Friday, February 01, 2013

A New Language

I was thinking I should learn a new language.

You know what they say, keep the mind active, learning, getting exercised. Maybe Spanish? My year of Spanish in 8th grade was a hazy memory, and learning Spanish through the advertisements on the New York Subway had not been a successful foray in effective communication....

Cucarachas? Mandelos a un Motel!

Not the best way to win friends and influence people (unless, of course, they are Spanish speaking cockroaches).

But then as I struggled with vocabulary words, grammar and syntax, I realized I was already in the middle of learning a new language: Tech.

When people (of a certain age) say they find technology confusing, daunting, that they're not good at it, I don't think they've taken on board that Tech is a new language. Would you expect to be able to speak a new language fluently after an hour's class?

I didn't think so.

If anyone complained that even after many hours of learning French they were unable to read a novel, watch TV, or that they were unable to speak quickly and fluently, articulating their every nuanced point, most people would think: Huh? It takes more than a few hours to become fluent in a new language!

This point is not to discourage non techfluent types, but just a request that everyone realign their self expectations to a more reasonable level. To stop beating up on themselves because they are harboring absurdly high expectations of fluency, and appreciate learning tech, like learning a new language, is a process.

And the language metaphor doesn't stop there. As countless childhood development research statistics have indicated, when we are young, our ability to acquire new languages is remarkable. Thus everyone that has grown up learning the language of Tech has internalized it fairly effortlessly.

I can recall my horror and distress when I came across my first French child, a six year old, and I could not fathom how it could have learned French so well at the age of six, when I was still struggling at the age of 21 after years of classes.

Thus many of those that have grown up speaking Tech and are now explaining it to you may find your struggles incomprehensible. It's easy. It's natural. It's intuitive. It's obvious. Sure different dialects (games, new programs, operating systems, upgrades) can present a challenge, but for many, the challenge is fun to overcome. Just like people enjoy learning new languages, or new vocabularies, or new accents and idioms. But it's often not so easy for a non-native speaker.

And as it's a new language, it is constantly changing, adding new words, sprouting new dialects right and left, even the basics changing and morphing to fit this brave new world. It is going to take all my efforts to build my vocabulary and figure out how to effectively communicate and make myself understood.

Parlez-vous tech?

Oui! Un petit peu....

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