Thursday, 4 December, 2014

Dear Reader,

A thought has been often recurring to me. That is, how might I go about my studies if it were not for technology. To fully relate my meaning I ought to relate how it is I go about my studies, or more precisely, what tools I use. My primary tool is the laptop computer, on which I have an open source, Linux operating system, an internet browser, text editor, English and Chinese typing interfaces, and a host of study programs limited only to the human imagination and my ability to find or purchase such programs. I should say that I have yet to purchase any program, and that, besides the physical laptop device, my computer related tools have all been acquired without spending money. A second important tool, which I now carry with me everywhere, is an old pocket computer, known as an iPod, which is produced by the reputable computer manufacturing company, Apple. This device includes a two way English-Chinese dictionary, as well as separate dictionaries for both languages. The first iPod I received was damaged and gifted to me. I rarely had to use the damaged button since the only software on the machine which I utilized was the English-Chinese Dictionary program. The second iPod I received, and which I now use, keeping the old as a backup, was acquired on similar grounds. It is newer, the updates are more current, and the dictionary is more interactive. On this device I also use a very powerful English dictionary, and sometimes one or more of the available Chinese only dictionaries. I use no other software on this device.

Besides the laptop computer and the iPod, I have a text book from the Bridging the Gap interpreter training program developed by the Cross Cultural Health Care Program (CCHCP), outlining the basics of the interpreting profession, as well as practice exercises. I have a book of medical terminology which was also supplied by the Bridging the Gap program. I have a large English to Chinese medical dictionary, which I invested in far too late, and has proved extremely useful. I have a book of phrases for taking a patient’s medical history for English to Mandarin Chinese. I have another similar list, but much smaller, which I found in PDF format on the internet. Finally, I have an extensive vocabulary list which I produced last year, 2013, while preparing for the DSHS written exam, and based on the Bridging the Gap course I took. I also have a couple of miscellaneous medical scenario dialogues, one of which was written by the famous linguist, Y.R. Zhao.

I have, however, digressed. The point is to illustrate my dependence on technology, and in particular, the laptop computer at my disposal, the computer which I am now using to type you this letter. By using this computer I was able to compile a massive vocabulary list for study. The creation of this list, I can only imagine, would take months, or even years, and much more forethought, without the aid of a computer. This list by itself, however, is not the tool I use to study, but rather the digital source for building a database of flash cards, and for some other interesting applications. Once the list is built, I convert the term tables, which are categorized as they are on the DSHS list, (treatments, illnesses, professionals, etc.), into regular text files, and after some more minor editing, convert them into set of flash cards on a program called Anki.

Anki is a free software resource which was recommended to me during my first year studying Chinese, in 2009. This software allows you to build your own custom flash card decks, or, as I have done, import those decks via text files or other sources. The “front” of my cards display the English term, and the “back” of the cards display the Chinese ,in character form, and, on a second line, the Mandarin Pinyin (romanization, or reading). Each time you view a flash card you are given a selection of time durations. You select one appropriate to the difficulty of recalling the word. The durations increase as you become better and better. Currently there are some words which I am scheduled to review only once every month, while others I review multiple times per session. This has been my primary recourse of study for the past two months. As mentioned previously, I can, and often do, study up to about 250 words a day. More than that and my concentration fails significantly.

Besides converting my term lists into flash cards, I can also use programs found on the internet. One common one is the MDBG Chinese-English dictionary. This is the dictionary I reference most often. Also, I have found programs which convert simplified Chinese characters into traditional ones, which can be used to generate a second list of traditional characters in very little time (which are commonly used outside of mainland China). On this same vein, I found a program which can generate Cantonese romanizations of my Chinese characters in bulk, which I may use later on if I choose to study that language.

Where would my studies be, if it were not for these resources? How ought a person pursue such a career? I can’t help but wonder if I should even consider such a task if it were not for these resources. I think, without these, I would have to seek a mentor more directly, either at a university, or by some other means. I would need guidance and resources provided for me. I would require much more time for reviewing and practicing my materials. When I reflect on this, I wonder at what is lost in this technologic method which I have adopted. Is there a level of dedication to the craft which I am, as a result of my method, unappreciative of. Should I be living more wretchedly, under the care and whim of a mentor, studying incessantly, and practicing and so on? Would I, in such circumstances, appreciate the craft more, and pursue it with greater zeal, and with more care for those I intend to serve and to work with?

Now, hiring bodies – companies – are so disconnected from their employees. You can be nobody, have no relations, and be hired by a company, provided you can present some form of credentials; and still, you are nobody. No one need vouch for you. And, now days, who would? Do people build those close-nit business relationships? I believe they do, but not in the society which I have had the misfortune to swim in. In high forms, if I may call them that, of society, merit is desired and requisite for power – for success in one’s craft. Who now knows the name of the craftsman of their shoe? And, can we say that that craftsman designed the shoe, or was allowed any creative freedom in it’s production? The craftsman is preferred, who lacks inventiveness and initiative. The one who questions not, but conforms to the standard narrative.

I reflect on this, but what do I do about it? Is use the technology, I like to think, as a kind of primer. An initial coating and splattering. The technology saves me time, but also experience. Now, I must enter the world with my knowledge, but aware of my lacking merit, as though newly born. I must experience. How I expect to do this, I shall inform you in my following correspondence.

Tell me of your experiences in these matters. Do they conform to my own?

Yours Sincerely,

The Solitary Interpreter


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About m_syme

A lost mind and a rogue scholar.
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