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How did we live before the internet?

Posted 02-23-2009 at 04:19 AM by bitpicker
Updated 02-23-2009 at 04:23 AM by bitpicker

This isn't so much about Linux today as about the internet. Just yesterday I had one of those moments where I wondered how I ever got through life when there was no internet.

Last November I decided to take up learning Russian. I went for the traditional approach first, got myself a couple of books for self-teaching and took off. Only the books wouldn't get me very far, and they did not quite fit my style of learning, which is more geared towards immersion and using a language rather than doing exercises and trying to memorize lists of words and tables of grammar.

So I tried to find out what the internet had to offer. I quickly found a couple of sites which turned out to be helpful. First, I found Russland Journal. (The site is German, as that is my native language.) They've got interesting information on the language, but most notably they have a weekly podcast with lessons of 10 to 20 minutes length in which a native speaker explains things to a German. These turned out to be incredibly useful.

Next I found Russian-online.net, which has a lot of interesting material on grammar, online worksheets etc. There's even a Java-based software for learning Russian which is specifically geared towards Linux, too (so we do have a bit of a Linux angle here at least). What's more, I initiated e-mail contact with the creator of the site which developed into a lively conversation, partly in Russian, which is helping me a lot more than following workbook exercises. I mean, in my beginner's book there is a vocabulary list which gives me words for 'tax declaration' and 'value added tax' long before I get to learn how to ask for the way to the next bakery.

Then there's Multilex, link goes to the English - Russian dictionaries, but there are other languages, too, German included. Actually I find it very useful to be able to look up a word from a German and an English angle because that helps eliminate false translations.

And of course there's Google, which brings me around to what happened yesterday. I was wondering how to phrase 'me and my family'. Looks straightforward, but for instance, from a German viewpoint the order is the wrong way round here, as we prefer to name ourselves last. Then there's the matter of case. Anyway, the easy way to find out is to google for phrases which you think might fit the bill and see what comes up. So I googled for "я и моя семья" which not only turned out to be a valid choice, but which led me to a series of videos on Youtube on 'Russian as Russians speak it' - which not only has a first lesson with the exact phrase as a title, but it is a collection of phrases spoken by native speakers, put into a video format by someone apparently in Brazil.

So here we are: A German learning Russian with the help of people from Russia (or Ukraine, to be precise) and even Brazil. The internet resources outshine the books on all counts. I also have a couple of native speakers nearby to whom I can talk or whom I can ask questions, but the internet resources are the most useful by far.

If you ask me, not only do I think that I wouldn't have learned even half as much as I have in those previous months if I hadn't had the internet resources at my disposal, but I think it is even probable that I would have given up already (as with previous attempts at French and Dutch, which I approached in a much more traditional manner).

So, that's one thing the internet is doing for me which I wouldn't want to miss. What about you? In what ways has the internet changed your way of life?
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