Learning a Language Cure for Symptoms of Baldness?

by Translation Guy on September 24, 2010

Every time I’m at International Departures at Kennedy, I’ve got to laugh when I see the Rosetta Stone language learning kiosk. I can imagine the checklist of the international traveller who stops off there to pick up a language program. Let’s see… socks, toothbrush, passport, and, right, pick up a language at the airport.

Is the plan to learn the language on the flight over? Or is it just no plan at all? I’ve tried it, when I was selected by the University of New Mexico as an exchange student with my Japanese University (Kansai Gaidai). In typical UNM student fashion, I decided it would be easier to put off learning the language until departure. In a 14 hour flight, I mastered “yes” and “thank you,” and was still working on “no” when we arrived in Narita. In retrospect, I think my study time would have been better spent had I concentrated on learning “where is the bathroom?”

So I got a kick out of the survey sponsored by Rosetta Stone that finds Americans fear their lack of multilingual skills may cost them high-paying U.S. jobs.

Tom Adams, Rosetta Stone president and CEO, believes that speaking more than one language is no longer just an asset in today’s job market; it is a requirement. “The United States risks falling behind in the global economy if we do not strive to be a multilingual society,” he says.

Aside from the fact that the U.S. is a one of the most multilingual of societies in global history, what does multilingualism have to do with economic growth?  In a May 2010 speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, “An issue that affects our ability to compete and collaborate on the world stage [is] the need to increase the foreign-language fluency and cultural awareness of all our students.” I am genuinely curious to know if there is any basis in fact for this statement. I always thought learning a foreign language was to meet girls, or boys, depending on gender preference. Well, according to the survey, many Americans share that view:

“Roughly half of women (48 percent) think someone who speaks multiple languages is sexier than someone with a full head of hair. Additionally, more than four in five (84 percent) Americans are impressed by someone who speaks more than one language fluently―and 62 percent believe people who speak more than one language are smarter than the average person.” Wow, for the follicly challenged, 48% is pretty good odds.

I’ve never used the software, although I hear it’s good, but the price point is a little too rich for my blood, and the time required to pick up another language or two is just not in my schedule. I would imagine that’s a problem for a lot of multilingual wannabes, too. But we buy this kind of thing anyway, and with the best of intentions. I suspect that this is because purchase with intent provides the same endorphin rush as actually doing it, and with far less trouble. I would be willing to bet that the vast majority of those Rosetta Stone boxes end up in the garage stacked on top of a dusty Nordic Track. Derek Siverson speaks on TED about the danger of publically affirming goals. Saying you’re going to do it is a really positive experience, which waters down the emotional pay-off of actually doing it. But when talking hair loss, all bets are off. If Rosetta Stone represents a cure for the effects of baldness, it might just be worth a try.



  1. Eddie Alva says:

    Interesting statistics! I have met a lot of people who have been amazed by the fact that I know two languages, and study two others. I believe one really needs to have a passion for learning languages, or else one doesn’t learn them as well. Though some people’s standards are different than others. Oh, and plenty of women find French, Italian, and Spanish speaking men sexy. It’s a fact!

  2. Manaia22 says:

    Just do not waste neither your money nor your time to these kind of language gimmicks! The only thing they do is make you repeat simple things like a parrot, nothing else, so they are badly overrated, overhyped and overpriced. Cash-in for absolutely nothing, as they will never be able to replace real face-to-face language lessons nor other learning activities. RS lacks all the grammar bits and many more parts of the language, so it does NOT bring anyone anywhere near fluent in ANY language whatsoever.

    You need to make the language learning as FUN and INTERESTING for yourself as you can, so try to find topics that interest you. Forget the very inefficient memorization techniques, instead, use the language as much as you can and in as many different ways as possible! Read, write, listen, speak, understand, communicate, and above all, have FUN!

  3. doglips says:

    If someone wanted to come up with an innovative language learning software package, something that would truly stand out among the competition, what should they do? Surely, claiming that their language program uses “an immersion method” would be far from unique. Many a language software developer from the time when computer instruction became a fad until now has announced to the world that a potential user should expect to be fully immersed into the desired language, perhaps in a manner that resembles how children acquire their native languages. It is also important to assure users that they will not have to learn any formal grammar rules, do exercises and memorize countless rules, exceptions, vocabulary and speech patterns. Really, it would be a challenge to find a language software package that does not claim to be based on “immersion”. There may be a simple explanation for this. While books are still being published to accommodate traditional methods of language instruction the world of multimedia creates a general sense that some shortcuts can be taken. You just pop a CD in a computer, put on headphones and voil! in a few hours you know French! Does it really work that way? You guessed it, it doesn’t. But what does work? How is it possible that Rosetta Stone, one of the methods that claim to be using this “immersion technique” clearly stands out from the crowd and enjoys a growing popularity?

  4. leaffan1967 says:

    It’s great that you want to learn a foreign language, but it sounds like you are looking for a single solution packed neatly in a box.

    Unfortunately, such a solution doesn’t exist. Rosetta Stone is a great way to ENHANCE your foreign language studies, but it is not meant to be a single solution to all your foreign language learning needs. As a matter of fact, it’s stated in their learning guide that you should practice foreign language learning outside of their course as well.

    If you want a good idea of what their system is like, I would suggest going to their website and checking out their free online demo.

  5. scampbell says:

    Love it Ken, excatly RE: Rosetta stone and the brand new, unopened box, in the garage!

  6. I keep reading/hearing that it is great, and makes learning a language easy for on your own. But I also keep reading/hearing that it just teaches you words and not how to speak it. I’m only interested in the program if I can learn to speak/converse/write the language when I’m done with it. Maybe not completely fluently, but enough to hold conversations and speak/understand the language.

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