Why are languages being taught like math?

Within the past century there have been many great developments in language teaching, especially from American educators. And yet, the majority of foreign language courses taught in America and around the world are very much your standard grammar/translation course mixed in with “communicative” learning. While this is a very valuable method the major drawback is that it needs to be intensive in order to achieve good results. Your 50 minute high school Spanish class 3 times a week doesn’t count as intensive. Even with all of the worksheets assigned for homework.

So now I must ask the question; Why are languages being taught like math? And more importantly why are they being tested and graded like math?

Let’s do a little thought experiment.

Imagine you are in math class. Nothing too crazy, it’s just your typical fourth grade elementary school arithmetic.

Now like any good student you’ve been studying hard and doing a ton of practice problems on worksheets and from your textbook. Every problem is beautifully solved step by step. And like the perfect student you show each step of your work written out in your best penmanship.

You are well prepared for what’s about to come next. The math test. What’s on the test? Long division and multiplication. The test is an hour long with 100 questions.

But, unfortunately the copier in the teacher’s room is broken. So the teacher decides to give the exam orally. And you can’t write anything down. In fact, you have to do all of the math in your head and have to speak your answers aloud. You still have an hour and 100 questions.

Can you do it?

I imagine you won’t do very well unless you’ve been working with a private tutor or teaching yourself on how to do long division in your head.

That’s how many language classes work to prepare the learner for conversation. Most grammar focused courses are very good, but they rarely give the students the skills to do any real work in the language. Communicative classes try to address this issue but usually put the cart before the horse and miss the fine parts of understanding the language. Students say things without understanding.

Why are grammar classes good? Well, if you take a look at Chomsky’s recent works about languages, you’ll understand something very important. Language developed first as a method for thinking not communication. That came afterwards as a result.

However, it’s very hard to think in another language without acquiring the grammar. Grammar courses are focus on making you aware how the language works and how the forms change. Thinking only happens naturally when the brain acquires the grammar patterns and meaning with sounds.

Are they good at helping you acquire that internally? Depends on the class. If the class is heavy in comprehension, it’ll have stronger results. If it’s taught like a series of math puzzles, once the puzzle is solved there is less reason for the brain to retain the pieces of the puzzle.

Now let’s move back to our thought experiment. Acquiring a language is like acquiring another way to do mental math. You can’t simply understand the rules and apply them when in mid conversation. You must have it already internalized. Your brain must be trained to hold the capacity. The brain must process meaning and take mental notes in the language.

Many language courses are taught focused on reading and writing. And it’s done through the scope of  the mother tongue. Very little attention is given to understanding. Dialogue and conversation is stressed. Thinking is glanced over.  It is presented as a set of grammar rules to decode messages. And remembering all of these rules before the brain has fully acquired them causes too much strain on the mental capacities. Especially during an unrehearsed conversation.

Should we teach grammar? Absolutely.

Should languages be taught and tested like math?

What is the end goal?

May Game Dev 007: Thinking about Collider States

Okay, so I’ve got some basic animations up and running for my fighter.

Now I need to start thinking about the hit boxes. When do the hitboxes deal damage? When do they take damage? What happens when the character blocks?

Speaking of blocking I need to make a  block animation and assign a button to it. That way I can have three proper states. I’ll also need to put in a quick health bar and script that takes care of health.

I also want to be able to turn on hitboxes so you can see them. This is good for debugging and it was also suggested by Mike Z in his presentation on how to make fighting games.

I want to try to cover all of the points in my game that he suggests, but it’s going to take time and my game will be a very simple fighter with no AI or Network gaming support. It’s something to add on in the future when I figure out how to tackle networking in gaming in Unity. Always learning. 🙂

I’ll try to get done what I can in a month. So I need to keep the scope narrow for this game. I can extend or rebuild later.

That’s all for now, I’ll be updating the blog regularly to track the game development.

May Game Dev 006: Walk animations, moving, testing physics

I’ve made a little bit of progress today. Here’s some more of my progress with the animations and physics.

Yesterday, I picked up a book in Japanese on general game design, and one specific to special effects in Unity. I started reading the first chapter of the first book. Pretty good. Some words here and there that I had to look up but overall not an impossible read for me.

 

Game Development for May 001

FIghting Games.

Complex, beautiful, and you don’t have to program AI if you don’t want to.

I’ve been learning quite a bit about Unity2D for the past couple of months learning from some good courses on Udemy. I think I have enough knowledge right now to go out on my own and build a simple fighting game for May’s 1GAM challenge.

Last year I built a fighter from scratch in Python. The only trouble I had was when I couldn’t get CX_FREEZE to work! So annoying! GAH!

With Unity2D, that’s not such a problem. There’s no slapping together a bunch of dependencies manually and throwing wrenches at my computer as I try to compile an executable that doesn’t cause a segmentation fault.

Geeze that was scary to see the first time. I’m sure if I had the patience, though I could have stuck with it and figured out how to snap everything back together to get an executable file to work. But it still runs on the interpreter.

Teddy Fight Screen Shot, mid development

Teddy Fighters. My first Game built from scratch in Python.

I still love Python, and every once in awhile I go back to my old code and play the little overhead fighting game. I remember when it took forever to try to get all of the weapons to move together with the character at the correct angle with some trig functions. That was a great learning experience. I had to go back to highschool Algebra again.

Now, back to the game!

I have a little bit of time to work out the details with Golden Week coming up. It’s nice to get some time off from the daily grind.

For the simple fighting game, I’m going to try to learn from other fighting games by implementing all of the basic concepts of your standard fighting game.

High Speed Chess

All the competitive fighting games out there are like a high speed chess game in a way. Moves counter moves. You must know when to play defensive and when to go on the attack. And you have to react as fast as possible in the moment.

Dance Dance Revolution

In many ways, fighting games are like any other timed sequence game. You have to hit the right buttons at the right time and train your brain in order to master the game. This comes even before the strategy of the high speed chess game comes into play. You have to know a good range of moves before you can feel out the strategies.

Super Moves, Normals, Throws, and Combos

This is where the meat of the programming and animation will come into play. Each move will need to be mapped out. The time window to chain moves together into combos will also need to be carefully tested. This is why a fighting game takes so much time to develop.

Beautiful Animations

Fighting games can be really showy, and let’s be honest, you’re probably not going to play something with bad animations. Even those stick figure fighting games have beautiful flowing animations. It takes time, patience, and Oh geeze did I mention time?

I might have to look at bone based animations, but It will be something I’m not used to and haven’t done much of. It will be a learning experience. On the other hand, I am more comfortable on sprite animations. Learning something new might take just as long as pushing all of those pixels. It’s a hard choice I’m going to have to make after a bit of research.

Limit

Having a limit is the wonderful thing that makes the animators and programmers jump for joy!

Although there are some very complex fighting games out there with many characters, Usually fighting games don’t have more than 50 different ones. And usually, the 2 player fighting mode is good enough.  The backgrounds don’t have to be a functional part of the scene and can be done very simply if time is running low. Also, the range moves can be limited if I need them to be.

I’m going to need to limit myself this month on characters, AI, Background art, and moves in order to finish a polished working version for the May 1GAM challenge. We’ll keep you informed on the progress. Good luck out there to those that are cooking up a fighting game.

Do you have any experience building a fighting game? Do you have any tips on how to go about Bone based animation in Unity 2D?

Let me know in the comments!

 

Language is not a writing system!

Okay, so this subject has been on my mind recently.  There’s so many simpletons out there that proclaim that Chinese and Japanese are much harder to learn than Korean. Sorry. You’re wrong. Korean is far harder to learn.

Korean does have the simpler writing system. That’s true.

But the reality is, that the sounds of Korean will set you far back than any writing system. Language is about sound and meaning. If you don’t have that covered first, you’re going to have trouble understanding what you read anyways.

Japanese on the other hand is extremely simple to learn. The sounds of Japanese only have a few real trip ups here and there. The Grammar, however is a lot more complex and is very similar to Korean in many respects.

Also, Japanese has many different registers (how you talk, what words you use depending on your relationship to the person you’re speaking to). Korean also has many registers and some verbs change completely (not just morphed) depending on the register. That’s quite tough.

I got really angry one time in my Korean class when a student said in an example that Japanese is much harder to learn than Korean. And while I agree that it’s hard to learn Japanese in Korea, their reasoning was the writing system.

NOPE! That’s not the language! That’s a representation of the language.

If you learn to pronounce the Hangeul in a week, you still won’t be able to understand Curious George in Korean.

A writing system is not a language! A language is a collection of sounds and meaning. Noam Chomsky would also point out that it actually developed through the evolution of human thought, not just for communication.

But, I didn’t want to seem like an old grump and argue with the class or the teacher who agreed with the student. To no fault of her own, she’s not learned Japanese and therefore doesn’t really know. Also, she doesn’t have a point of view from a native English speaker. And most teachers don’t teach phonics or barely remember how the mouth produces sounds from their university courses.

Japanese only looks hard from the characters. But the characters are not the language. Pick your fights, right? One thing I did learn in Korea was not to embarrass people even if they are dead wrong or simply don’t know better.

Did you know that you can teach without a textbook and through speech and context alone?

So why not use that? Learning just like you learned to speak English first (or your other mother tongue). You didn’t learn to write or read first, did you?

Textbooks are far easier on the teacher, and those methods of speech and heavy CI are very intensive for the teacher. With texts and books, the teacher can just say “Do this page for homework.” Speech and CI take lots of preparation.

Pimsleur CD’s took a lot of hours to make and that’s an audio only method. The method is also quite effective.

Now, where was I?

Ah, Chinese!

Yes, Chinese is even harder than Japanese with many more ideograms than Japanese.The Chinese characters fit together logically. But again we are talking about the writing system.

Also, the sounds of the language are more different from English compared to Korean. So in those respects Chinese is harder.

You know why Chinese is easy for English speakers?

The grammar is quite similar to English. More so than Japanese or Korean. And this is a huge help in getting into the greater depths of the language. However it is also different in many areas, so it’s not like Chinese has no grammar learning curve.

Anyways, that’s my venting for the day. Try to calmly explain to people why Japanese and Chinese aren’t really that hard to learn even though they say you can read Korean “In a morning.” That of course is true of a focused student, but you won’t remember how to read it unless you practice for a good month. And you’ll be slow as beans until after another 3 to 6 months. And even then, you won’t have acquired much vocabulary to make sense of most things you’ll see that are longer than a few sentences outside of a textbook.

 

Top 8 useful Commander cards from Fate Reforged: Commons

Fate Reforged is set to release this coming weekend. Pre-release was a blast like always. There’s some really interesting interactions with the new mechanics. My favorite has to be Manifest, Dash, and Bolster in that order.

Let’s just get right into it. Here are the top 8 useful common cards for commander:

Sultai Emissary

#8: Sultai Emissary

Pros: Manifest is still new, but I can see the potential. Most won’t want to kill this one because it trades up for a 2/2 that could be a decent creature. If it’s not a creature, you could run this in blue and bounce the card that you need to your hand. Or just kill the manifest and have it in your grave yard. Seems like something good for a heavy dredge deck or black/blue control deck.

Cons: Just a 1/1 that doesn’t do anything super amazing. Manifest is new and it might not be super effective in Commander. I don’t see many Morph decks in Commander, yet.

#7: Tasigur’s Cruelty

Pros: Possible 1 drop syphon mind-like spell. Supports discard decks. Cool flavor text.

Cons: Discard is a double edged sword. Some players play straight out of the graveyard. Discard also draws some hate even from the graveyard players. No cards in the graveyard make this one an expensive 6 drop. Not an early game card.

#6: Whisk Away

Pros: Hilariously bounce a commander to the library.

Cons: Targets. Needs a shuffle spell to make it worth it. Only works during battle.

#5: War Flare

Pros: Boros Defense. A surprise for the opponent who wants to swing back at you after you attacked with everything.

Cons: You need 4 mana up for it.

Harsh Sustenance

#4: Harsh Sustenance

Pros: Works great in swarm decks. Works well in a token deck.

Cons: Late game card. It’s not green.

Lightning Shrieker

#3: Lightning Shrieker

Pros: Hilarious dragon swings in for 5 damage, returns to your library. Shuffles your library. Doesn’t get board wiped easily. Did I mention he’s a dragon?

Cons: He’s a bad lava ax.

Whisperer of the Wilds

#2: Whisperer of the Wilds

Pros: It’s a great mana creature for a deck full of fatties.

Cons: 0/2 for 2 mana. Not an elf.

Return to the Earth

#1: Return to the Earth

Pros: Almost a putrefy and mortify, but mono-colored.

Cons: Costs a little more and the creature removal is limited to fliers. Targets.

I hope you enjoyed the top 8 useful commons for Commander in Fate Reforged. Stay tuned tomorrow for the useful Uncommons.

Starting Anki again in Japanese

A few days ago I had an Anki screen that looked like this:

Anki Screen Shot 1

 

Now some people can do like 2000 Anki cards in an hour. That’s not me. in 15 minutes, I can do about 20 to 25 cards. That’s for right now. And it all depends on where I am with the cards. A lot of these cards I’m really rusty on because it’s been so long since I’ve seen them. So it takes me longer to review because I’m doing a lot of re-learning.

I’m surprised I remember a lot of these.  Sometimes the meaning will come to me right away and I’ll get confused on the reading. Sometimes the reading will come to me right away and I’ll have no idea what it means. Other times it takes about 20 or 30 seconds of looking at it and re-reading it to get it right, or to know that I don’t know it.