How we write down languages

Writing systems — the ways in which we write down a language — are fascinating.  They may not be as diverse and surprising as all the animals and plants of the world, but you likely may be surprised to learn just how differently we have found ways to write down information, each with strengths and weaknesses.  And if you don’t get all the details right, then what you end up telling the world is not “follow your heart” but “coward”.  Oops.  (Countless examples that can fill up blogs exist — fails in cross-cultural appreciation & appropriation go both ways.)

People believe that in the timeline in human evolution, language evolves first as speech, and only later does writing exist to record it.  For example, when new words (ex: slang) or spoken forms from spreading process (ex: “gonna”, “hafta”) get coined, if they persist long enough, they will get recorded in writing and become normalized.  Whether these new words are defined as “official words” depends on if you have a prescriptivist or descriptivist view of the situation, but that is a small example in our own experiences of writing coming after speech.  (Btw, Shakespeare was a master of introducing crazy, made-up words into a language.)

What is fascinating are some of the more apparent examples in recent history in which we make choices on how to write, or change how we write, a language, and the implications those choices have.  Or in one case, it’s the other way around — it’s the act of recategorizing dialects as separate languages partly through how we write.

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Interviewing for a tech job

When I interviewed for my current job, I didn’t pass the interviews on the first time that I tried.  When I applied again 1 year later, I passed, but I had changed my strategy in preparing for the 2nd time to correct all the mistakes I made during the 1st time.

There were other factors of my growth as a programmer beyond the whiteboard problem practice that helped equally as much, if not more so, in my success in the 2nd round of interviews.  But the whiteboard programming aspect is more immediate and usually more stressful.

To help others who may need the help in the way I did, the following is a summary of how I prepared the second time:

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How the Basque Language Has Survived

Another wonderful episode from the World in Words podcast is “How the Basque language has survived”.  There are many interesting points in the episode, making the whole thing worth listening.  Below, I’ve picked out one small section from the podcast that is interesting and inspiring.

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