine years old and is not MP3 capable. I can play WAV file CDs in my car while I am driving. I store them in a CD holder on my sun visor. I have a wireless FM transmitter for broadcasting my player through my FM radio, but the sound is better and it is less bother with the WAV CDs.
Listening to German language MP3 files downloaded from the Internet has helped me gain enough facility in spoken German that I have been able to travel in Germany with only a rental car and a small pocket dictionary. I even interpreted a German language presentation in the Gutenburg Museum in Mainz for English speaking tourists. I also spoke in German for an hour and twenty minutes once when I was asked to bring a PowerPoint presentation on my current home state. It was well received.
Step 9: Something I Have Not Tried.
LiveMocha.com says they offer the opportunity to speak over the Internet with native speakers. I have not tried them. I do know some cities will have groups that get together once a week or so at a coffee house to converse with a native speaker in a language the group is trying to learn.