Recently, I wrote about the unlikely circumstances that culminated in my arrival and, ultimately, long-term residence in Berlin. Also on that list of "things I never thought would happen" would be my fluency in the German language. I went through the better half of my life only speaking my native tongue (English) and had about as much interest learning other languages and grammar as I did stabbing myself repeatedly in the eye with an ice pick (because what real other usage is there for an icepick than inflicting pain? Am I right, or am I right, Catherine Tramell?) - which is to say zero. This is surprisingly funny, because my life was always closely connected to foreign languages.
Like most Americans in the public school system, my academic relationship with languages began in the 8th grade and continued into the 12th. This relationship was pretty one-sided, with Spanish and Latin calling me up all the time, pretending to want to hang out and shit when really all they wanted to do was conjugate and translate words for hours. Needless to say, I graduated high school barely understanding the concept of direct and indirect objects.
My personal relationship with languages began much earlier. I was adopted from South Korea at 4 months old and shipped halfway across the world to a small southern town called Chantilly. There, I made my way into my new home. I was too young to have had learnt any Korean, so my mother tongue ended up being English. My adoptive parents, new york transplants, happened to be Jewish, so I grew up learning Hebrew. It's all a lot less impressive than it sounds, as I only learned how to phonetically read in order to recite religious prayers. To be honest, I wasn't exactly good at the language. This probably had a lot to do with the fact that learning prayers for Wednesday evening and Sunday morning religious school was the last thing I really wanted to do as a kid. Still, I credit my early exposure to a foreign language with helping me establish an understanding for languages as an adult. Because, in the end, I actually turned out to be pretty damned good at languages. The missing ingredient had just been the whole bit about actually being, you know, interested in languages.
This interest was finally sparked in university, when I decided to take Korean. My reasons were purely personal and not at all academic. It was a link to my lost heritage, a way to get closer to the culture of my homeland. (I had actually begun to learn Korean in high school at one of the local Korean churches in my hometown, but it was tailored for Korean Americans who already had a basic grasp of the language from growing up with it.) I didn't all of a sudden grow to love grammar, and I still did most of my studying last minute, but the language seemed to make logical sense to me. Unfortunately, as the class was independent study and only met once a week, there wasn't any real way for me to progress to any true level of fluency.
I don't exactly remember what happened, but I think I had to focus on other areas of study and learning Korean just sort of fell in rank of urgency. Knowing how to recite the time in Korean wasn't going to get my ass a degree - taking and passing classes in my major would. Fast forward to my decision to come to Germany, and my true love for languages was finally realized as I busted my butt to learn basic German over the summer before moving to Berlin. I can now speak German fluently, and although it did take a lot of hard work and commitment, I also feel as though the language just made sense to me. It wasn't all that difficult to learn. My grammar is still not perfect, as I learnt the bulk of my more complex German here in Berlin through usage and not in a classroom, but just the ability to communicate in another language without having to translate first is one of the most amazing gosh-darn feelings in the world. I can't even imagine a non bi-lingual life.
I have also not forgotten my goal of learning Korean, which has again become a focus for me not only now that I have "finished" learning German and have the mental space to take on another language but also because I plan to return to Korea in the near future. I didn't really have the time for more school, what with work and all, so I began trying to learn a bit from the Korean woman, whom I babysit for. She is the sweetest woman ever, but trying to learn a language from someone with no prior experience in teaching languages never really works out. As luck would have it, however, the language gods took pity on my struggle and granted me the gift of at-home learning; About a month ago, I was given the opportunity to use Rosetta Stone's online course, TOTALe.
Now before you get all mad and feel all betrayed and shit because this post has ended up including a sponsored item, I want you guys to know that I spend the majority of the time turning down most sponsored offers. I just do not have it in me to accept shittons of free things I would have never normally bought or frankly do not like. At the same time, the job of a blogger is a labor and time intensive one, and if a company would like to offer a product that I actually can see myself buying and using and if I also think a review could be beneficial to you guys, I think there is nothing wrong with doing so while still retaining my integrity. But more on that in a future post. Now that I got that out of the way, I am here to say that although I just started using TOTALe for Korean, my honest opinion is that it is a pretty damned good learning tool, especially for those who are out of university and do not have the time to sign up for night classes, but still want to tackle a foreign language. You can learn at your own pace and even repeat lessons, should you have to take any long hiatuses away from the computer. That being said, having to attend a regular class would increase your chances of consistent learning, but this is definitely a nice option for us busy bees. At $299 for twelve months, this baby is not cheap. Still, when I consider the hundreds I dropped for a month-long course at Goethe Institut for German, $299 is quite the bargain.
I confess that I have only had time to complete lesson two, and having already learnt the alphabet previously, I have a bit of a leg up on the game - but the way rosetta stone works is extremely logical and intuitive and doesn't even feel all that much like learning. New words are learned by association and process of elimination. TOTALe also reads aloud all of the phrases and words introduced in each lesson, which helps guarantee that you aren't going to completely fuck up the pronunciation, because who wants to be completely fluent in a foreign language if no one can understand a damned word coming out of your mouth? Sure, you could buy a workbook and try to learn, say Icelandic all on your own, but take my word for it - if you can't simply move to iceland and start engaging with locals straight away, do the next best thing - sign up for a course or be lazy like me and do it in your pijamas from the comfort of your bed.
add me on facebook
follow me on bloglovin