Project 2 Week 4/4: End and begin!

Goal: Wrap up, reflect, plan

Admittedly, did not get much farther in the course over the past day. But I feel like I have a solid foundation in NLP and I can easily wrap up this course in the future. I do plan to, as I really would like to apply it to a set of text data that I have access to at work. I’d be excited to get a better count of who reported using specific tools and techniques by lemmatizing the data. The data set is just large enough to be analyzed that way, and small enough to use more computationally dense approaches.

I realized that NLP is actually more understandable than I thought it would be. Once I got past the hurdle of understanding and using NLTK, I found that a lot of the data skills I’ve learned at the iSchool so far make NLP really easy to understand. To be entirely honest, it’s validating to see what I’ve learned over the past 2 years be applicable to new skills. This familiarity also allows me to take bits and pieces of the NLP process and apply those techniques in different ways to my own projects. Because now I know and understand the basics of NLP, I can either use that entire established process through or “mix and match” the toolkit functions I’ve learned.

The end of this project marks the end of my non-physical technologies. I learned the basics of JavaScript and NLP for the first and second projects. Both these projects required familiarizing myself with an entirely new skill, so I found that it was much harder than expected to get started with each. However, now that I’ve done the more difficult part of getting started with a huge new concept, I feel confident in my ability to keep up these skills as I move forward in my career. In a larger sense, I do feel much more confident in how long it takes to teach yourself a new skill. Turns out: takes a while! But, now I can move forward with continuing these skills or starting new ones with a better idea of how to plan for it.

So even though after 2 projects I’ve finally figured out how to get the most of these self-teaching opportunities, I’m flipping the script a little with my third project. It’s a “physical”-ish project; I’d like to get better at listening to and speaking Spanish. While I’ve been working on Spanish grammar and vocabulary for about 1-2 months, I’ve been finding that I’m not really progressing in my listening and speaking skills. I want to dedicate my efforts to practicing Spanish in ways that does not just help me learn the language, but also helps me practice its use.

There are three components I’m focusing on:

  • Listening
  • Constructing sentences
  • Speaking

The first major difference with this project is now that we’re quarantined, I’ve had to switch up my schedule. I’ve decided to take this opportunity to move from a 5-hour studio learning session to daily 1-hour practice sessions. This is much more suitable for language learning anyway, since daily exposure and repetition are important.

The second major difference is instead of using one course or project, I’m using multiple activities to practice these three components. The most important of my activities is to continue my Language Transfer course. Language Transfer is an entirely free language-learning resource that, for Spanish, is a series of 90 short audio lessons. I’m around chapter 60 or so now and I can’t recommend it enough; I’ve learned so much in such a short time and the lessons are engaging and interesting. The instructor teaches by asking you to construct and speak sentences using whatever grammar rule or vocabulary he just talked about. Previously, I’ve been either just listening (there’s a person who he teaches in the audio and I listen to her answers) or writing down my answers. I’d like to finish up the course and start always answering aloud, practicing both the speed of my answer and my pronunciation. So, Language Transfer will help with all three components. 

Each weekday I plan to listen to one or two Language Transfer lessons and do one other activity. I have activities planned for each day, as follows:

  • Thursday: Journal (constructing sentences)

I want to journal in Spanish to help practice constructing my own sentences. I’d like to read it aloud as I go too.

  • Friday: Music (listening)

I’m going to listen to music, try to write down what I hear, and check. This hopefully will help me better identify words and sounds.

  • Monday: TV (listening)

I’m going to watch a TV show in Spanish with Spanish closed-captioning (not dubs with subs, since they don’t always match), listening closely to the words and slowly trying to rely less on the subs.

  • Tuesday: Read aloud (speaking)

I’m less certain of this one, but I’d like to try reading simple stories written in English aloud in Spanish.

  • Wednesday: Test (all three)

I have the added benefit of being quarantined with a native Spanish speaker, Cosme. Each Wednesday, I’ll spend my hour trying to speak with him, and listening and writing about the feedback he gives me. This will be a helpful metric for my improvement and how I should switch up the activities.

Because I do need to expand my vocabulary outside of my daily tech studio hours, I’m going to be immersing myself in grammar and more vocab. The biggest help right now is that I’ve started playing Animal Crossing in Spanish. I plan on keeping this up throughout the month, so hopefully that will expose me to a lot of words and phrases. So far, Cosme has been helping me by answering questions I have about phrases and idioms that pop up in the game.