Most of 2011 has seen me diligently studying the art of software development. It's a very deep topic that could keep me occupied for the rest of my life. I'm lucky to be able to work and stay interested in such a deep discipline. I've developed a few other interested in the second half of 2011, one of which is the Chinese language. A recent development has caused me to push my Chinese studies up to number one, ahead of software studies. This means that I won't be blogging about software for awhile. :( This kind of saddens me because I enjoy software, and investing time in it will help me out in my career as well. But, as with investments, it is smart to diversify. If the software industry dries up (can't imagine why) or my life changes drastically and I lose interest in it, my trump card will be useless. So onwards to investing time in hobbies.
Why Chinese? Why *not* Chinese? I've learned that you shouldn't have to justify your interests; it is an indescribable force that captures ones interests and it should be trusted.
Well, maybe I can find a small influence for the development of this interest. I had been building up vacation days, so I had to start thinking about what to do with them. While it would be nice in the short term, spending a week in a tropical paradise didn't suit me. I needed something that I could explore and learn about. After much thought, I decided on two ways to use my vacation time most effectively: a) Travel to a fun city that also has a software conference to attend, or b) Learn a new language and travel to a place that speaks it as a test for myself.
Which did I choose? Well, if I can decide on a good conference to go to, my company would pay for me to attend it - no need to spend my vacation time. So I decided to test myself. I bought a round trip ticket to Taiwan, scheduled for 2 months in the future, and attempted to learn as much Chinese as I could in two months.
How much Chinese did I learn before departing? I was pretty motivated during those two months. I may write another blog post detailing my strategy, which proved to be pretty effect, but I can summarize it here. I listened to many hours of basic Chinese phrases in situations. I had to listen to each lesson ~5 times before I was able to pick up any words. Separately, I started doing flashcards. It is pretty easy to find flashcards for all the basic Chinese, such as 'Thank you", "Goodbye", "This is delicious", and "Where's the bathroom". I tried to learn ~20 new words each day (probably more in reality). I think I had completed a deck of 500 words before leaving, and crammed another 200 on the flight to Taiwan (it was a long flight).
Read part two of this post here, where I tell stories about the few times that my Chinese studies paid off.