Skip to content

Kneel and pray and you will speak Korean.

Rosetta Stone is a little bit bananas. I don’t think I fully grasp what it’s trying to do, or rather, if it’s doing something, it’s doing it well below the threshold of perception. Perhaps my language center is being rewired in some subtle way? Maybe? Hopefully. Because if that isn’t happening, I just spent $400 on a load of horse effluvium. I know, I know. The Peace Corps and the US Military. Millions and millions of people learning languages all around the world. I know, but this just doesn’t feel effective yet.

Take for example the lesson I just spent the last hour going through. I scored a 95% overall. Good, right? Totally, except that I categorically did not understand 95% of what happened. Maybe 60%, and that was with the pictures and the pronunciation guide sitting in front of me. Can I replicate or in any way use the vocabulary and syntax I just “learned”? No. Not if my life depended on it. On paper, I can translate the sentences for which they have given me pictures. Take for example:

사람둘이 요리룰 안헤요. 밥울막어요.
Saram duri yoridul an heyo. Pabul magayo.
The people are not cooking. They are eating food. (Or something. I think?)

That’s sort of impressive, right? Well, let me remind you that they have not formally taught me the ALPHABET yet, so technically, I’m ahead of the curve, but…

Wait a minute. What am I talking about? That’s actually really impressive. I didn’t know that was in me until I tried to be all histrionic about how I don’t understand anything… Woah… So, it might be working a little… Well, that takes the wind out of this post’s sails.

However, even post-epiphany, I maintain that Rosetta Stone has some defects! A major part of the program relies on a pronunciation checking algorithm, but  technology has not met necessity: as long as you approximate the meter of the phrase, the program gives you a pass. Somehow I don’t think that’ll fly in country. And, as I’ve said, most of my facility with translation is the result of work I’ve done unrelated to the Rosetta Stone curriculum. And, it would have been a lot easier if someone had just said, “Hey, when you want to say you’re not doing something, stick 안 after the verb.” But, yeah. They’ve got me; it’s working. The lessons may feel either too easy (we repeatedly reviewed the Korean word for sandwich [샌드위치: san du ichi]) or totally overwhelming (try pronunouncing: 여자는 자동차를 운전하지 않습니다), but there’s a subtle method at work.

This feeling is preparation for living abroad, isn’t it? Crap. For the next few years I’m going to be the guy running after the train with a hand on his hat and his luggage open and flapping. Well, that’s what I signed up for, I suppose. If it’s between a clusterfuck and boredom, I choose the clusterfuck.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Rob #

    I hope you don’t take this as me spamming you but I just read your post and totally understand and think I can help.

    I actually ended up teaching korean for the exact reasons hou’re talking about – not being given the proper explanations needed to actually understand the language and how it works. I went through it and so have a lot of people I know. Again, it’s the reason my site exists.

    Anyways, if you care to check it out, I’d suggest starting here…

    And either way, good luck with your adventure!



    January 24, 2012

Join in!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: