Thursday, January 25, 2018

More disconcerting language learning exercises

It sometimes appears that publishers of language learning materials can't think of some useful example sentences for students to practice. Sometimes the examples they come up with can be downright disturbing, such as talking about a man who follows women, as I wrote about here.

I haven't used language learning materials geared toward the basic consumer market in some time (think Berlitz, Pimsleur, etc.); I much more prefer the more academic approach. However, I recently needed to test the software from one of the big guys in the world of language learning.

Cue the insane example of a sentence to learn, and the corresponding picture:

"The man is reading a burning newspaper."

I had so, so many questions after seeing this, including:

1. Why the h-e-double-hockey-sticks is this man reading a burning newspaper?!
2. Is this some sort of social commentary on the dangers of censorship in the media?
3. Why is he not perturbed that his newspaper is burning?
4. Why does he appear to be standing in the middle of a lane of traffic?!
5. Is his hand not getting burned by the fire?
6. When am I going to say, in German, that a person is reading a burning newspaper?
(From my cultural observations from living here, it doesn't seem that people read burning newspapers.)
7. Why would the course designers think this is a useful phrase to learn?
8. (From my experience in marketing/stock photos): Did they actually do a photoshoot where the man had to hold a burning newspaper? How'd they get him to agree? What kind of liability insurance did they need for this? Or was the fire photoshopped in?

The entire diatribe above is why I'm not a major fan of the "quick and easy" (not) learning without a teacher. A lot of time the CDs or software teach utter nonsense.