National Review / Digital
Morpheme Addiction


Like most bookish people, I have a strong inclination not to take anything seriously until I’ve seen it in print. This approach has its advantages — it filters out a lot of nonsense — but it is useless, in fact counterproductive, if you want to master a foreign language. The right way to learn a language is the way you learned your mother tongue: ear and mouth first, eye and hand last. With Pimsleur you dispense with eye and hand altogether, though I confess I have treated myself to a secondhand Concise Oxford Turkish Dictionary (1959 edition, the boards laid with that fine old dark-blue cloth) and have been taking notes.

Limiting one’s ambitions to the bare essentials maximizes the pleasure of language learning. You can enjoy the thrill of novelty and the tiny satisfaction of exchanging pleasantries with the occasional native speaker, then bail out before reaching the icy stratosphere of subjunctive inferentials and 5,000-word vocabulary. Sure, it’s dilettantish: so sue me.

February 21, 2011    |     Volume LXIII, No. 3

  • What the Egyptian unrest says about, and portends for, the region.
  • Comparing French and American responses to the Middle East upheavals.
  • If both seek the presidency, it could split the Republican party.
  • We’re wasting billions on rockets to nowhere.
  • Let’s stop Obamacare without blowing up the constitutional order.
Books, Arts & Manners
The Long View  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Athwart  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Poetry  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .