After we decided to take a river cruise in Europe this summer, Rhine-Main-Danube, Jim decided that he wanted to relearn German; I think his grandparents spoke it, and it was common in Milwaukee when he was a child. I borrowed the first book of the Pimsleur German course from the local library, and he liked it so much he sprang for the whole thing, so we've both been studying it.
Pimsleur teaches you languages by walking you through a series of increasingly complicated conversations; I'm finding it quite effective. It's true that languages are my strong point, I took German in college and have been singing in it for years; I don't know how well it would work for someone who's never said Ja or Nein in his life.
All the conversations, which we faithfully repeat several times to learn them, are between a Lady and a Gentleman, so they can work in the appropriate gender endings - an American man is Amerikaner, but an American woman is Amerikanerin. It's all done by repetition; they never tell you how the stuff is spelled, although every lesson has a "reading lesson," a PDF that shows some words on the page and has you repeat the pronunciation. I'm remembering a lot; but I cannot learn a word if I don't know how it's spelled (a personal quirk), so I've been dodging over to Google Translate now and then to check things I'm not sure of.
But the conversational situations are - well, they're odd. Back in the early lessons, when all the instructions were in English, we talked a lot about ordering Bier (beer) and Wein (wine); I remember thinking, my God, these people drink like fish. ("I want to order five beers," said the Lady in German, for example.) And I was relieved when they finally taught me how to order Thee (tea) and Mineralwasser (mineral water), since my doctor advises me not to drink. Then later the Lady kept asking the Gentleman to give her a lot of money. And they never could agree on a time for a dinner date.
I'm almost done with Book I; I've advanced to the point where the instructions are also in German. We're learning the various words for traveling - fahren (to drive, or travel in a vehicle), wegfahren (to go away). We also just learned zusammen (together) and alleine (alone). This led to a really odd little conversation between the Lady and the Gentlemen, which I repeat in English because I don't want to fool with German diacritical marks. Are you alone? he asked her. No, I'm here with my husband, she said. If you're not alone, I'm going away, he said; I'm going alone. You're going alone? she asks. We could go away together. Yes, he said, we could go away together. All this was repeated several times to get the vocabulary and the word order solidly down.
Meanwhile I'm thinking, wait a minute, lady, I thought you were here with your husband (Mit Ihrem Mann), now you're going to go away together (zusammen) with this guy? What's going on?
I await with interest Lesson 28, and the next adventures of these two oddballs.
Of course, we'll be on a totally English-speaking cruise ship with totally English-speaking guides; but never mind. It's useful to relearn a language.