There may not be one best way to learn Morse code, but there are some common traps that can slow down the learning process. If you avoid these traps, you should pick it up faster than many of your fellow hams:
(1). Not devoting (enough) time to listening to Morse code.
Seems obvious that it will take time and effort to learn, but I swear that some people think - or at least hope - that they can listen to a recording once or twice and that will suffice. Sorry. That doesn't work unless you are a certified Morse Code prodigy.
(2). Listening to the same recording many, many times.
Your brain remembers more than you realize. After hearing it just a few times, your mind already anticipates what is coming next. Fresh code forces your brain to concentrate more to catch what is being sent. So, replace your MP3s often with new sample of code.
One suggestion is to get the Koch trainer software from http://www.g4fon.net/
. It has various options that will allow you to generate a range of different training sessions.
(3). Only listening to speeds you can already copy.
This one is a killer. It has slowed the progress of many a ham trying to improve their code copying ability. If you only listen to slow code, you may get better at copying it, but it will take forever to learn to copy fast code. It may be human nature to favor speeds you can copy with ease versus challenging yourself to copy at speeds where you only catch every word or so, but the more you listen to significantly faster code, the more it will "slow down" in your brain.
My suggestion for this one is to record W1AW's code practice sessions when they run from faster to slower. As you try to copy the faster speeds, you will miss a lot, but when they reduce the speed, it will seem much slower. Then they reduce it again and it starts to seem really slow...
(4). Always copying individual characters.
What's a ham to do? We all start out learning individual characters. When you need to copy specific info, like an address or part numbers, and the like you MUST copy each character. But we talk in words. We hear in words. Your Morse skills really start to take off when you learn the sounds of common WORDS instead of having to spell each one out.
G4FON's software will generate common words. Make some recordings of those, and listen to them on your MP3 player. Hear the rhythm of words like "and", "the", "rig", "up", "my". Can you pick them out of W1AW practice session??
(5). Key shyness
Someone back before I first became a ham in the 1970's decided that it was enough just to learn to copy the code. Sending ability would follow naturally. Right. Not for me, it didn't. Using a straight Morse key is a separate skill. Using Iambic paddles and keyer, still another. (These are also skills that get rusty, by the way.) So, pluck up the courage and - maybe with an elmer looking over your shoulder - make some real CW contacts. The best way to improve your ability with a foreign language is to use it. Nothing makes you better at Morse code than using it to communicate. What did the other person say? Is it my turn? What am I going to say? How long should I pause between words? Did I mangle that last word?...
Remember your first time on a bicycle? Bet it didn't go totally smoothly. Until you've done it awhile, your CW QSOs may be a little wobbly. Be persistant.
Hams who keep postponing using Morse code never really master it. Use it, enjoy it. Challenge yourself to improve.
(6). The head copy hurdle
You know what? It's hard to focus on copying what you hear and write at the same time. It's liberating to be able to copy the code of a QSO in your head while not writing any of it down. No splitting your attention to two tasks at once! As you get better at Morse code, try listening to other folks' CW QSOs without writing it down. See how much you get/how much you miss. Didn't do so well? Try tuning in a slower QSO and copying that in your head.
When I was starting out, I listened to W1AW code practices a lot. During the sessions when they go from slow to fast, I'd listen to the slowest speeds and force myself to write down the characters two or three characters AFTER they were sent. Eventually, I switched from printing to cursive writing for this. (Cursive is faster than printing, so this comes in handy during fast QSOs). Then, I'd try to copy one full word behind what was being sent. What different techniques can you devise to maximize your Morse code practice sessions?
You have some advantages in your quest to master Morse. Since you posted to this forum, I assume you are still young. That's a big plus when learning languages - and when learning Morse code. And you've already started to work on learning it. That tells me you are self motivated and want to learn it. Now, all you have to do is to keep at it. Don't be afraid to use what you are learning. Keep it fun, keep it fresh and interesting. You'll amaze the old fogeys with just how fast you master CW.
73 es GL