Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mastering Language

I am very passionate about mastering languages. It is true with both spoken and programming languages though this post is about mastering language we speak.

I admire people who can use the language in a way that freezes my attention, makes me read the text over and over again tasting phrases, feeling sounds and intonations, almost hearing the author reading the text back to me. As if I was listening with my eyes.

My native language and the language I speak at home with my family is Russian. First foreign language I studied was German. English came naturally with the profession and became my language passion. I live in the US since last year and all this time I've been practicing my language skills, working on they way I sound, and mastering vocabulary I use. The more time I spend with the language the better I feel how far I am from the place I want to be. Surprisingly, it's rather motivating and keeps me going.

I enjoy good reading. I don't have much free time to read and with a thick stack of professional things to catch up on I have even less time to read. Mix two lovely kids in (Denis is 6 and Alice just turned 1 month :), and here I am, constantly trading sleep time for at least some reading.

Fiction, I figured, is not always a good source of language enjoyment, at least not the enjoyment I wanted. While it might be great written it's often not the language I would use in my day to day life. Another thing is short time intervals during the day that I can fill with it. Do you like watching a movie with five interruptions when you pick it up from where you left it off the next day only? Neither do I.

So I picked up memoirs. It is apparently a popular type of writing these days and there are talented authors writing about their lives; some do it in a way that makes me come back to the same book over and over again. It's often not an easy reading but the language is well worth it. Some of the authors who I enjoyed reading lately are Augusten Burroughs (you may know him as an author of Running with Scissors though Dry is what I liked the most), his older brother John Elder Robinson and his look me in the eye, and Lucy Grealy with her Autobiography of a Face. You may question the contents and "Why on earth am I reading this stuff?" (my wife does :) but you can't argue the language quality. It's great, full of life, deep, entertaining, sharp, honest, Real.


When I come across a blog author who can do equal quality writing about technical stuff, who can give me both professional reading and fun reading, I feel jealous. It's a rare talent to be very good with technology and be able to use the language to describe what you're passionate about in a form that makes it fun to read for everybody while still delivering a unique value in content.

There's a list of Top 100 blogs for Development Managers. Almost everything falls into "my" category. But there's much more out there. This whole post was triggered by the blog of Eric Lippert who is working on the C# compiler team. Read his last series about C# 4.0features and reasoning behind it, excellent stuff.


I wish I had more time to write about things that I'm working on. I plan to do a series of posts about a modeling/configuration engine that I architected and built a few years ago. It got some attention recently and we decided to give it some uplift and maybe opensource it. We will see how it goes.


Alexander said...

thank you for those 100 best blogs link. There are a lot of interesting stuff traceable from there :p

allvo said...

Thanks for this nice post. Let the following link be my birthday gift to you :). - it now seems like a collection of historical anecdotes.

Regards and happy birthday,
Alexander Volfman