I have a problem. I am started to become addicted to learning new languages, without “finishing” the previous one! Cause of all evil: an advertisement on Skype for the Pimsleur method of language learning. If you haven’t seen their advertisement video, check it out here, it is quite fun. And as the video went on, I switched between outrage (see my previous Monday morning rant…) and curiosity. The Pimsleur method promises that you can learn any language, in 10 days, with only 30 minutes a day. No grammar, no vocabulary, just listening to your i-pod, and voila! Well, they do modify the “voila” a little bit, saying that you might not be fluent, but you will be able to talk with, and like a native. (I found that particularly interesting, they promise you won’t have any accent!). After studying Chinese for over 7 years, continuously trying to improve my English, and having the feeling that I am gradually loosing my native language (Dutch), I am very suspicious of any program that promises me “easy” language acquisition. But how can you resist $9.95 for fluency in a completely foreign language? Call me cheap, but I just had to order one. I decided that I really want to put their promises to the test — that you can learn ANY language in 10 days — so I choose the one language that I have absolutely no knowledge of, and that seemed far enough from any of the language I do speak: Eastern Arabic. For a minute, I feared the FBI, CIA, or USCIS, might come knocking on my door, questioning why I wanted to learn this so-called “critical” language, but as the FBI itself apparently uses the Pimsleur method (or so claims the Pimsleur organization), I decided it should be fine. Just about a week later I received my four cd’s and was all ready to go. Except…Except for the fact that I just started to learn Spanish using this webpage called Duolingo, a project that aims to translate the entire web using users like you and me that want to learn a new language. Basically, you get a simple language course, including reading, writing, listening, and speaking, and at the same time you can translate “real” sentences from the web. It’s a really cool way to learn a language, because you get to work with authentic material from day one, a quality that very little methods offer. So here I am learning (funny) sentences like “El oso come arroz” (the bear eats rice), and at the same time translating webpages about floating lamps (I don’t have a pool), steak recipes (even though I’m a vegetarian), and the newest model Ford (I barely drive). It’s a lot of fun to see how much you can do with a little practice (and a roll-over, pop-up dictionary, admittedly)!
I listened to 15 minutes of Eastern Arabic, before I realized that I might be stretching it a bit (although there are certainly people who would deny this). I still need to keep up (or rather, desperately improve) my Chinese, using wonderful Chinesepod, and maintain my English. In the near future, I might have good reasons to improve my German (as if having a German boyfriend itself is not enough :)), my 2 terms of Japanese are rapidly fading away, and I really want to visit my Peruvian friend in Sevilla this summer, so it would be nice if I could get beyond the animal vocabulary with my Spanish. I am afraid I will have to wait a couple of months to find out if the Pimsleur method can actually live up to its promise. But who knows, maybe I’ll be talking to you in fluent Arabic next time!