The Pimsleur family of language courses is the best
The Pimsleur family of language courses is probably the best available in the English-speaking world.
Unlike most other audio programs, the emphasis is not on mindlessly repeating phrases... but rather on natural conversation. Spanish words and phrases are slowly introduced by the English narrator throughout the conversation, and you then incorporate them into conversation with the Spanish speakers (followed by the "right" response to compare yourself to).
This more natural approach makes a huge difference in absorbing and retaining the knowledge. However, ... I have a few suggestions to offer that I found helped me get more out of the product.
I would highly recommend buying at least an inexpensive pocket dictionary to keep by your side while doing the lessons. There is no "vocabulary list" that accompanies the program, so you never get to see what the words you're learning actually look like in written form.
A Pimsleur principal is that learning by listening is more natural than learning by reading... and while that may be valid, it certainly doesn't hurt to know how to write words after you've learned them.
I liked to pause the CD after each new word was introduced, and quickly look it up to see what it looked like. Sometimes when the speaker is talking too fast, you can get confused about a letter or two in the pronunciation...
seeing it in writing would always clear up that kind of confusion.
I would also recommend finding some basic grammar book to look over. Another Pimsleur principal is that it's more "natural" to pick up grammar rules by osmosis as you listen to conversation. ... While learning grammar from books alone is counter-productive, I can't count the never of times that something confusing me on the Pimsleur CD's was cleared up INSTANTLY by reading a rule in the grammar book. If you're investing this much time and money into gaining Spanish proficiency, you might as well go the extra few inches and read up on your grammar basics.
The final extra I would recommend is some basic Spanish reader. I don't mean a phrase book... I mean some sort of "Dick and Jane"-style reader where you can learn new words in the context of reading natural text rather than exercises or travel phrases. ... I suppose that the idea here is to teach you how to pronounce written Spanish even when seeing unfamiliar words. However, I enjoy learning Spanish by reading natural text as much by hearing natural dialogue... and there are countless readers out there for
All in all, you can't go wrong with Pimsleur's courses. Once you've finished the first one, you'll be itching to move on to "Spanish II" and "Spanish III".