Friday, March 14, 2008

the fastest way to learn a language

RosettaStone's TV ads claim it's the "fastest way to learn a language". Last year the Peabody library got a multi-language license allowing members to use RosettaStone at home, for free. This was so successful among library patrons that RosettaStone wised up and backed out of the deal, so it's no longer available. While it was I had a chance to try it out and as far as I got, it seemed excellent. Level 1 of Arabic costs $209.

The claim of being the "fastest" though, is absurd. Putting "fast" and "learning a language" in the same sentence is preposterous. "Efficient", maybe. A woman in one of the TV testimonials claimed to learn more in a couple of weeks using RosettaStone than "months of formal classes". She must have been sleeping through her classes. Anyway it's not a race, and there cannot be a hurry. You can only retain new information at a certain rate. Marketing to Americans though, the emphasis has to be on go-go-go. And it's funny, you never hear a word of another language, in their ads. People don't want to hear that, they just want to know that it's fast.

I don't think RosettaStone even has a textbook, nor does it include any training in writing a non-western script like Arabic, or composing sentences. Different people learn in different ways. I don't like being tied to the computer, and do better with a textbook and an iPod. Creating playlists of vocabulary, setting the iPod to repeat, and going for a walk suits me.

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