Sunday, September 25, 2011

Four Weeks....

It's been 4 weeks since I embarked on a task which I did not know how much I would accomplish. More than a month ago, Jov jolted me to the fact that my girl was struggling with her Science, that she did not quite know what was required of her. It took more than a fortnight before I decided that I would take myself to task to teach her. The problem is I am not Chinese-ed, which basically sums up the whole problem.

And her Science is in Mandarin. I had great difficulty understanding the questions, let alone read her books! Trying to teach content without language competency is a torture. Plus I work full time. So time is a rare commodity. I spent 2 weeks searching for help.... By and by I found a few. The Besta dictionary is a great help but it's a bit slow and it wasn't something I carried with me all the time. But my iPad is with me most of the time. So it was only natural that I looked to it as an alternative.

Enter the Pleco app and the beginning of 4 interesting weeks.... I started from scratch. there were times when I felt like throwing the books away. So many words to learn and so many times I kept forgetting. But I persisted.... writing and rewriting the words onto the screen. The going was extremely slow. That which should take 10 minutes took 3-4 times the time. Still, I refused to throw in the towel. The first week was tough. There were times when I thought, perhaps I should just teach her the concepts in English and hope she picks the rest up herself in Mandarin.

Most of my free time was taken up by this exercise. When I discovered that I could buy an add-on in Pleco which would read the words to me, I told Other Half that I wanted it. That add-on became my intonation teacher. Going by visual would have taken me more time as I would have to go through the 4 tones in my head for each word. By the second week, the going was slightly easier. But I was still writing a lot on the screen. Sometimes, by the time I got the end of the sentence, I had forgotten what it was all about. (But the app Translate, which is essentially Google Translate turns app; helped out a lot with sentence translation) My vocabulary continued to improve. My word recognition got better. But I was still struggling a lot. My eyes were tired most days... from staring into the screen and coping with the transitional eye change that comes with middle age. Both are painful experiences.

It's now just past the 4th week. I am still struggling. But I now have a new tool in my arsenal... OCR!! And it's a truly wonderful add-on. By just using my camera on the iPad to capture the words, meanings and how they're pronounced would appear on the screen. If the need arises, I can take it a step further by having the pronunciation done too. It has sped up the reading by leaps and bounds. I can now cover more in a session. But iPad camera does not autofocus. I have since found out that the iPhone 4 has that capability, which means that words thay I OCR via the camera will be crisp and clear. Moreover, the iPad is way too big to hover over the book line by line. It's heavy on the wrist. An iPhone would be lighter and more nimble..... But for now, the iPad would have to do.....

Four weeks! I do not know whether I have the persistence to keep going but I shall try. I can now read more than I could before I began. I can now make more sense of stuff said in Mandarin more than before. My vocabulary has probably increased by many folds. I can even go to the bookshop, look through a Science reference book and tell whether it contains all the information required. I can look at a word, and even though not quite remember how to read it, for some reasons still be able to make a contextual guess what it means or know what it means.

My gardening has gone on hold. My brain feels 'fried' on many nights. My eyes feel like they are going to pop out on many of those nights too. Sometimes I am so mentally bushed that I find my patience running really thin. But it has been a rather interesting learning experience too. For one, I surprised myself in that, I lasted this long. Another is that I found that I could enjoy it once I allow myself to take the pitfalls as they come along... it's the getting up that makes it enjoyable. Being able to get up means you are moving on; very much like getting up after a fall while learning how to cycle. Also, in learning... even though this learning experience is rather painful because the learning curve is rather steep; because Mandarin is a language of character recognition, I find myself feeling ecstatic after each milestone.... But learning has to be meaningful. Meaning makes it bearable, more fun, etc, etc... and the meaning comes from understanding the content to be able to teach my girl.

And one more thing..... I am so going to get myself an IPhone or an iPod, if the reportedly and supposedly tweaked iPod Touch comes with an upgraded auto focus camera because the OCR process would be clearer. I am fortunate that I have the necessary tools to hasten my learning. I am even more fortunate that I have the means to get them. Without these tools, I would probably have given up in utter frustration. Technology is indeed an enabling tool... if you know where to look for it. My friend offered to read for me, teach me so to say. I told her that my digital teacher does not get tired no matter how many times I bug it. And I think I am persistent (no, dogged enough, LOL!... ) enough to stay focus. So four weeks.... and now I am anticipating the big Apple do said to be next week.... because now an iPhone seems to have turned into a need....

1 comment:

jackames said...

I accept out that the iPhone 4 has that capability which means that words than I OCR via the camera will be brittle and clear. Thanks for sharing.
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