2014-06-29

YAPC was a blast!

I'm back from YAPC, and I feel like I should write a follow up to my getting ready post. That post got a huge response from some of the community. Some of what I said resonated with people. I was honestly surprised and humbled by the response. Thank you.

I'm happy to report the conference helped me get my groove back. ^_^ Not only do I not feel burnt out, but I plan to start being more active in the Perl community. At the conference, I had a great conversation with Robert Blackwell about how I can help him with some Perl/Hardware tasks. At the conference, I learned about many cool new features and modules. I came home with a million idea's and the drive to execute some of them. Now, I just gotta pace myself.

In my previous post I talked about going to YAPC alone, and several people on twitter said something like "Hey, come talk to me!" That really made me feel welcome. While at the conference I met new people, and had some great conversations with some great people. I hope to continue to get to know the people in this community better. I also hope to give more back, so I feel more apart of the community.

Thank you organizers for all your hard work and putting on a great conference! Thank you speakers for all the awesome talks! Especially, mdk, and Sawyer X who quoted me. Thank you everyone! I will for sure be at next year's YAPC.

2014-06-15

Taiwan Mandarin Institute Review

Roddy over at Chinese Forums asked me to do a write up on my experience at Taiwan Mandarin Institute. I went there last summer for a 4 week period. I hope this write up will be useful. I am cross posting this on their forum.

Tuition

I did a 4 week intensive course. The cost was $35,000NT(~$1,166.66USD). The PAVC 2 book and workbook came with the course.

Registration

The registration process was fairly simple. I used the online form to register ahead of time. We e-mailed back and forth with a couple of other questions to narrow down my level and schedule. While I could specify I wanted the 2pm afternoon classes, I was informed I wouldn't get an exact schedule until a week before classes started. The schedule came on time, and all but Monday classes started at 2pm. Monday started at 1:30pm. Once I had arrived in Taipei I showed up about 30 minutes before my first class and we handled some administrative stuff like emergency contact, introducing me to my teacher, giving me the books, and showing me the facility. This is a smaller language school and I wasn't over crowded by a bunch of other people also needing to register at the same time.

Courses info

They have a couple of different course types. They have your regular group course which consists of two hours of instruction per weekday. Then there is the intensive course which is 4 hours per weekday. They also offer Private one on one, and custom classes. Checking their website today it looks like they have added an online class as well.

The courses are further broken down by level. I was in a lower intermediate class. Unless you form a special class all the classes use the PAVC books. I had completed the first two Integrated Chinese books before that summer. Based on me telling them roughly how many words/characters I had learned up to that point, and a link to the IC table of contents they guessed I was around PAVC book 2 Chapter 6. This turned out to be a good starting point for me. While these two books don't directly match up, there was plenty of new vocabulary, and grammar.

Classes

Class sizes are small. While I was there doing afternoon classes in the summer I observed in passing one beginner class and an intermediate class. Both classes had about 5 – 7 students. My class was interesting, while it was originally scheduled to have 5 students, 3 students rescheduled for different dates leaving just an Irish student and I.

The classrooms themselves are big enough to hold 8 – 12 comfortably. They all have a white board, some conference type tables with chairs around them, and some decent side windows. Each room has it's own window AC unit. If a teacher was going to use a PPT to aid them they would bring in a laptop, and a plain old CRT monitor.

My intensive classes was broken down into about an hour of study, and then a 15 minute break, followed by another hour. Then we would have a 30 minute to one hour break before repeating.

Teachers

All the teachers are native speakers with prior teaching experience. Teaching style varied from teacher to teacher, and you could tell administration if you didn't click with a specific teacher. While I was taking the intensive course they explained to me they wanted me to be exposed to different speaking styles, and teaching styles to help me learn better. While I think this was helpful to me, I also think they were having scheduling issues and needed three teachers to cover all my hours.

One of the cool things about two of my teachers was that during class time we almost completely spoke in Chinese. This was new to me. This was not how we had done it at university. It was a lot of fun, and a lot of work. They encouraged me to talk at length to make my point, and not to just pop out one or two word answers. They were also big on the homework thing. I had 1 – 2 hours of homework most days. The homework was comprised of the workbook, and also handouts the teachers provided.

Living

They offer this service but I did not need to take advantage of it. I lived about 20 minutes away by bus. One of their dorms is in the same building as the school, and the other is nearby according to the website. Pricing on the website at $1000NT/day & $1500NT/day. It looks like you are paying extra for the convenience. If you have the money, I don't think that this is a bad thing, but I also believe if you plan ahead you can find cheaper living arrangements on your own.

Location

The school is in a good location. I wasn't familiar with this area before I started school. It is in the Daan District, on Roosevelt Rd Section 3. There is a bus stop at the street corner next to the building, and subway access not to far away. While I was there I scouted around the area and found all kinds of things. For example, I found a Mexican place, a movie theater, some good coffee shops and pubs, plenty of good food places, and several used book stores.

Criticisms

This is the first language school I have attended.While I was at TMI there were a few holiday's and the administration had a bit of confusion on whether they were going to be off on those days or not, but it got sorted out without causing me any inconvenience, I just happen to hear them talking about it on a break.

I mentioned before we got in detail about what level I should start at via e-mail, and I don't know if there is a best way to evaluate one's Chinese level, but I found their website was a little bit vague in this regard. I think adding that they use the PAVC books could have helped me figure out my level quicker, but maybe not.

Also this is a small business, and like most small businesses ( including the one I work for ) in some respects they attempt to sound bigger than they are. On the flip side because they were so small I felt like I got a lot more personal attention than I would have otherwise.

Conclusion


I had a great experience while I was there. If I get the chance I will go back. I second what another posted said in his post. Make friends with your classmates. My other classmate had been living in Taiwan for several years and he was kind enough to show me me around our school's area, as well as share some interesting stories.  

2014-06-08

Getting Ready For YAPC::NA 2014

For those of you that don't know my day job is programming. I work for a loads boards company in the trucking industry. I do all kinds of programming projects for them in a variety of languages, but the majority of my programming time is spent using Perl. Perl is a great programming language and you should check it out.

One of the cool perks my company has is that they send me to YAPC::NA the largest Perl conference in North America about every other year. This year it is being held in Orlando, FL, two weeks from now. I'm really excited about this year. Not only do I get to meet some amazing people, but there looks to be some great talks that will benefit my growth as a programmer in general, and benefit my work immediately.

While I am a different person than I was when I attended YAPC in Madison, WI, my Perl learning has taken a back seat to finishing my degree, and my language learning projects. Also, I have been feeling somewhat burnt out since March. Even though I finished classes at the beginning of May, I don't yet feel fully recovered. This conference will be a major step to help me correct these two issues. One of the great things about going to a conference where everyone is excited about the same thing is that, excitement is contagious. Everytime I go to YAPC it renews my will to learn more, to delve deeper, and to try harder. It helps me make myself a better programmer.

This year is a bit scarier than last time tho. The previous two times I have went to YAPC I have had coworkers with me. They have given me someone to talk to when everyone else has been grouped off, help when I had questions, and kept me company during meals, and been friends. I fear this YAPC may be a bit more lonely than the previous ones if I don't adapt and make some new acquaintances, and friends. I am figuring out some ways to do that. I'm planning on attending game night, a BoF or two, and some of the other social activities. I am also going to try and strike up conversations with new people.

That's all for now, wish me luck!

2014-06-01

Sensible Chinese Character Challenge 2014 Milestone 3!

Hello all! Welcome back. It's been a quiet month for this blog. Offline I have been quite busy. I got my B.S. in Computer Science, and had a celebration for that. According to some 12 years to get your B.S. is a long time. With the completion of my degree the wife and I have started preparations to move away from COMO. This isn't a rushed thing, we have been planning it for a long time, and we are taking our time with the move, estimating to be moved by next spring. I have also picked and started learning my second foreign language, Esperanto. I'm doing as this part of another challenge. I'll try and give it it's own post later. 

On to the challenge! I'm tired of recapping each round so, Here's a link to my post on milestone 2 you can see all the bits there if you care. For Milestone 3 I pledged to learn 471 terms total for the challenge. I'm happy to report I made the mark. I am currently at 514 terms. I am extremely confident I will hit my last milestone with time to spare.

This challenge has been, and still is both fun and useful. I am grateful that Olle takes the time to make these challenges and his website. His website is full of helpful info that has both taught me a lot over the last 2+ years and helped keep me motivated. I'm sure it will continue to teach me new things for a long time to come.

Since I only have one more month left in this language challenge I have started to look for other motivators to keep me going. This month I am taking the italki world cup challenge. The challenge is a bet with italki that I can complete 25 hours of study with a language teacher. This will help keep me on track with this challenge and help me to continue to level up with my speaking and listening. Also, the wife and I have planned another trip to Taiwan for this fall. I am excited to show off to the in laws how much I have progressed.

That's all for now. I'll probably have another post or two later this month..