CSL – Computer as a Second Language. Like ESL (English as a SL) but oh-so-different! It’s not my second language. I speak (and have taught) several languages — but this one is proving the most…elusive.
Normally when I learn a language, I try to surround myself with native speakers, so I can become a little kid again, learning to talk — listen, listen, listen, then repeat, babble and ask lots of questions. It’s how we all learned our native language, and the most effective way to learn a foreign language. But it doesn’t work here.
Here I sit, alone, at my keyboard, trying to learn to set up a website. I’ve tried all the forums, but usually find — after hours of searching, scrolling, guessing — that no one has ever asked my question, exactly. So I ask it. And wait. And wait. How long must one wait to get a forum reply? Days? Weeks? I’ve done both.
For a real language, I ask a question and get an immediate answer, to prove or disprove a conclusion I might have come to about what I hear around me. Now, I get no answers, and there are no native speakers around me to offer any.
Lots of books offer insights… Indecipherable, mind-numbing books, for someone who has no computer inclinations. And, of course, there are forums…which have proven more frustrating than helpful.
I guess that’s the price for wanting to do it myself. When I became an independent publisher, I talked with other indies and got answers. When I wanted to start conducting an orchestra, I mined the expertise of my father-in-law, who had played in one for years and who had taught music. Answers — real, human answers — were always abundant.
But now, most of my questions go un-answered, sometimes for weeks, sometimes forever. Most of the time, I don’t know what things are called, which makes it impossible to phrase the question right.
A couple months before I left on a climbing trip to Greece, I found a website where I could learn some more Greek (I had learned some as a kid). Every evening, I conjugated verbs, copied vocabulary, memorized grammatical forms. But the most important, the most effective teaching tools were the conversations I listened to and watched. I could stop, re-play again and again, watch other people saying the same things…. But in this new endeavor, CSL, I can’t stop someone who just said something to ask them to repeat, or to explain. I’m on my own.
So even though learning languages has always been one of the biggest delights in my life, this one, CSL, will never find a place on my list of favorites! I’ve learned some of the basics, enough to do this thing you’re reading now, but I’ll never be a ‘native speaker.’ In terms of life’s pleasures, it will always rank right up there with going to the dentist.
So if you see something here that could be prettier, or more functional, or clearer, please let me know…but when you do, please tell me what it’s called and how to fix it!