I hate background noise. Maybe I’m just easily distracted, but almost any noise around me while I’m working will cut my productivity to zero – people talking, footsteps, doors opening and closing, traffic on the street outside. Even birds. Listening to music is no help either. Headbanging along to Metallica or Bieber or whatever I find on Spotify certainly feels good, but it doesn’t actually make me productive… and so I need a better solution! What distracts you at work? How do you deal with it? What works for you and what doesn’t?
For some reason, the fact that I’m learning Mandarin seems to impress lots of people. Whatever – I guess it’s because it’s a tonal language and doesn’t use a Latin alphabet? You could say the same thing about plenty of other languages like Russian and Arabic, but I only speak the one language right now so I’m not exactly in a good place to judge…
Anyway, I’ve poked at it for a while now, but 3-4 months ago I really started focusing on it, and now I’m making fantastic progress. It wasn’t just the extra focus though, because doing a few things differently really helped!
Broadly broadly, there are two ways of thinking about things. First of all, there’s the classic way. Call it the Platonic style – an infinity of absolute abstract forms, all very different from each other and none defined except by the examples which represent them. In direct contrast to this, there is mathematics. Formal, precise and unambiguous definitions of simple things using simple rules. Then a dizzying array of combinations and the emergent properties which drive Stephen Wolfram wild. Call this by what Platonically exemplifies it best: the silicon style. But wait a moment! What on Earth does this rather obscure philosophising have to do with teaching technology?
All my life, I’ve spoken English and only English. I’ve travelled broadly, across Asia and Europe, and knowing just one more language wouldn’t have been enough. Even then, in the strictest sense, I’ve never needed to know a foreign language. It’s amazing what pointing and speaking slowly and trying different words can do. In short, I’ve always got by. So why learn another language? Three reasons. Three huge, gob-smacking, little game-winning reasons that have nothing to do with utility and everything to do with happiness.