Language Versatility Saves Money

booksI have far too many books, my wife argues. Of course, she is wrong; no one owns too many books. I try not to provoke her, though, so I don’t flash my newly acquired darlings as I pull them out of our mailbox. I get most of my books in the mail, as very few bookstores in Norway offer the volumes I desire. I buy new books from new-book Internet shops, and old books—all the way back to Latin volumes from the 1500s—from antiquarian-book websites. To my delight, I discovered I can save a lot of money by having studied foreign languages.

Our local newspaper ran a captivating article on reporters’ tendency to present biased information about Michael Jackson during his infamous trial. He was acquitted, but, the article argues, slanted media reports were detrimental to Jackson’s reputation. I knew I had to get hold of a book mentioned in the piece, so I powered up my computer to search my favourite secondhand-book website.

I was appalled to learn that the book was only available in hard cover, and that the cheapest one offered cost nearly two hundred dollars! The most expensive among these—in mint condition—cost several hundred dollars more than a complete Rosetta Stone course comprising Levels 1–5. (By the way, I have just completed such a course, all five levels, in French.)

What if there happens to be a French version of the book? I thought. If so, then I might get it for less, with the added benefit of learning more French at the same time! Voilà! Indeed, it was printed in French and in softcover too. The entry price for the French version was about fifteen dollars. Perfect. I reached for my credit card and ordered it promptly.

A question naturally arises: Is it possible to understand such a book with a Level 1–5 background?  I say it is. I have to consult a dictionary for many words, but I can readily swallow surprisingly large chunks of text. Another effect is that I more accurately recall what I’ve read since I’ve had to fully focus to extract meaning from the paper.

It does not end there: the other day I boldly purchased a book about a Renaissance painter that is only available in Italian. I love this widening of options. Learning foreign languages is worth it in surprising ways.

Petter Amundsen

Petter Amundsen, living in Oslo, Norway, is a church organist come treasure hunter. Around Christmas 2009 almost ten percent of Norwegian television viewers followed his quest for the Rosicrucian Treasure Island as shown in a four-hour mini series. It was Petter’s interest in languages that put him on the right track. One of the oldest tricks of secret writing is substituting Greek characters for Latin letters, so that f.i. H becomes E (eta), and this knowledge helped him establish what he believes is a genuine treasure map. Petter has become a language-learning addict since experiencing the power of knowledge that most people don’t care to harness. His only regret is that he is in his late forties, which means that his brain is slower to absorb new words and grammar. Nevertheless he finds comfort in that the alternative to learning is less desirable. Working as a church organist means attending funerals several days each week, something that on a day to day basis inspires him to cherish every minute above ground. In the winter, this means skiing–Petter is a certified ski instructor and works at the famous skiing-cradle Holmenkollen, where the church in which he works is located . In February 2011 the Nordic World Championships will be held at Holmenkollen, and Petter will have his hands full giving post-competition concerts every day during the championships. This will also mean great opportunity for him to practice communicating in different languages. For the time being he studies three languages using Rosetta Stone Level 1-5: French, Italian and Spanish (Spain). Petter also knows some Latin (completed Cambridge Latin Course I-V) and German (studied for two years in school), and of course, English. His ambition is to be moderately fluent in the major European languages. Dutch and Polish are also on his list.
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