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Misunderstandings

September 5th, 2011 · No Comments · Learning German, Software

I’ve been using Rosetta Stone language instruction software to learn German. I started with an earlier version many years ago in New York, and found it both managable and effective. But since I didn’t really need to know German, I didn’t stick to it.

Once we knew we were moving to Munich, we got the latest version and I started up again. It’s not cheap, but there’s a lot of material in there. I’m only on Level 2, and there are 5 levels.

Rosetta Stone works by only using the text or spoken language being studied combined with pictures. You then make choices. Sometimes you have to match the language to the picture, other times you select which picture matches. So for instance, you may see a picture of a cat, and three choices of text to choose from, one of which is “a cat.” Here’s a real example, with the correct choice translated into English after it:

Sunny beach day
“Yesterday the weather on the beach was good.”

The magic comes from the layering and repetition of concepts. Once you’ve got some understanding of a few basic objects and concepts, the software starts adding new ones, using the previous ones as hints. So later you may see a picture of a white cat, and three choices, and one will be “a white cat.” Since “cat” was already learned, you can deduce “white.” Eventually sequences of pictures are used to tell brief narratives.

It’s impressive how far they can go with this technique. At level 2, things are already getting complicated. However, there are times when the picture and concepts may start getting a little ambiguous. This can lead to confusion about what the words really mean.

What follows are some of these more elaborate pictures, and how I translated them incorrectly in my head.

I only had five drinks too.
“That damn stroller I hit dented my fender.”

Who had burritos?
”Someone in the theater is farting.”

And no open bar?
“I will slap you so hard if I have to go to another one of your crappy high school reunions.”

These next two were part of a sequence:

This is why we can’t have nice things.
“I didn’t do it!”

I kept the box and the receipt.
“Back to the orphanage you go.”

It turns out I haven’t learned as much as I thought.

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