Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur
jducoeur

Surprising fun with short words

So after thinking about it for about two years, I finally broke down and splurged (and I do mean splurged -- it's horrifyingly expensive) on the Rosetta Stone course for the one language I actually feel like I need to learn. I refer, of course, to Latin.

I've spent the past hour going through the first two lessons, and they're not kidding when they say that it's addictive. Weirdly addictive, but addictive nonetheless. These first few lessons are kind of the Black Alman of language learning: just complex enough to feel like you're working to learn it, but not actually so complex as to be in any way *hard*. It's all about repetition of little bits of knowledge, presented in a format that's almost game-like, with lots of little multiple-choice puzzles. There's a real kick of satisfaction from getting an average of about 97% on these puzzles (and generally kicking myself over the ones I miss), despite knowing intellectually that these puzzles are idiotically easy. (That said, I've always considered myself wretched at learning non-English languages, so making any progress this quickly is kinda neat.)

Of course, it's not perfect. Rosetta is somewhat cookie-cutter across all of their 30 languages, with the result that it's a slightly odd fit for Latin. It's essentially teaching conversational Latin (which is all but a contradiction in terms nowadays), and some of the nouns they use feel goofily modern when set against this language. (And consequently wind up as oddly complex phraselets like "acta diurna" and "potio Arabica" -- not exactly central to the language's heyday. Still, there's something utterly SCAdian about knowing how to talk about coffee in Latin.)

Anyway, it's fun and easy, and designed to push you along *really* fast through what amounts to individual instruction. The environment is 100% immersive -- there is no English used in the course -- so it forces you to use your brain a bit to figure out what's what rather than spoon-feeding it, and it winds up much more interesting as a result. With any luck, by the time I'm done with the full course (3 Levels of 4 Units each, of 4 Lessons each), it'll have gotten me far enough that I can at least start playing with some real texts. (At least, with a dictionary to help me figure out all the medieval vocabulary that the course undoubtedly isn't going to get into...)
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