When I was at school I briefly tried out "accelerated learning", following my housemaster's suggestion. The idea was that I could learn a foreign language in the same way that I originally learnt English, i.e. by hearing a big stream of words and gradually picking up the meaning rather than taking a formal list of vocab/grammar. So, they'd play a tape of some people speaking French, and say "Don't worry about trying to recognise the individual words, just try to get a feel for what they're saying". I soon gave up on this as a waste of time, since:
a) I don't think it's the most efficient way to learn, when the teacher and student already have a way to communicate.
b) I think that the accelerated language skills fade away after the first few years; mine certainly seem to be long gone.
Anyway, these CDs take a similar approach, which I was a bit dubious about at first. However, I can now see the benefit, since there are a lot of words which have been borrowed from English, e.g. "Nyu Yoku" means "New York". So, I think I benefit from guessing at what they mean, as that's likely to be a useful long-term skill.
Anyway, I'm feeling a bit more confident about my abilities now, since I was laughing at the Japanese dialogue before I'd read the transcript or looked up the vocab list. I didn't understand all of it, but I got the gist of it.
The scenario is that someone has just received a phone call, and the conversation goes like this:
Takahashi: It's a bit early, isn't it?
Ogawa: It's afternoon in New York; 3:15pm. What time is it in Tokyo?
Takahashi: It's morning.
Ogawa: Good morning! (I was amused by the lack of apology, since she hasn't taken the hint.)
Takahashi: It's 6:15am.
Ogawa: Sorry! But I suppose you have to get up for work anyway?
Takashai: No, it's my day off today.
My next class is tomorrow evening, so hopefully that will go well. What I have noticed is the old "elite" syndrome that I found at university. I wasn't quite at the top of the class last term (mainly because it was a challenge to find time for homework mid-week), but I think I did reasonably well relative to the rest of the class. As I mentioned before, there were only three of us (out of about ten) who turned up for the final test. Since I've now changed from Saturday to Monday, I don't know how many of the old group carried on, but I'm guessing that lots of the people who found it hard (or just "more work than they'd anticipated") have decided not to pay for a second term. That means that the people who have carried on are either keen or talented, so I don't want to slow everyone else down by stumbling along at the bottom of the class.
More generally, this reminds me of something I've noticed in my pre-exam revision in the past; I sometimes wind up reading new stuff in the textbooks (rather than just recapping what I've done before), and thinking "Wow, this makes so much more sense now - I should have done this ages ago". The snag is that there's never enough hours in the day to do everything that I'd like to. That's why I haven't submitted my name for the Lego beta testing trial that I mentioned recently - it would be fun, but realistically I have enough commitments already. Still, I like to think that I'm gradually learning from experience, and getting the right balance.