Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rosetta Stone

This is a picture of the Rosetta Stone, that ancient stone that provided the key to unlocking the mysteries of the Egyptian hieroglyphics, now housed in the British Museum in London (where I surreptiously reached out and touched it years ago---its behind glass now probably because of curious hands like mine).

The key to deciphering this famous stone was that its text was the same passage written out three times in different languages. And once you know how to read the classical Greek and the Demotic Egyptian bits, understanding the once-indecipherable hieroglphics come easy. If, you know, you're a scholar of ancient languages and you are good at sticking with this sort of thing.

Me, I've spent the past weekend trying to decipher my own kind of Rosetta Stone. The computer software version of Italian Levels I and II.

I'd heard it was a very good program to learn languages because it follows a sort of immersion process, the same way a child would learn a language. It doesn't translate the vocabulary for you, it doesn't provide a list of grammar rules to follow, it just assumes you are reasonably attentive and can figure out what's going on in the little pictures.

It's FANTASTIC! It's addictive in that 'I'm-playing -a-video-game-and-must reach-the-next-level' sort of way. I wish, I wish, I wish I'd had this before travelling to Italy.

So, anyway, a few of my friends and I were recently talking about goal-setting, and what really happens if you are serious about doing something. But what goal to set? That is the question. Because these things take time and energy.

But here's a worthwhile goal: learn a second language. Maybe Italian because it's a beautiful language. Maybe French, because after all I'm supposed to know it already....I'm tired of being one of those Canadians who took French in school but is too embarrassed to speak the few phrases she knows when faced with an actual French-speaking person. (My poor French friend Edith did her best but I distinctly remember freezing up when introduced to her mom who only spoke French.

Yes, I can forsee acquiring the French version of the Rosetta Stone sometime soon....

And best of all, I recently read an article that has really encouraged me to try harder: it explained that it's a myth that adults are not able to learn a second language as well a child can. It's a rather discouraging belief for grown-ups who feel like trying after all.

Children do pick up new words and language quickly of course, but adults have the advantages of learning context and grasping grammar faster. The barrier to adults learning languages is mainly the embarrassment of making mistakes, not an innate inability past a certain age.

It's a relief, right? As long as I don't mind talking funny, I can do this thing. In theory.



Grant said...


Pol* said...


"let's go!"

blackcrag said...

Sounds like a worthwhile endeavour.

Maybe I'll learn Spanish that way. And I, too, need to bring my French back up to par since I live in a bilingual city. My previous plan of meeting some cute Quebecer chick and having her give me private... erm... lessons, shall we say, isn't working out so well.

I know about the urge to touch too. No, not some cute Quebecer chick!

When I went to an ancient Mediterrenean cultures exhibit at the Glembow Museum in Calgary. I had to touch a statue to confirm it was actual stone, because I couldn't believe how intricate the detailed carving was. You could see the outline of her hand through a fold of cloth, like stone was see through satin. Amazing...

Jo said...

I took high school French in grades 10, 11 and 12. The only thing I remember is "J'entre dans la salle de classe. Je regarde autour de moi."

I would love to learn French again. You have given me a great idea. Thanks!

Chloe said...

grazie! i didn't know such a thing existed. i should have bought it too before i went.

Crazy Me said...

I thought about getting that software to learn Spanish. That would be a good language to know living in Texas.

Sugar said...

Good for you Spider! That's awesome. Learning a second language is on my "to do" list" but the whole idea is very intimidating to me. Perhaps I will check out this software... especially if it makes it fun.