[techtalk] This talk of N-ary trees and other things...

Rick Scott rick at shadowspar.dyndns.org
Sun Mar 25 09:36:43 EST 2001

(Makiko Itoh:)
> ...I've found that the discipline involved in learning another human
> language is very helpful for programming. My first language is
> Japanese and I learned English early, and have since tackled French
> and German, and I can almost feel the same part of my brain working
> when I'm trying to learn Java for instance.

(Four languages - good on ya!)
Another thing that I think is helpful is that a new language 
teaches you to conceptualize in different ways, which gives
you different perspectives on the same problem.  For instance, 
there are a goodly number of concepts in Japanese that don't
really translate into, say, English; and at least not with the
same subtleties.  (I think that all languages have these
untranslateable bits, and that they really are a big part of what
makes the language distinct.)

Some of these concepts are packaged in words; others in bits
of syntax or other constructions.  (My Japanese is terribly 
rusty, and I'm having some trouble coming up with examples...
that, and please forgive/correct the grammar =)  One of the ones that
pops into mind is the word /tsumori/, which kind of maps to some
combination of {thought, mindset, intention} in English (IMO).
It lets you say something like /Bifteki o tabeta tsumori de
ginko ni okane o haita./, which doesn't really say "I put my money
into the bank with the intention of eating a steak" as it appears at
first glance -- it's more of "(I wanted to spend money on a
steak, but) I imagined I had eaten a steak and put my money in the
bank (instead)."  

Another nifty example is /wakaru/, "understand", but in 
Japanese it's more in the sense of "become clear" in that
*the thing that is being understood* does /wakaru/, not the
thing trying to do the understanding.  (Usually objects or
ideas do /wakaru/, "become clear", and if we are in the
vicinity, they become clear to us.)

Another fundamental & cool constructions that comes to mind
is the one you use when someone does something for someone 
else, /Hon o yonde agemashita/ - "I gave him my reading of the
book" -> "I read the book for him."  It's kind of like you 
give actions to people just like physical objects.
(At least, this is my perspective...I think that this has helped
 me conceptualize programming abstractions that replace quantities
 with functions much more easily.)

Anyway, end of my incoherent, no-longer-fluent Japanese lecture =)
I just think that it's really mind-expanding to clue into how
other people think and how they view the world.  Learning other
languages comes *highly* recommended as a way to do this.

key CF8F8A75 / print C5C1 F87D 5056 D2C0 D5CE  D58F 970F 04D1 CF8F 8A75 
Do not take life too seriously; you will never get out of it alive.
     :Elbert Hubbard

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