My Newest Language: CSL

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!

14 thoughts on “My Newest Language: CSL

  1. As with science, computers have their own languages (slang, vocabulary, structures, etc.). And, I agree, it is often a solo pursuit, but it does give feedback – usually much quicker than even asking someone. Either it works like you want, or it doesn’t. Unfortunately, it is often “it doesn’t” and then the harder part is trying to figure out what will make it do what you want. And that is the part that I find akin to climbing. Hmmm, that didn’t work. Maybe if I move the foot over here? or do a flag? or ….. does that work? Nope. What else can I try?

    Thanks for struggling with it. I’m quite enjoying reading your stories.

    • Computers and climbing… Interesting analogy! Both require faith, for sure, as well as an adventurous spirit! That’s what I love about blogging — everyone thinks differently, and each observation adds to our enjoyment of life. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  2. I might soon be joining you in the CSL conversation … and you may even have something to teach me! 🙂 Blog looks great!!

  3. CSL. Lol! It seems to me you have come very far, very fast in this internet publishing endeavor, despite the difficulties. Thanks for sharing your stories with us!

  4. We measure our time in years, arithmetically. Technology advances exponentially. The fact you are taking on new technological challenges (CSL for example), is sure to bring a learning curve, but with enough repetition you will be dangerous and confident enough to start having ‘a-ha moments’. If not, you can always make an appointment at the dentist ;-).

    • “Dangerous” and “competent”… I like it! Yep, lots of ‘ah-ha!’ moments, for sure…but I’m keeping that appointment book open….

  5. Interesting post! After reading stasia and I had a conversation about what it means exactly to be a “language.” I have never thought of technical skills as being linguistic, although I see many commonalities with learning languages as you point out. Working with computers definitely has a jargon of knowing what exactly to call each part which makes it much easier to convey efficiently to other people what’s going on. But it seems to me like any discipline that has its own set of jargon and concepts and many of those I wouldn’t consider “languages.” I know that people throw around the phrase “the language of love/car-repair/botany/etc.” frequently, but I took that as more of an expression and not that they actually felt that repair had its own language. Aren’t those just English, but with their own particular subset of vocabulary? So that’s been fun to think about!

    I agree that it’s easiest to learn this kind of stuff (and maybe everything) when you’re immersed in it. I’ve often learned the most just by watching an expert and seeing how they use the tool. Sometimes for general things, you can find these kind of videos on YouTube. Sadly, for many web questions, the answers are very specific to the exact configuration you have, so do require a question and answer. And then as stasia pointed out, sometimes it’s just trial and error until it does the thing you want! 🙂

    • You’re right, it is just jargon. But it’s so pervasive and restrictive that it seems like a foreign language…that I don’t speak! But how many verbs and nouns does it take to turn a jargon into a sort of pidgin version of English? When the instructions say “(Verb) the (thingamabob) before you (verb) the (whatsis) etc etc,” that’s foreign to me! 🙂

      • Hah! Yes, you’re right. Some sentences could be almost entirely jargon. 🙂

  6. Heh. I had the thought reading this that it’s ironic that the internet, that great purported bringer-together of people, is also a venue through which it is really, really easy to simply ignore others until it’s convenient for you. (Hence your frustration with no one responding to you on the forums you’ve been using).

    Don’t worry! I bet this will get even better than going to the dentist soon! 🙂

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