Structured procrastination

I have some ongoing frustrations with technology, people, and work that are completely arcane to everyone I know who doesn’t work in this sphere, and so far not very rewarding to discuss with people who do. I also feel like no one I know outside the tech sphere really wants to talk to me about what I’m working on, because they don’t expect it to be interesting or make sense. It’s very depressing.

I’ve been trying to pull myself out of this funk enough to get work done, so I decided that I need new brain food that has nothing to do with computers. I’m attempting to teach myself hiragana and katakana. I think I can probably pick up 3-5 characters a day, if I’m persistent. One of the nice things about being 27 (almost 28!) is that I have a pretty good idea of how I learn at this point. I know I’ll learn faster if I can associate the sound with the act of writing the character, for example. I know that I’ll work harder if I have some particular goal in mind, especially if it’s easy enough to reach in a few months.

The main programming language I work with, Ruby, originates in Japan, and are still materials on it that have yet to be translated to English. I’ve tried to look things up on Google only to discover that the only hits are from a Japanese-language mailing list or forum, and the language is structured differently enough from English that automated translation tools are barely useful (you might be able to figure out the nouns, but not what the person is trying to say about them), so learning something about the grammar and sentence structure would let me use these more effectively. I’m also interested in Japanese pop culture, so I would feel like this project was a success if I learned just enough to dissect a fashion magazine or children’s manga with the help of a dictionary. Plus there’s all sorts of interesting craft and knitting books, Nintendo DS games (yay for not having region-encoding), and lots of other things I’d like to be able to read, if only barely.

I’ll report back on how it goes. The big trick is staying motivated even after the initial fun new thing effect wears off.

2 responses to “Structured procrastination

  1. baudattitude

    Hiragana is easy to pick up if you have at least one children’s book or manga lying around – when I taught myself kana ages and ages ago, I just took 5 characters a day (a i u e o, for each consonant), practiced them a few times, then read through a volume of manga picking out all the ones I’d learned that day and all the ones I’d learned the days before.

    For katakana, it’s trickier because you won’t have nearly the opportunities to practice, but magazine advertisements tend to use lots of katakana so I recommend using them to do the same thing.

    Once you have them all down, it opens up the language to you to an amazing extent. Good luck!

  2. (sorry if this is a double post)

    props for finding a productive hobby. i keep meaning to go back to my russian books, but never seem to find the time.

    you know, you’re always welcome to join gab & i for arcane discussions. particularly about ruby, if you’re willing to suffer a newbie’s questions about what the hell it is that you’re doing. and then put up with hearing about all the silly things she and I do with perl.

    we miss you at our user group meetings! we’re still having those postgresql meetings (1 year anniversary in August!).