Learning German Week 12: Finding More Resources
If I can’t learn German with the resources I have on hand, I’m not cut out to learn German at all. I believe I’m going to do it, but the past several weeks have gotten significantly more difficult and frustrating. The reason for the difficulty is that I’ve reached a critical juncture. I understand all the basic parts of speech – conjugations and the like, and quite a bit of vocabulary. You’d think that would make it easier, and It’d be clear sailing from here. It’s actually the opposite. German, like I mentioned in an earlier article is highly idiomatic. That means most of what you hear when you listen to German isn’t reliant on simply knowing vocabulary and how to use the subjunctive (for example). Most of it depends on understanding the meaning of a phrase despite there being no literal translation into English. We say “It’s raining cats and dogs.” That expression is lost on a foreigner who only has a dictionary on hand. What does it mean? Only experience and context can tell.
Beyond Rosetta Stone:
I finished level 3 of my Rosetta Stone software; I’m going to start level 4 next week after some review of past sections. Still, I can’t understand most of what’s being said on the news, on the street, or in movies. Not surprisingly, understanding how idioms are used and how real people speak can’t really be taught in a classroom. This is not to say Rosetta Stone and other similar programs–even classroom instruction, don’t work. They work, but only in conjunction with immersive listening to real speech patterns from multiple sources. The best way to absorb that kind of learning, without living with a German, is to turn on the computer and watch some TV. This week I’ve started watching live (and recorded) streaming of German TV and listening to German talk radio. Here’s an example: Link.
These Days there’s no Excuse:
Rosetta Stone costs 700+ dollars for a 5 level program. It’s a fun way to learn a language and it’ll keep you interested and engaged; heck, it even works for the most part. But if you don’t have the money, there’s no problem. Deutsche Welle, as just one example, has an entire course (beginning to end) for free. Here; check it out. Everything a person needs to completely learn a language (just about any language) is available for free on the internet. Yes, it’s convenient to have a neat program that claims to be the only language solution you’ll ever need; it’s comforting to see a whole language condensed into 5 easy CDROM levels. It’s fun to work progressively through milestones and to know you’re making daily improvement. That’s something that makes Rosetta Stone so fun and perhaps worth the cost. But, the point is that there’s more to it than understanding the parts of speech. 15 years ago learning languages was more difficult for the very reason that our only options were either text books or all-in-one programs like Barron’s and Berlitz and the like. These days, that isn’t the case. You have access to entire languages without concern for program disc memory limitations. Everything I need, beyond and including classroom learning, is right here at my fingertips. There’s no reason to wait these days to start learning – even if all you have is just basic access to the internet. A smart phone, a little ambition, and patience are all you need in 2011 to study anytime and anywhere.