Thursday, March 22, 2012
Sprechen sie anything?
I've already voiced my regret about never having mastered a language for which it's necessary to memorize such phrases as "Where's the bathroom?" and "How much for the beer?" So the promise of learning French, Spanish and German in just 18 weeks and for only a few bucks (don't be misled by the pricetags—I did not pay $4 for any of these box sets) is an appealing notion. Take that, Rosetta Stone! Actually, what is Rosetta Stone, precisely? For quite a few years, I passed those airport kiosks, assuming it was some sort of spiritual guide—something about the graphics suggested Dianetics to me. I've since learned that it's a pricey language instruction system, geared toward multitasking, self-improving types who listen to audiobooks instead of an endless loop of Howard Stern repeats on Sirius. In other words, not me. (Right now I'm struggling to finish this post because I'm distracted by "This Week in Howard History." But does the fact that I'm drinking my daily iced nonfat latte while laundry spins in the next room make me a multitasker?)
Anyway. The Living Language Course records—published by Crown in the 1950s and allegedly developed by WWII experts who employed a special "speed-method" to teach languages to soldiers heading overseas—make regular appearances at estate sales here in San Antonio, presumably because this is such a military town. I can't help buying them because (a) the boxes are pretty, and (b) because I have a plan to make my kids listen to them, especially my sponge-like multitasking five-year-old, who'd probably be happy to spin a few language-instruction platters if she could just stop listening to the audiobooks of D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths read by Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier, Matthew Broderick, Vincent Price and Kathleen Turner. But she can't stop.