Rosetta Stone Is A Rip Off. That’s No Way To Learn A Language.

Back in the old days, when people thought they could learn a language in a few months, they bought this thing called The Berlitz Method.  It was a bunch of heavy albums and books. 

Just like weight loss equipment, about 99% of this crap ended up in the trash or in the attic within a month or so because — and listen carefully — YOU CAN’T LEARN A LANGUAGE LISTENING TO TAPES OR RECORDS AND READING BOOKS.

You see, in the REAL old days, the way people learned to speak a language was by being taught the language from a very early age.  Why do you think that many western Europeans speak English so well?  The answer is because they have been studying the language in school since they were kids.  Kids can learn languages really fast —  even dumb kids.  Why do kids from the southwest who grow up knowing nothing but Spanish, learn to speak English?    Lately the move has been to not push English on Hispanics, but the kids learn anyway because that’s what nature intends — kids have sponge brains.  They can learn languages quickly!

If you put a 6-year-old American child in a French school yard and leave him be, the child will speak French without an accent within one year.  If you put the same child in a French classroom in France or Cameroon or Quebec, he (she) will learn rapidly how to communicate in proper French and by the time he is a teenager he will speak French and English without of a trace of an accent.  The reason for this is that the brain of a child is wired to learn language.  That kind of fades away as the brain gets older — in fact it pretty much vanishes after you’ve reached puberty.

So, if you want to speak a foreign language all you need to do is get a time machine and go back to your childhood.  After you’ve arrived, ask your parents to move to a country where the language you want to learn is spoken.  If you want to speak Portuguese, pack up your time-machine family and move to Portugal or Brazil or Angola.  You’ll be speaking Portuguese like a native within a year — your parents, however, will not learn anything other than hello and goodbye, and they will just be strangers in a strange land — but they have a time machine, so that’s nice.

The reason I write this is because nothing pisses me off more than these commercials for Rosetta Stone.  They paid Michael Phelps a lot of money to say a few words in Chinese during the Olympics — who cares.  Michael Phelps did not learn to speak Chinese by listening to Rosetta Stone.  It’s not possible unless he is some kind of language savant.

Hear me out on this.  If you dedicate your life for one year to Rosetta Stone — the tapes, the DVDs, the books — and you have an ear for languages (most people do not) you might be able to order in a restaurant or say hello to the green grocer, but you will never ever ever learn to actually speak the language per se — and what you do learn will sound terrible.

Learning languages is all about exposure to real life language situations. 

Let’s say you want to speak French (that seems like the new thing again) – Sorry, but you have to move to France.  You have to enroll in a school with a real French person teaching a class.  You have to live in a remote town in the far north of France where they only speak French and if you don’t speak it you’ll starve to death.   If, however, you have a good ear for languages — and in all probability you do not —  you can accomplish as much by going to school in the USA and also involving yourself in French “immersion”  stuff.   

About 6% of people have an ear for langauges — some are more keen than others.  The rest of you do not have an microscopic speck of an ear for a foreign language and no matter how hard you try, unless you’re a kid, you will only learn basic things that any chimpanzee can learn.  What’s worse is that you will NOT understand a word anyone is saying to you

You might be able to say, “The red elephant jumped over the blue dog,” but you would not understand the same sentence if someone said it to you. 

So, if you want to spend hundreds upon hundreds of dollars just so you can order in a restauarant but then be dumbstruck when the waiter asks you a question about your order, you can buy Rosetta Stone and enjoy the meal of brains basted with intestine juice you didn’t intend to order.

Language teaching to adults via various media is a rip-off.  It’s not an intentional rip-off like diet stuff or Dr. Phil books, but the people have been hawking foreign language learning material for as long as they have been hawking wrinkle creams.  Catch on?

There is a reason why the commercials show annoying American people with horrible accents ordering food in a restaurant — because that is essentially all you will learn to do.  When you go to sue Rosetta Stone after you’ve spent a few grand and  just made a complete ass out of yourself in Paris, they will say that they promised you could order in a restuarant — and you will have to admit that you can.

Don’t be a sucker!  If you want to learn French or any other language take a course at a community college and find out if you have an ear or a gift for language.  If you do, then you should proceed to take courses in a room full of people just like you who want to learn that language.  After you learn a little more, at least two-years,  you should go to immersion groups and travel groups where the instructors insist that you speak the language.   Even still, you will have to study for years and years to get it down to the point where you understand what is being said to you.  You see, that’s the key!  It doesn’t matter one ounce that you can say all the things you want to say, the key is that you need to understand what is being said to you and there is no way you will acquire that skill by wasting your money on stupid crap like Rosetta Stone.

I can speak two languages and it makes me want to crawl under a rock and die when somebody says to me, “Oh, I can speak that,” and then they proceed to say, “I will have a steak with string beans and small loaf of bread.”   It’s sickening especially because the accent is atrocious and awkward and just terrible.  I mention this because the aforementioned situation was put before me recently and when I asked the pathetic multi-lingual moron where they learned, they said, “Oh, I bought Rosetta Stone.”   As if I hadn’t already figured that out.

One thought on “Rosetta Stone Is A Rip Off. That’s No Way To Learn A Language.

  1. So I guess were all just too old and screwed when it comes to wanting to learn a language. Having lived in several other countries I can assure you that most people are quite forgiving of “atrocious and awkward” accents when you make your best effort.

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