Tuesday, May 06, 2008

shall I make a logical informed decision... or just go with pasta

I'm thinking of buying the Rosetta Stone level 1 software for Italian.

Alipé showed me the version for Mandarin, and it looks fun. One task asked him to match a photo to the sentence "This flower is big." Choice A was a tiny clover under a magnifying glass. Choice B was a little girl holding the stem of a two-foot-tall super-daisy. The girl was cute. The flower was cute. Good job, Rosetta Stone.

Anyhow, my reason for learning Italian is to visit Venice for a couple weeks this winter. That desire arose after I, along with every other woman in the United States, read the book Eat, Pray, Love. The "Eat" portion takes place in Italy. It was frivolous reading about the author spending her days eating pasta. Yet now I'm consumed with a desire to learn Italian. Good job, book.

However, I think this is a poor reason for choosing a new language to learn. It would be wiser to use factors like influence in world affairs and socio-literary culture, in which case Italian is not in the top ten.

Or I can learn from Richard Feynman's error, and base my decision on ridiculous reasons:

And since I didn't know yet where I was going to end up in South America, I decided to take Spanish, because the great majority of the countries there speak Spanish.

So when it was time to register for the class, we were standing outside, ready to go into the classroom, when this pneumatic blonde came along. You know how once in a while you get this feeling, WOW? She looked terrific. I said to myself, "Maybe she's going to be in the Spanish class - that'll be great!" But no, she walked into the Portuguese class. So I figured, What the hell - I might as well learn Portuguese.

I started walking right after her when this Anglo -Saxon attitude that I have said, "No, that's not a good reason to decide which language to speak." So I went back and signed up for the Spanish class, to my utter regret.

Some time later I was at a Physics Society meeting in New York, and I found myself sitting next to Jaime Tiomno, from Brazil, and he asked, "What are you going to do next summer?"

"I'm thinking of visiting South America."

"Oh! Why don't you come to Brazil? I'll get a position for you at the Center for Physical Research."

So now I had to convert all that Spanish into Portuguese!


Christophe said...

1 - learn french
2 - drink wine, eat some french cheese

sound good ;)

Ze said...

I'm portuguese and love your blog!

Step said...

I can't help too much, as I'm terribly biased towards language learning in general.

I can tell you that I find the Rosetta Stone software to be absolutely the best way out there (short of doing it the right way and actually moving to the country) of learning a language.

So I heartily encourage your language-learning exercises, and the relative importance of the language is, as Feynman aptly noted, not so easily discernible for your own journey. :)

Anonymous said...

Bah, you're not considering the most important factor: sexiness. Italian wins hands-down.

ArC said...

Why didn't the book make you want to eat pasta or possibly cook it?

Anonymous said...

Venice is amazing, but you don't need to learn Italian if you want to visit. The city is like Disneyland for adults -- 99% of the people you will see there are tourists, and the Italians all speak English fluently. Definitely worth visiting, though.


Eric said...

hey, where did you get that feynman story? i love basically everthing he's put into writing [aside from the papers on physics he's published, i can't wrap my head around that] and i'd like to find some more if i could

Alejandro Sierra said...

Actually Feynman was not quite wrong. After learning Spanish it must have been much easier for him to learn Portuguese.

Take a look at this interesting article about language learning.

Anonymous said...

Nana, read this before buying Rosetta Stone. Not that it will change your mind but it might introduce some other factors into your decision making:

Anonymous said...

FYI: Italian men are EXTREMELY hairy.

Anonymous said...

Nothing wrong with hairy. In fact this plucked chicken look that Americans espouse is not normal. Hairy is sexy.

ArC said...

By the way, does the R*setta St*ne software work? I find myself unreasonably skeptical of something that advertises on TVs and has kiosks at the mall.

Anon, the Wired article is great reading.

John K. Lin said...

Funny, I was thinking of visiting Italy, but I don't think I'm that motivated to learn Italian. Maybe dating an Italian woman to learn Italian would be more fun than learning from a computer (or in your case, dating a hairy Italian man).

"Eat, Pray, Love" sounds like "chick lit" to me, and reminds me for some reason a review I saw on "Under the Tuscan Sun," where one reviewer called the movie "yuppie porn" which I found funny.

The user reviews on Amazon.com for the different language versions of Rosetta Stone seem to be pretty good. Let us know what you think once you've used Rosetta Stone a lot more.

metal said...

Having PERSONALLY OWNED a rosetta stone, I have to say that its a great STUDY AID, but on its own it boarders on pretty useless. You'll very quickly reach a point where you can no longer identify what the image is telling you.

If you happen to have a friend who is fluent in italian or speaks it at least moderately you may find that the combination of the two will teach you a reasonable amount of the language. As for me, I purchased the korean version and constantly find myself asking my korean coworker to translate the things for me.

metal said...

on second thought, what I described might only be an issue with languages not using the roman alphabet.

the language you picked


looks to have decent reviews

Anonymous said...

We just had 6 engineers from Italy working in Sunnyvale on a project.

They were well dressed, stylish, good looking...

As well as quite talented.

They did nice work between smoke breaks.

One of the first things they told us was that Italian food was the best and others were not worth tasting.

Having worked there in the past I may agree...

Then after a few days I got close to few of them.. Man oh man.. They stink so bad.

We "Americans" started talking about the stench and tried to keep a larger personal space away from them.

We went to dinner and out party a few times.

As is normal with men we start to rip on each other.

My friend said..

"WTF why don't you guys bathe you stinky Italian Bastards"

They did not take it like a typical male barb with a laugh and terse rebuttal.

The one guy said matter of factly...

"You have to smell like a man for your woman to really desire you"

Enjoy yout Italian man Niniane.

dtf said...

I was in Italy last year for about 3 weeks. I borrowed the Pimsleur Italian I CD's before I went. What I found out (when I got there) was that most everyone (younger than 50 years old) speaks English... but it's always fun to learn the native language.

If you like large crowds, you will really like Venice. As someone else had written, 99% of the people there are tourist.. and it's packed like Disneyland. If you are in Italy for 2 weeks, I would recommend going and visiting other places. I personally would recommend visiting Lake Como. The city of Como is so-so, but many of the surrounding towns are really beautiful (e.g. Bellagio, Varenna, Lenno (Villa Balbianello)). Varenna is only 2 train rides away from Venice.. :)

pokai said...

Easier to learn a language, if you have a boyfriend that speaks that language.

Anonymous said...

To get to Venice, you can fly into Marco Polo airport (in Venice), but you might price flying into Malpensa airport in Milan. A simple train will get you into Venice. The prices and schedules into Milano are (at least used to be) much better.

This would also give you a chance to see the cathedral in Milan (a huge gothic cathedral), and the nearly-as-impressive train station (fascist architecture).

Anonymous said...

If you know English there is little economic reason to learn another language.

Al international pilots must speak it.

It is the international language of the law, of the UN.

All programming languages use it in the best developed versions.

Men in general seldom become persue more than the mother tounge and then English.

That being said....Nothing helps me learn a new language like a cute girl.

Evandro Lins said...

"So now I had to convert all that Spanish into Portuguese!"

this end look like a joke :P

I'm brazilian and trying to learn Japanese, but don't have an good reason to learn Nihongo. :P

if you're still trying to learn an language visit this site: www.livemocha.com