Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

My Rosetta Stone Blog - 3 Where Is the Context?

On I go ... Learning with Rosetta Stone: Latin American Spanish:  Level 1 - Unit 1 - Core Lesson

Context helps you to learn, right?

I'm learning plenty of new vocabulary: (all through pictures) includes sandwich, egg, apple, bread, coffee, milk, rice; dog, cat, horse, fish; adults, children; drives/drive, has/have; pen, book, bicycle, and others.

But let's look at how grammar points are taught.
- The word and concept "and" is practiced extensively: bread and water, a girl and a woman, the man and the woman eat rice, etc.
- Besides joining words with “and,” this Core lesson also teaches basic negation.

If we agree with Andy Hunt whose mantra in "Pragmatic Thinking and Learning" (p.6) is “Always Consider the Context" - because it is important for understanding the world around us - then context is also crucial for language learning.

In the Core Lesson of Unit 2, Rosetta Stone teaches negation in a curiously non-contextual way. We see two pictures and learn: "The woman is driving" and "The man is driving."

The next two pictures show first a boy and then a girl sitting in the back of a car, and we learn: "The boy is not driving" and "The girl is not driving." OK. They're sitting in the car and they're not driving. That's true.

The exercise goes on: A picture follows showing a group of men and women running, and learn: "The adults are not cooking." Another picture shows a group of kids running around, and learn: "The children are not writing." Another picture shows a boy eating, and I learn: "The boy is not sleeping," etc. This goes on for a while. I do get how to express basic negation: You add "no" before the verb.

But I don't think that the method really reflects how we (children or adults) understand and learn to express negation. A child doesn't automatically think: "The boy is not sleeping" - when he or she sees a boy running around. Rather, the child may think something like, "Why can't I run too!"

When I see an object, let's say "a pen," I don't spontaneously say to myself: "That's not an apple." But I might think: "That's not a good pen!" or "That's not my pen."

The Core Lesson for Unit 2 winds up with a series pictures and corresponding questions which require a “yes” or “no” answer. In one of the pictures we see girl eating an apple. We are asked "Is she eating an apple?" The answer is, “Yes, she is eating an apple.”

In the next picture, we see a girl sleeping, and we are asked "Is she eating an apple?" The answer is “No, she is not eating an apple.” I could also say, “No, she is definitely not eating an apple.” But first I must learn the word “definitely” in Spanish ...

What's next? Blog #4: Structure is Not Everything