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Makers should learn Chinese

July 12, 2011

Note to those who don’t hang out in the tech/DIY world: A ‘maker’ is anyone who’s ever “fixed anything at home, tackled a craft project, knit a skarf, plant a garden, combined several things into something new, you are a Maker. Have you painted a portrait, sculpted with clay, pressed leaves in a book? Did you get the WiFi working in your home, program your remote, setup a home theatre, install outdoor lighting, program your lawn sprinkler? Are you a DIY enthusiast, mechanic, machinists, scientist, engineer, hacker, gamer, read Instructables, Popular Science/Mechanics or Make/Craft magazine? If so you DEFINITELY ARE a maker!” 

From Make Magazine

By Philip Torrone

Nǐ hǎo 你好! Permanently on my desk, and everywhere I go is an iPad/iPhone app called Pleco, which has my custom flash cards that I use to quiz myself about 300 Chinese (Mandarin) characters. I’m getting pretty good with the help of a weekly instructor found via Craigslist, daily walks through Chinatown in NYC, and a website called Memrise. In less than a month I’ve been able to specifically translate (a lot of) the data sheets for products I’m sampling/purchasing for my job at Adafruit Industries, and for fun/downtime I’m translating some of the Chinese graffiti in Blade Runner (I always wanted to know what they said).

At this point, you might be asking, “Why are you wasting your time learning such a hard language? Computers can do it — why don’t you hire a translator?” Or “the USA will make electronic components again, really!” Well, I’m going to tell you why and how I’ve decided to devote the next 2+ years or so of my free time to learning (Mandarin) Chinese with my own deadline to be fluent by 2016.

In this week’s article I’ll talk about why I think it’s a good idea for any maker to consider picking up some new language skills and specifically what I’m doing. A lot of my articles tend to be about the future (I can’t wait to look back on these 5 years from now). So, yes, I think a lot of us are going to find speaking, reading, and writing the language of the soon-to-be biggest economy in the world and, who makes almost everything, is a good idea. It’s something to consider learning, starting now, particularly for makers, especially the ones who run maker businesses.

Read more here.

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