The Other Philosopher’s Stone

image046Visiting the original Rosetta Stone at the British Museum here in London last weekend gave me a chance to think about how we all communicate across, despite, and sometimes because of our differences. The inscription, carved in the stone 2,206 years ago, is part of a decree regarding the crowning of a new king, how he would govern Egypt, and how priests of the time would respond to him. For a document thousands of years old, the line of official praise extolling the ruler’s virtues seems surprisingly familiar. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, I suppose, borrowing from my rusty knowledge of French. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

A symbol in itself, the Rosetta Stone stands as a reminder of people from vastly different backgrounds living and working together. (The ancient Egyptians and Greeks were living side by side at that time and place.) Perhaps that’s a key truth to take away from the stone, should you ever get the opportunity to see it in person. You won’t have much chance to see it with so many other museum-goers swarming around, but I think it’s worth remembering that the stone stands as a monument, older than many religions, attesting to the fact that people can get along with each other, that we can live side by side, and that we can communicate across vast cultural and linguistic gaps.

If all that seems a bit far-fetched, that things were different then than they are now, well, maybe. But the PR side of the decree itself serves as a reminder that even in the Egypt of 196 BC, people were people, just like today. And if now, as then, communication across those gaps requires a bit of give-and-take, a little effort to understand one another, that’s not too bad a price to pay.

Learn more about Mike Hayes’s adventures in language learning.

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Mike Hayes

Raised in London, England—a city of many languages—Mike Hayes grew up in a bilingual household, learning English from his father and German from his mother. He studied French and German in high school and has since forgotten much of what he learned, but he retains a love of languages and an aptitude for learning them. Since meeting his girlfriend, Mike has been determined to become fluent in Filipino (Tagalog), her native language, so he can better understand her friends and family. In addition to studying Filipino with Rosetta Stone, Mike also supports the charity Pusong Pinoy (Heart of a Filipino, The grassroots organization’s posts on Facebook and on its own website often allow him more exposure to Filipino language and culture, and he looks forward to the day when he can understand all the Tagalog text posted on these sites and elsewhere. Mike is also learning Latin American Spanish to expand his horizons and, hopefully, his career opportunities. What started simply as a means to an end has quickly become an active interest. Mike has wondered more than once where the time went after sitting down to Version 3 Rosetta Stone, with which he’s learning both Filipino and Spanish. He‘s sure, though, that since the time was spent learning languages, it hasn’t gone to waste. As learners studying Latin with Rosetta Stone already know, it’s how you lose the time that matters: sed fugit interea fugit irreparabile tempus.
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