Okay, I admit it; when it comes to learning a foreign language it wouldn’t be unfair to accuse me of being somewhat lazy. During my high school years, I scraped by in Spanish and ventured only one semester of French as an undergraduate. On my honeymoon this summer, we’re going to France and the Czech Republic. When expressing to friends and acquaintances my concern over language barriers, they give a wave of the hand and say, “Oh they speak English everywhere!” Yes that’s true, but we Americans are smart enough to learn a few phrases here and there, no?
I’ve been dabbling with the ROSETTA STONE LANGUAGE LIBRARY. It’s a CD-ROM program and it uses pictures and audio to teach common phrases. It reverts back to a Sesame Street or Electric Company method to teaching. Now, there are a few pros and cons as should be expected with any technological devices.
Firstly, it is not cheap! In fact, each level costs over $200. Secondly, there is no English translation provided so one just assumes that “Die Katze ist schwarze” means “The cat is black” since there is a corresponding picture. One might assume that since the cat is climbing a tree, the phrase translates into: “The cat climbs.”
So, how to avoid the cost and ambiguity pitfalls? Of course, you can take a copy of the program out at your library. Plan to wait, however, as there are quite a few people who have them on hold. You can also go to the New York Public Library’s website and apply for a NYPL card which allows you access to a smaller version of the program. ANY NEW YORK STATE RESIDENT is eligible to get a card! And as far as translating what the phrases literally mean, go to a translation site. Google and Altavista have terrific translation sites. Buona Fortuna!