A New Turning Point Note #15

Some reflections on AI and Language learning

It has been a while since my last post on this blog. I hope that my followers are still remembering me. Well, if you are not, let me refresh your memory about myself and my work.
My name is Anh Tho Andres for friends and colleagues who know me well. However, for new friends who are not familiar with Vietnamese names, the tendency to misspell my name is quite notable as some will associate it with the German spelling and write “Ahn” instead of “Anh”, so my alias Anita H. is easier to remember and I noticed that my new friends have fewer problems remembering my name.
I was born and raised in Vietnam until age 27. So even after I left Vietnam and have been living in different countries, I still feel I am more Vietnamese than Swiss, although I got my Swiss nationality for almost 2/3 of my life. Being Vietnamese means, I can only pray in Vietnamese when I pray, as I cannot pray in another language than my mother tongue, although I speak four fluently and have learnt eight.
Another characteristic of being Vietnamese is comparing things I learn from others. Therefore, I use Vietnamese norms as references for my preferred system of values.
However, in my daily life, I tend to adopt Western thinking as I was French educated, and consequently, my thinking pattern is shaped by French logic. As most of my readings in Literature and Philosophy were in French and management stuff in English, I switch languages when I start writing on the topics I want to deal with. I rarely use Vietnamese in my writing, although I have used it to converse with my compatriots when I meet them. Lately, I started reading more in Vietnamese for knowledge of Vietnam, which I neglected in my youth due to the imperatives of working in French or English for my studies or professional dealings.
In everyday life, as the rest of the family members are non-Vietnamese speakers, I switch between languages, from German to English or French, depending on the topics and the guests with us. It happens so naturally in our family that we don’t even think about what language we use during the conversation. I remember once my uncle-in-law, who is German-speaking – while observing me following a conversation in Swiss German, Swiss Italian and Swiss French between the six of us around a table – asked me in what language I was thinking; I had some difficulty remembering which one was in my head at the time. My only explanation was that I would probably start deciphering the conversation through the closed level of understanding I could manage. For example, I would translate German into English, and for Italian, I would translate it into French. English and French are my home terrain as languages, just like Vietnamese, so I would not need to do another translation exercise to capture the essence of the messages.
Recently, when I start writing on a topic I am unfamiliar with, I tend to do the same thing the other way around. So, for example, I would think of the concept in the language closest to me. For topics relating to philosophy or literature, I use French to express myself. For those relating to management or business, I would use English even if the message was intended for a French or an English speaker in either scenario. It also applied when I was writing my thesis, which was required to be in French and the book I had decided to publish in English.
In the first scenario, as my source of information was mainly in Vietnamese and English, I would start writing my draft in English, and once I was satisfied with it, I translated it into French. In the second scenario, as my inspiration goes in different languages, sometimes in French, sometimes in English, or mainly in Vietnamese, I would write down the thoughts in the language that came first to me and then consolidate them in English for the final draft. In this way, I could concentrate on expressing the ideas instead of struggling with the form and content simultaneously.
More recently, I have been learning to get used to systemic thinking to write my books. Now, it is no more wandering thoughts, but the text needs to follow certain logic to develop an argument. I use the French way of posing a hypothesis, antithesis, and synthesis to build on my statement. I also use the 4P of market-mix to develop my business plan writing or the SWOT analysis to work out my strategic planning. For concepts I need clarification on, I use specialised dictionaries and get inspired by learning materials about my writing subjects.
Reading is helpful and keeps enriching your vocabulary and smoothening your writing style. So reading is my daily breakfast, lunch and dinner. But with the downpour of information coming our way, it is difficult to discern what is right or wrong, or halfway right, especially with online publishing, which is so prolific and diverse. So I would instead stick to some classic material as an introduction to the topics before I move on to more specific issues that require a deeper understanding of the matter.
As the general trend is now on the adverse effect or dangers of AI, I have so far a positive user experience of what “my” AI assistant has provided me for my research work. I got my answer in a fraction of the time that I needed to do a Google search to focus on my ideas and think of asking questions that lead to the answers I needed. For example, my questions on social studies started with a general definition, “What do I know about social studies?” to “What are the skills needed in social studies?” that then leads to “How do social studies aid in character building?”, and finally to “What is the role of teachers in forming their student’s character?” or “Does teachers’ training require a good understanding of social studies?” are some basic step-by-step self-learning procedure that a future teacher or social studies researcher should ask him- or herself in looking for a career path in life.
I realised that using my linguistic skills to build a learning method for myself is now the foundation of life-long learning for more topics that enrich my life and satisfy my hunger for knowledge. Therefore AI can be an accelerator for such a self-learning approach, provided that we already have a direction on where we are heading.

Till next time,

Anita H.


Published by Anita H.

Expert in Intercultural Communication, navigating between 4 cultures and 5 languages which I use daily for work and leisure. Author of blogs on wordpress and blogspot on SBI Training Solutions Projects: vietnamhoc, yourvietnamexpert, yourvietbooks, sbi-training.com.

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