The fundamental misunderstanding about language learning.

There are two distinct activities:

  • Linguistics. This means language science. It is the conscious study of the components of a language or language in general. This is like all other sciences and intellectual persuits: biology, chemistry, mathematics, etc..
  • Language learning, or rather, language aquisition (which is the term I'll use for the rest of this article). This means developing the ability to understand, speak, read or write in a language. This is not a conscious activity, but rather training your brain, programming it, more like muscle memory than studying math.

Both are worthy pursuits. Some people are interested in only one, some people are interested in both (I'm interested in both).

However, the great, fundamental misunderstanding, is that most people believe that developing the first (linguistics) will lead to the second (language acquisition). This is completely false.

As Steve Kaufmann likes to quote:


Over the past several months, I've been thinking about how to make a really strong RESTful API for Lingwo.flashcards.  At my straight job, there has also been lots of talk about building a RESTful API (although, unfortunately, no actual work!  I'm bursting at the seams to start it!).  This and the fact that all the other Lingwo Projects will need APIs, has compelled me to take the API design I've come up with and release it as an open specification.

So, to start over... is an open specification for a pattern by which one can design RESTful web-services.

But why do we need such a specification?

Well, being RESTful means that you adhere to some rather abstract concepts.  Two APIs can be designed in drastically different ways and still be perfectly RESTful.  We can gain alot by having a standard:

Software Development Meme

This just in, guys!  I'm about to participate in a meme.  I've never done that before, so I'm a little nervous...

Mr. Damon Payne called me out.  This is a list of questions about your personal history with software development.

How old were you when you started programming?

I was 8-ish.  I can't really remember exactly, because that was quite awhile ago.  My pa used to get magazines on model rocketry and I'd like to page through them.  They'd occasionally have code listings in BASIC for calculating stuff on your home computer.  I was showing this to my buddy and he said, "I've seen this before!  We type this into our computer and then we can play games!"

So, over to his house, on his Apple II, we spent an enormous amount of time typing in some random program from the magazine.  In the end, it was something super boring that asked for a bunch of numbers and spit out a result.  I didn't get it.

Another Harry Potter bites the dust!

On Friday, while walking home from work, I finished listening to Harry Potter i Więzień Azkabanu (the 3rd Harry Potter book in Polish). This is the first one where I had both the text and the audio. I tried doing a couple of things with this:

  1. Simultaneous reading and listening.
  2. Listening then later reading.
  3. Switching off, doing which ever one I feel like at the time.

#1 turned out to be waaay harder than I thought. I read at a different speed than the actor read the text. I kept wanting to pause the audio so I could catch-up. This turned out to not be very enjoyable for me. #2 worked great, although it was a little boring at reading time. There would sometimes be a word or two that I failed to catch in the listening that the later reading would clarify, but nothing that ever changed my understanding of the text.

Lingwo.flashcards, now with lower hacktivation energy!

A buddy of mine has been trying to get the Lingwo.flashcards server code running on his MacOS X laptop. You can see the discussion on the Google Group. I think this is a HUGE step for the project. I've been recently reading parts of this great online book: Producing Open Source Software. Alot of it is stuff that should be evident, but is easy to over look when your focused on writing code.

Google Summer of Code

This just in!  I am mentoring in Google Summer of Code this year for the Dojo JavaScript Toolkit.  The student is Andrey Popelo, who describes his project in this blog post.  GSoC doesn't official kick off until May 26th.  I expect it will be an interesting experience!

Spaced repetition, commitment and Lingwo.flashcards 0.1.4

After reading this post on Confessions of a Language Addict, I've started thinking a bit more seriously about "the commitment problem" with spaced repetition which I recently wrote about. To summarize the problem: Spaced repetition works great if you are committed to quizzing your flashcards everyday. But inevitably, you will have to stop for some period time.  When you come back, the number of expired cards could overwhelm you.

I was using Memorati™ religiously while I was reading the first Harry Potter book. It was fantastic. After finishing the book, I stopped doing flash cards for about 1 week. I needed a break. I have over 2.500 cards and I was on a very strict regimen. Several weeks have gone by and I have still been unable to catch up.

Personal Computing Rules

Over the weekend, I somehow convinced myself that upgrading to Debian Lenny (the current testing) was a good idea. I've encountered countless problems because of this. So, I am going to attempt to lay down some ground rules for my personal computer maintenance. This is written in the 2nd person, speaking to myself.

  1. You only need a root and swap partition. I know that you like to have a separate /boot or /home partition, but inevitably, you will run into issues with disk space. For example, currently I have my /home partition with 65G and the root partition with 6.5G. I ran out of space on the root partition and now I have to carefully prune my Debian packages. Lame.

Harry Potter i Więzień Azkabanu

My copy of "Harry Potter i Więzień Azkabanu" (the 3rd Harry Potter book in Polish) just arrived today!  Hurray!  And this time, I have got the audio book too.  My copy of the audio for the 2nd book is still in transit somewhere, but I'm done with that one anyway.  Rock.

Introducing: The Lingwo Project

Happy May Day!

This morning I launched The Lingwo Project website. This is an umbrella project representing the following three projects:

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