- Ada, Oklahoma


August 1, 2012

The mother of learning

Ada —  

I am trying to learn Spanish using Rosetta Stone. I started my column last week this same way.  As I can be obsessively focused on projects from time to time, this might be a recurring theme for a while.

Rosetta Stone teaches language by the immersion method.  You have  the language thrown at you.  It comes in audio recordings and in written words and sentences; sometimes the two are mixed and sometimes not.  You will never be told that the word "perro" means dog. You will be shown pictures of dogs paired with the written and spoken word and gradually you get the idea.  

The danger here, depending upon how carefully the pictures are chosen, is that you might discern that the word "perro" means ball or cute little sweater or hiked leg or whatever.

Sentences are even harder than words.

At  first when you are listening to sentences, it all sounds like babel.  It’s jibber-jabber between pauses. But after a while--hours and hours of listening--something begins to happen. You begin to hear differences.  You begin to be able to pick out a word or two in the sentences and then you can guess what the sentence means.  

Sometimes I even get it right. 

It started off pretty quickly.  I’ve learned a bit of Spanish along the way by watching cowboy movies, eating at El Charro, going to Paraguay, and shopping at JC Penny’s.  

But  there came a point where everything was new and the going got tougher.  Instead of getting the 98 percent on the lesson, I was getting 55 or lower.  It would be easy to get discouraged, but I decided it was these lessons I was  learning the most from.

These  lessons I had to go back over.  I had to do it again and again, sometimes a letter at a time.  It was here that I not only learned more of the language, but I learned more about  the process of learning. 

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