Rosetta Stoned

August 2, 2010

It started out fresh, exciting, like no program I’ve ever dated before.  I liked its occasionally violent pictures and instant feedback.

It was so much different than Spanish classes, with their grammar,conjugations, and de-personalized instruction.  I laughed at the old days: harried teacher assigning exercises from a worn textbook, totally removed from the context of actual conversation.  Quizzes at the start of class and feeble attempts at dialogue.

‘Como estas?’

‘Asi, asi. Why too?

My Spanish teacher had just graduated from college.  She didn’t believe in grading, or even teaching.  Learning was a process of discovery.  One day she told me to translate some Don Quixote on the board.  With her back turned, I cleaned out some belly button lint onto her shoulder pads.  My peers sat dumbfounded at this startling sign of disrespect from an otherwise withdrawn youth.  She turned around in time to give me a detention.  My dad called it like it was: a shameful act of defiance from an uncivilized punk who was raised better.

Mike Geraghty Sr.

Rosetta Stone was showing me the way, the new way.  It removed all temptation to publicly de-lint my belly button.  B and I were now part of a secret club of progressive language learners.  The only way to learn was through intuition, like Rosetta offered, not mindless translation.  They even give you grades and let you go back and fix mistakes.  We were getting 100% on every lesson.  We were motivating each other.

I can’t say when it became utter and total slog, but it did.  Previously engaging lessons featuring children falling from fences now felt like an insipid void.  I would tell myself to do Rosetta and then read someone’s Twitter page for two hours.  I would go to the gym.  Take a nap.  Really anything to avoid the anvil-sized language software that hung around my neck.

I would finally commit to doing it and be laughably unproductive.  I started falling asleep at the dining room table and dreaming of images of my father, smiling from ear to ear, with a broken nose.  B, who is a hundred times more disciplined than me with the program, was also afflicted.  She would smile and say, ‘I’m going to do some Rosetta in the bedroom.’  This was code for ‘I’ll be asleep in eighteen minutes.’

We both tricked ourselves into thinking that closing your eyes while doing Rosetta was essential.  We used specious logic: not seeing the pictures and just listening to the voice will actually help us.  Like any addicts enabling each other, our world started falling apart.  We weren’t getting any of the lessons done.  Our once great plan of fluency before Spain had fallen apart.

We had an intervention in mid-July.  Regardless of how much fun we’re not having, we must do Rosetta every night, for at least thirty minutes.  It must be in a well-lit room.  We need to check in with each other- not to commiserate – to share what we learned.

So that’s where we are.  A couple weeks into our new and structured regiment. It’s more realistic now.  The infatuation has passed through us: now it’s like real work. Like this dude trying to fix his dishwasher:


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