Starting again with the Polish

by Suw on December 30, 2004

It's been a long whilst since I've done any work learning Polish. I've been so busy that it's been months since I last looked at my books. That does, unfortunately, mean I've forgotten much of what I learnt earlier in the year. Not so useful.
Part of this lapse has been technology related. I had been working in notebooks, writing everything out by hand, but that was slow and I wanted to get my work on to the computer. The problem was that my desktop runs Win2K and therefore is not particularly good at dealing with diacritics such as ę or ł. Although I had located the alt-codes for the various Polish letters I now required, half of them didn't print out properly and I gave up.
Of course, Macs have great language support, but by the time I'd got my PowerBook I simply didn't have the wherewithal to play with Polish anymore. In the last week, though, I have had the pleasure of talking to Marek on IRC and between us we have managed to sort out Polish language support on both our Macs, (thanks to Kevin for helping!), and we can now talk in Polish in IRC with the correct diacritics.
Setting up the language support itself was easy, but it took Kevin to point out the existence of the keyboard viewer before Marek and I figured out how to actually get at all the letters we need (the alt key provides most of them). We then struggled for a while with IRC, our clients alternately displaying the correct diacritics then showing ?s instead, but eventually we got that fixed too.
So I started faffing about with the various text editors I have installed on the Mac, and it was then that I discovered that iText doesn't support Polish, so that went straight in the trash. I'm trying Tex-Edit Plus now instead, which supports Polish, but not Welsh. Gah. Can't win 'em all. (For more details of my quest for a decent text editor, see Strange Attractor.)
Anyway, rewind a bit. A month or so ago I was talking to crw about outlining and note-taking, which is a whole post in its own right, and he suggested that I use a note-taking app called Notational Velocity. So I downloaded it, installed it and sat looking at it in a puzzled manner, knowing it should be useful, but not really quite sure precisely how.
Having now sorted out the whole typing in Polish thing, I wanted a way to create a record of words and phrases as I learn them. With crw being my one stop shop for all geek advice these days, I asked him how he would do something like that on a Mac and he immediately told me to use Notational Velocity.
As Merlin says on 43 Folders, 'All Notational Velocity does is record little notes, but it does that in a way that is completely elegant, intuitive, and incrementally searchable'. All you do is type in the beginning of a word, and NV immediately starts to search for that strong of characters. If you keep typing beyond the point where NV can match the string, then you go from searching to creating a new entry. All you need do is hit return and your new entry is saved. You can also add extended notes to each entry which are similarly searchable.
For example, if I type in 'mo' then it returns 'matka – mother', 'mogę – I can' and 'potrzebuję pomocy – I need help'. It doesn't matter where the 'mo' is, it will find it. If I keep on typing 'może' then it realises that it can't match that string and I have a new entry ('może – perhaps'). I then clear the search box and start again. In practice, this means that amongst its other uses, Notational Velocity is perfect for the creation of an ad hoc Polish/English dictionary which is very easily and instantaneously searchable.
I am hoping that this will help motivate me to spend even a little bit of time working on my Polish each week. Of course, having Marek and James around on IRC helps enormously too, as would finding the time to actually read the emails that come in from the Polish Language Study Group. And it will still take me forever to get my head round Polish grammar, but maybe I can get at least a wee bit beyond 'hello, how are you?'.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: