Crossing the OS Rubicon
The OS is dead! Long live the OS! I’m writing this from my freshly installed copy of Windows XP Traditional Chinese Edition. Let jubilation run freely (does that even make sense?). First impressions…sometimes, I feel like running with my tail between my legs back to my Japanese OS. I’ve been in a Japanese-only PC environment since February 2005, so about two and a half years. In that time, I’ve gotten really used to it, to the point that using an English OS is always a bit of context switch [“編集・・・コピー…Paste…what the English?? Oh, wait, I know English, too…”]. I’ve even gotten to the stage where I can kind of skim Japanese (not yet as quickly as English, but getting there). But now, in Chinese, going back to having to read error messages and program notifications word-by-painstaking-word-to-make-sure-I-get-what-the-heck-is-going-on-
so-how-do-I-get-the network-up-again? got me a little frustrated. But I’m fine; I’m calm now.
How To Read Books That Are Too Hard For You
So, up until now, I’ve always had a Japanese book with me in my manbag/over-the-shoulder European carry-all. The problem was that this isn’t very good Chinese practice. So, I started carrying a Chinese book. But the ones I wanted to read, while I understood them almost fully because they contain material I’ve previously been exposed to in other languages (they’re almost all books from movies and/or translations of other books), contained too many readings that I didn’t know — I know what the character means, but not the reading. This was discouraging, because I felt that I wasn’t growing: I had tried writing them down in a notebook for later reference, but that failed miserably because I hate going back through old notebooks; I tried looking them up one a time as I hit them, but this is really slow going when you’re on a train, and often required me to have 3 arms). For a while there, I even stopped carrying Chinese books around, since there seemed no point taking them; they were “too hard”. Anyway, by accident, I found a solution for myself.
It’s pretty simple: when I hit a character whose reading I don’t know, I stick one of these tiny sticky labels on it. Then, when I get home, I can go through and collect sentences containing those characters. The cool thing is, I don’t have to feel guilty about not instantly looking up a word when I’m on the road: I know I’ll get to it eventually because I’ve marked it up. Also, it’s much better than pen in that it’s cleaner, it’s quicker, and you don’t have to deface your book (so it’s OK to do on library books — assuming you get removable stickers that come off without taking a healthy chunk of book with them). Plus there’s that great sense of achievement from removing the stickie: it’s like taking off a training wheel or something. The sticky labels are about the size of 1-2 characters — just right to cover a word — and perhaps best of all, you get to see the word in the exact context where you first found it. Finally, it also makes me realize that I actually do know a lot of readings, relatively speaking: in the book I’m reading right now, I usually miss about 1-2 per paragraph, so in that sense it’s encouraging, it gives something of visual-numeric perspective of my current state of knowledge — when I stumble upon an unknown word or reading, I often feel dumb for not knowing it [and busting out a dictionary each time I stumble made it seem like reading takes forever; it made things painful], but seeing that on any given page there are only so many of these sticky labels, it makes me realize that things aren’t so bad at all — in fact, things are pretty good.
Funny story — I slack off Chinese to watch Japanese shows sometimes. Japanese has gone from noble endeavour to guilty pleasure. When no-one’s looking, I watch Trick.