Tuesday Sep 28, 2004

Long Forgotten Skills

Referencing my previous post about over learned skills, there is another interesting aspect of skills that fascinates me.   It's the sudden reappearance of old, unused, supposedly "forgotten" skills.

During my German studies, there were often times when, if at a lost for words, I would suddenly switch to French!   Now, this in itself is amazing since it was in the mid 1970's that I studied French in high school and I rarely have used it since.   Yet, there it was again, popping up out of nowhere when I couldn't find the German words...

Do old bits of knowledge really fall onto the floor while new bits get shoved in?   Apparently not always...

Over Learned Skills

Having posted off my final written exam paper for my Open University German language course, and feeling pretty confident about the quality, I drove to work this morning feeling fairly relaxed.

As I drove, I realised that there is a huge gap between the quality of my driving skills and my German language skills.   My driving skills are "over learned skills".   It is "second nature".   I can do it in my sleep.   (Not really, but you get the picture.)

My German language skills, however, are taxing to exercise.   I have to think through each sentence, translating as I go, worrying my way through genders, conjugation, and word order.   They are light years away from becoming over learned skills.

At work, I recently encountered a situation where I was struggling to remember a simple keystroke sequence in "vi".   The sequence was one I had over learned to the point of no longer actually knowing what the sequence was...   My fingers just did it.   Unfortunately, I was on a different (German) style keyboard where the finger movement required was different.   I was at a loss...

Georg and I sometimes get caught out by over learned skills when we swap cars.   Our running joke is to "roll down" the window to check for rain after the wipers are noisily scraped across the dry windscreen when really it was the turn indicator that was needed.

Over learned skills in the use of desktop software are a joy for helping maintain efficient work levels.   So, there is a risk that application changes can cause a slowdown.   The challenge for application designers is to maximise the usefulness of the application while minimising the time it takes to get the users back to where they can do their job in their sleep....

...You know what I mean.

Thursday Sep 16, 2004

Languages

Since November last year, I've been studying German with the Open University as part of a International Business Degree.   Later this month, we have our final exam.   Yikes!

To help test my skills, I have a few books written in German, including a copy of Panic!, one Stephen King novel, and some equestrian books.   I also browse German websites from time to time, such as N-TV (a CNN partner).

One German website I recently visited, however, was the Sun Germany website.   It's a daunting site for beginner German students, but still fun to explore and compare to the English version.

Even more fun, is exploring the full range of International Sun websites, written in many different languages.

While exploring the international sites, it was kind of nice to see that the old "All the wood behind one arrow" advert of the early 90's has been recycled to pitch Sun Studio 9.   That was a unique ad that many still remember well.     :-)

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Kimberley

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