Japanese 'no', Russian 'zh' and Hebrew aleph

Side projects log #6 – Learning languages

My interest in languages is sort of constant thing in my life with some peaks and valleys as everything long term in a person’s life. After a decision to ride a wave of commoditization of the web it makes sense to learn more languages, at least the basics.

Whether I like it or not non-Latin languages have different rules. Russian which I used to learn at high school has a little bit different typography than Latin. It’s not that big difference but it is detectable when you are designing a website, poster, flyer etc.

As a former otaku I was interested in Japanese enough to buy a textbook but my invisible disabilities prevented me from going further with it. Mainly keeping attention during the session and learning vocabulary when I am not in class.

Apps like Duolingo help but at the end of the day they are not the silver bullet. For Latin alphabet user it is alright but when I tried to learn Hebrew I gave up because it didn’t start with the alphabet but with words.

Currently I am working on a series of small apps which will help me with Estonian and German word practice. Next is learning hiragana, katakana, kanji and Hebrew alphabet.

The reason behind learning Hebrew is not that I want to visit Israel or convert to Judaism. Instead it is getting out of the Latin box. Both Hebrew and Japanese use right to left writing systems1. When I am designing a theme I can guess how it will look like in non-Latin system but without the knowledge of such language, my best bet would be to talk to someone who speaks such language.

That approach might be feasible but impracticality slow. If I learn the desired language I can browse web sites in that language and learn the conventions.

Hopefully in next log I’ll post links for those two, hopefully more, apps.

  1. This is a simplification, Japanese uses top to bottom sometimes