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The old problem

February 14, 2012

JavaScript is hardly the first computer programming language I’ve attempted to learn – my father strongly encouraged me to have a go with C+, Prolog, and one or two others, although the only one to really attract my attention was Prolog. Part of me still wants to master that, just because the idea of it appeals to me, even though it doesn’t really seem to be in wide use anymore. Then there was HTML in various incarnations, and offshoots of it.

The problem has always been that I never really had much I wanted to do WITH these programming languages, and that’s still there with JavaScript. I’m keeping up with Code Year from Code Academy, and enjoying the challenge of doing so, but I haven’t made any attempts so far to use what I’ve learnt beyond the given lessons and challenges, and that is obviously going to limit how far I can possibly get with it.

English: Map of the Irish-speaking areas of Ir...

Image via Wikipedia

In many ways it’s the same story as with natural languages: if you just learn a language in school, and never attempt or get the opportunity to use it for real, you’ll never really understand it fully and be able to be creative with it or make yourself understood. That was the major downfall in the my lack of learning of Irish, and to a lesser extent German, in school – I never (or very rarely) had the opportunity to use them. Sure, I went to the Gaeltacht a few times, and even put in some effort while there, but then I’d go back to Dublin and it became just a school subject again, and one in which no-one around me seemed to have much interest. I did far better in French because I went to France and stayed with French friends every couple of years (in the off years my age-mate came to us), and in the meantime my best friends were also interested in actually using French together, so I kept it up. Even so, I got nowhere near fluency until I worked in France for several months between school and university, and then did a degree including French and spending another year in a French speaking country. German fared a little better than Irish in school, but it’s really only lately that I’ve got particularly interested in reviving and improving the language, with several family members and a few friends living in German-speaking countries (although I speak to them all in English, and can’t afford to go visit anytime soon). In some ways getting more comfortable reading some German books of family interest that have come my way is the bigger practical pull, although for me, unlike for my husband, the ability to speak is pretty much always more important.

Fluency comes with use (I’m specifically not saying ‘practice’ here) and I know I’m not using the JavaScript in any interesting ways. Got any inspirational ideas for me?

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