This Open Thread Is Learning Something New

Oh, the things that grandmothers say. Mine has always been a big fan of acquiring knowledge. She used to nag us endlessly to sign up for all kinds of courses. And you know what? I can’t help but feeling that I should have joined that Italian exchange program. Maybe laziness wouldn’t win me over so easily these days, and I would actually speak Italian. Read More This Open Thread Is Learning Something New

How to Encourage Knowledge Building

Working with undergraduate students is one of my favorite parts of my job. I’ve written before about how exciting and formative one’s undergraduate experience can be, and I admit that I’m biased, but undergraduates are probably my favorite age-group of students to work with. However, they can be sort of tricky in the classroom. And that’s what I’ll be writing about today. Read More How to Encourage Knowledge Building

Women in Academia: Getting Back to School

Since graduate school application deadlines are coming closer and closer, and since the prospect of starting graduate school can be daunting, especially for students who have taken time off between college and grad school, today let’s talk about getting back to school. Read More Women in Academia: Getting Back to School

On Football and Calculus

Learning about football is like learning about anything else ““ you watch it and read about it and before you know it, facts have burrowed into your brain like so many ground-dwelling owls burrowing into the ground. Players’ names, and not just the ones you’re cheering for or even like, get shoved in there.  Those (usually) dudes who’d show off their football prowess at dingy old sports bars make more sense: you can’t help picking up this information, and damn if it isn’t better to try and make some use of it. Read More On Football and Calculus

Estudio Español con Rosetta Stone

In my field, fluency or even conversational Spanish is exceptionally valuable. I know a little, and I pick up languages pretty easily, but what I really want is to be able to actually speak Spanish. Like, have a conversation. Have a client come in and feel like they can trust me because I speak their language. When I worked, I loathed having to do sessions via a translator because it was so stilted and awkward. But I can’t shell out $400 for a term of Spanish classes. Enter: Rosetta Stone.  I was able to procure Rosetta Stone at an extreme discount. If you buy it off the website, each level of Rosetta Stone is $269. From my best guess, it seems like one level is about what you would learn in one term if you were taking a language class at your local community college. So, $500 for three levels is probably less than you might pay normally for three terms, but it’s still pricey.

So, how does it work? It’s very easy to use and kind of fun.There are different segments for reading, listening, speaking, and writing. You learn grammar and pronunciation, and the lessons move quickly. It works in sort of an “immersion” method, being that it just shows a picture and says or shows a word and expects you to pick up on it. There is a lot of repetition, and I think it does a good job of integrating words you’ve learned previously into future lessons. It feels very fluid.

Luis from Sesame Street pointing to a water fountain and a sign that says Agua
This is Luis from Sesame Street, sadly not a Rosetta Stone feature

The pros: I think my Spanish is improving. I am at a point where people will often stop me and ask me in Spanish for directions, and I am able to communicate enough to help them. I enjoy learning and it feels good to be challenging my brain. I try to do it for a little bit every day, but it’s flexible. This is great for people who are busy or just don’t want to make the commitment to a class.

The cons: Sometimes it doesn’t understand what I am saying, which leads me to screaming into my headset, “Sonofabitch I said CUARENTA, CUARENTA PLATOS!! Goddammit!” And still it just gives me the Wrong Answer buzz. Humiliating. Obviously since it’s a computer program, I have no way of knowing whether I actually blow at saying “forty plates” in Spanish or if it just didn’t understand me.

It’s expensive. I don’t know if I would pay full price for it if I had to, and if I lived somewhere where they didn’t feel like language classes needed to cost the equivalent of actually traveling to the country, I would probably prefer to take an actual class.

Some of the words and phrases it teaches seem a little ridiculous to me. I can now feel comfortable asking someone, in Spanish, if they speak both Chinese AND Arabic. I can tell you if milk smells bad or rice tastes good, but some more practical day-to-day stuff like ¿donde es el baño?, I have not learned yet.

Because it uses the immersion-style, it doesn’t drill verbs and verb endings into your head. For those of you who remember endless conjugation drills in school, this might be a blessing. But it also means that if I learn a new verb somewhere, I still don’t know how to conjugate it. I don’t know if this comes later on, I’m still on level 1, but I wouldn’t mind some flash card-style repetitions of present, past, and future tenses.

So would I recommend Rosetta Stone? Despite the fact that my con list here is a lot longer than my pro list, I am enjoying it and I’m glad I have it. I just think for the cost there are some things I would like to see done differently. If you are able to procure Rosetta Stone at a discount, then I recommend it without hesitation, but I wouldn’t pay full price.

In the meantime, if anyone wants to come over and have a Spanish conversation with me, well, as long as you only wanted to talk about how many cats there are and whether or not they are sleeping, then we’re good.