Instant Language, Just Add Software

By Stollznow, Karen | Skeptic (Altadena, CA), Winter 2010 | Go to article overview

Instant Language, Just Add Software


Stollznow, Karen, Skeptic (Altadena, CA)


WHETHER YOU'RE A VEGETARIAN WHO wants to avoid accidentally ordering steak tartare in a French restaurant, or you're wanting to speak more than the international language of love with your Spanish spouse, sometimes we have sufficient incentive to learn a new language, but insufficient time. Learning a second language for the purposes of work, travel, mobility or hobby, is big business. There are a plethora of language software programs to meet this demand; and to meet our demand for quick fixes.

Let's investigate some of the pseudoscientific claims of language learning software products. First and Second Language Acquisition theory comes under the discipline of Applied Linguistics, where any language other than the native tongue is deemed a "second" or additional language. Second language software is categorized as a form of Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL). However, some companies claim to do more than assist in second language acquisition, they claim to accelerate this process.

In their software sound bites, each claims to be the "number one selling product" that employs the "fastest" or "easiest" method. If you believe the marketing hype, you'll be speaking the second language of your choice in "30 days" "a week," "from your first lesson," "in fifteen minutes" "ten minutes" "five minutes," "instantly," or even "now!" The Conversational French in 7 days program guarantees to teach you exactly that. Speak in a Week "guarantees you will be speaking French within a week's use of Speak in a Week or your money back:' Berlitz guarantees that their "most comprehensive beginner's course available will have you speaking French with confidence from your very first lesson." Eyewitness Travel's 15 minute French guarantees that "in just 15 minutes you can speak and understand French." Learn French Now guarantees you can "teach yourself to learn in just five minutes." What the programs actually guarantee is that you'll likely receive rude service in a French cafe.

These company's assertions are overstated, but it's what they don't say that consumers need to know. The product blurbs don't reveal how many weeks, lessons, or five-minute sessions are required; and they don't define their concept of "speaking" the new language within these time frames. Accelerated language-learning courses are like speed-reading programs, in which you'll only pick up key words and concepts. If you speed learn, you'll often speed forget. You won't learn very much either. Software claims would be far less amazing if the manufacturers advertised the realities: "Learn Japanese in 800 hours" or "Learn how to speak ten words in French, conjugate the copula, and make some clumsy attempts to mimic the French accent in just one week."

There is no average or "normal" time frame for learning a second language. Depending on the difficulty of the language and quality of learning, it can take several hundred hours to develop basic competency in a second language, and hundreds more hours to become fluent. If you're an absolute beginner, armed with just five, ten, fifteen minutes or even a week's worth of self-taught Russian, you'd still only be able to find the Kremlin, order a vodka, and swear at a few people.

As an extreme example, the U.S. Defense Language Institute's instruction spans "five days a week, seven hours per day, with two to three hours of homework each night. Courses last between 26 and 64 weeks"' (1) This also quashes some claims that the Armed Forces use software products exclusively for language training. (2)

The learning process can be affected by factors such as method, time availability, aptitude, and the historical-linguistic relation of any known languages to the target language. But the most critical factor for learning a second language successfully is motivation. Economic, political or personal motivation is likely to inspire you to learn, and learn faster. For instance, do you need to learn a language because you've moved to a foreign country, you can't speak or understand the local language, and you won't find work without it? …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Instant Language, Just Add Software
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.