The Language Learner

I’ve tried learning new languages since I was 15. That may not necessarily be early for many people, but turning 33 this year, I believe my 17 years of language learning experience should give what little weight it deserves.

It pains my heart to hear new language learners spend their money and time on the Rosetta Stone series of language learning software. It wrenches my heart when these same people tell their language-learner-to-be friends how wonderful Rosetta Stone is.

Run a search on Rosetta Stone reviews on Google and you’ll find that only newbies are claiming how good they are.

To be fair, I’ve tried Rosetta Stone before. Only because it was free (paid for by the government for all national servicemen). I gave up after 20 minutes when it gave me a picture of a person on a horse jumping over the fence, and the Spanish word caballo. How the f*** would I know if caballo is “person” or “horse” or “ride” or “jump” or “fence?” But that it was paid for by the government shows you how strong their sales and marketing team are. Some experienced learners, however, lament how the company spends all their funds on marketing instead of improving their products.

So if you’re a new language learner, and would like to try new language learning products, I have some recommendations for you.

1) Michel Thomas
– This man is a gift brought to the world of language learning. He teaches with English and if you’re not particular about accents, this is one of the best products ever. It’s a little expensive but if your time means something to you, it’s definitely worth the cost. Just 2 hours into the CD, and I could say “What impression do you have of the political and economical situation in Spain now?” in Spanish with zero assisstance. Granted, I’m a false beginner in Spanish but my former Australian colleague could do the same in French with no prior experience in the language. This course is pure audio and has no books to read, homeworks to do, nor words to memorize. That’s the beauty of it. You can simply listen during your commute to work. Do note that Michel has passed away and in the new series, teachers are not him, although supposedly using the same method. But these new teachers are not getting as good reviews because apparently, they keep referring back to Michel saying, “As Michel would say…” That shows a lack of confidence in themselves, and for learners, if you want to teach, just teach! Don’t waste listeners’ time by repeating that meaningless phrase again and again. If you can, I suggest you get the original version by the man himself. I got mine from iTunes.

2) Assimil
– This is yet another expensive course but apparently, “Europe’s most popular” language learning product. I got mine off Amazon UK at a price steeper than Michel Thomas and I would suggest you have a mind of trying to assimilate the language rather than learn it. That’s why it’s called “Assimil.” When I tried to learn through Assimil, I realized I couldn’t proceed after some 25 chapters. And that’s only because I’m a false beginner. Complete beginners trying to learn it might give up sooner. What do I mean by that? Don’t look up the dictionary for each and every word. Try to learn like a child would―figuring out the usages as they appear time and again. This course comes with a CD and a book so you know what’s being said. But if that doesn’t suit your learning style, you can probably skip it. Given my learning style, I’m thinking of returning to it once I’m familiar with what Michel Thomas taught.

3) Pimsleur
– Frankly, I’ve never tried this so I can’t really give it a fair review. But since this was recommended by the same people who talked about Michel Thomas and Assimil, it must be good in its own right. If you do try this, let me know how it turns out.

Come to think of it, maybe Rosetta Stone was trying to make people assimilate to the language too. Although I’ve never met any multi-lingual who honed their skills through Rosetta. If you’re one of them, do tell me about it. Maybe I’m using it wrong.

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