Tech-induced laziness

Now that I have a 32GB card in my camera, it never gets full, so I never need to load photos onto my laptop, so I never look at them and never post the best ones on my blog.

Tech- induced laziness.

I’m sure there’s a parable from ancient times that explains this aspect of the human condition. In times of plenty, the rook doesn’t clean his store cupboard and the fox eats the grain. Or something.

On the other hand, I take as many pictures as I want, without caring about quality, as the technology available doesn’t limit me in any way. I couldn’t do that before.

In similar news, I’ve noticed that my new Mac is even better at correcting my typing than previous computers I’ve had. I’ve also noticed that colleagues’ emails are better spelt and punctuated than in the past. Is this a good thing? Probably. At times, it’s bit too clever though – I need a setting that says ‘I’ve changed this word to what I think it should be’. Currently a misspelt word just gets changed to a best guess, with no indication that’ s happened, so when I look over the page I don’t pick out any red underlined spelling mistakes and assume everything’s fine, when it often isn’t. Well, that’s my excuse.

On the odd occasion I have to write French, I am immensely grateful when Outlook automatically recognises I’m writing in Frog and helps me with spelling and punctuation accordingly. No substitute for learning it properly in the first place, of course – but what happens to the learning process, when we’re all writing on devices that correct what we write so well?

I’m benefitting because I learnt the rules ‘the hard way’ and technology helps me save time. I can validate the changes it makes and am grateful when it reminds me what’s right. Does it help people learn to write and punctuate properly in the first place? Are these fundamentals still important? Do we need to force kids to write with a pen and paper and really think about accents and spelling or focus on learning vocabulary and communicating?

I will never forget revising for my German GCSE with my father. He was appalled at certain aspects of my grammar. How could standards have dropped so low?!

Looking back, I can totally understand his shock. I think it’s fair, however, to say that at fifteen my spoken German was probably better than his, at a similar age. The accuracy of my German, however, was far worse.

At the age of 21 he had spent two years studying German at university and spent a year living in North Germany during his ‘third year abroad’, working as a language assistant.

I was in the same position at 21.

I would guess that we were at similar levels at that age, although I bet that my having a TV in the room I stayed in had helped me improve my general fluency, enabling to immerse myself in German more effectively. Technology at work – or was it? Perhaps he had a radio in his room and listened to that constantly, undistracted by moving images and fully focused on full on Deutsch speaking?

Like my camera’s memory card, we’re filling our brains with data in a different way. If I had to decide what’s best, I would plump for the bigger memory card and a bit of technology to help me along the way when it comes to languages. These advances and approaches mean that ‘good things’ are more accessible to the average person, whilst the gifted will still have room to excel.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to learn a language today, with Google Translate on hand to help.

Nothing will ever enable me to remember, off the top of my head, like my father, the German word for general efficiency or an obscure tool, the main character in a Gunther Grass novel or a critical piece from a John Le Carre novel he last read in the seventies.

That basic raw ability will always trump my abilities, technology or not – but at least I can look the information up on my phone if I need to!


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