The Rosetta Stone Approach, Mayan Worship and Rock-Hard Abs in Just Minutes

Since beginning with Rosetta Stone and this blog, I have been overwhelmed with interest by friends and family. Amidst the shower of well-wishing and curiosity, two main questions have arisen in their collective minds, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to address them here.

First, everyone is curious if the software really makes it easier to learn a language. Second, naturally, they are eager to know if I can get them a free copy.  The answers to these questions respectively are of course, yes, and, don’t push your luck, Mom.

But I couldn’t help but feel that at least one of the above responses deserves elaboration. So, I began to think about language learning in terms of an eye-opening experience I had while traveling and learning Spanish.

2 mayan ceremony resizeI was in Guatemala under a full moon, as I watched a Mayan priest pour a circle of salt onto the earth and bisect it into four quarters.  I wasn’t sure what to expect of my first Mayan ceremony and as I stood in the ring of onlookers clutching a bundle of candles, I was admittedly skeptical. The priest added some charcoal to the circle and proceeded to set it on fire, rapidly muttering his native Quiche language in hushed tones.

But the alienating dogmas of an ancient religion that I had so cynically anticipated never materialized. Over the next hour as the priest, alternating between Quiche and Spanish translation, described what each quadrant of the fire and each color candle represented in our lives, we were guided in contribution of candles and incense to the flame, bringing our thoughts and thanks momentarily to each.

We gave thanks for the sun and wind, the ocean, earth and sky.  We burned candles for electricity, plumbing and public transportation (three of Guatemala’s most fickle and adventurous luxuries, always drawing attention to themselves).  I gave thanks for my family and friends, as well as the people I do not like and the things that I do not have. When I thought I had addressed every aspect of my life, the priest suggested we burn a final candle for all that we had forgotten to give thanks for.  It felt a bit like cheating, but when it comes to appreciation I suppose you can’t be too careful.

From humble beginnings, the fire now reached nearly chest high.  The priest seemed pleased, explaining that the size of the fire displayed the amount of positive thought and appreciation of the participants. It was the yardstick for a successful ceremony. Now, should we choose, by waving a little smoke over ourselves we could symbolically extract some of the good intention that had been poured into the flames, and ask for something that we needed or wanted in return.

In a society ridden with miracle diets, full-feature infomercials and ever shortening ab-workouts, we’re constantly encouraged to lose sight of the lesson taught by this simple fire allegory: What we get out of something is a function of the energy we put into it.

So, yes, using Rosetta Stone has been an easier way for me to learn Spanish, not because it’s a miracle cure for the monolingual, but because it’s been a more intuitive and enjoyable way to direct my effort, devoid of the grammatical terminology and lists of verb conjugations that plagued my high school days.  Unfortunately, my search for the more intuitive and enjoyable sit-up continues.

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Daniel McIsaac

Daniel S. McIsaac is a freelance writer and photographer with a particular interest in the frontiers of contemporary travel: cultural exchange, unconventional destinations, education, volunteer work and responsible tourism. A serious advocate with an affection and respect for every destination, his writing often ignores this, in favor of the ridiculous and irreverent. Traveling from an early age whenever possible, Daniel was encouraged to continue his world exploration while studying at Oberlin College. There, amidst the cornfields under a gray winter sky, he learned that he should leave the country as soon as humanly possible, preferably for somewhere warm and by the sea. This inspired idea has since delivered him to five continents, sixteen countries, and several states, territories, protectorates and future undecided locales, all with little more than carry-on luggage and a sense of adventure. Though a writer and English major, Daniel professes a serious distaste for the study of grammar in the context of language instruction and this has consistently sullied his prior relationships with foreign language, which have included a protracted courtship with Spanish and a torrid affair with Mandarin Chinese. In an attempt to remedy this, he is currently traveling through Central America and studying Spanish with Rosetta Stone. Rosetta Stone commissioned Dan to try TOTALe and provide his thoughts. In addition to writing for Rosetta Stone, Dan has written travel pieces for magazines and online publications. When not on the road, Daniel resides in the Outer Banks of North Carolina where he spends his time building wooden surfboards, playing acoustic guitar, surfing and sailing. More of his writing and photography can be found at
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