Subject: Re: Newbie Q: Methods & Packages
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: 1999/09/06
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Andrew Cooke <>
| That's all very fine, but you are asking me to run before I can walk.

  huh?  what did you compare the first language you learned to?  I think
  it's you who want to run before you can walk because you want compare
  before you understand.

| When one learns a new "real" language, one starts by making comparisons,
| and only later do the more subtle differences appear.

  that's how you do it.  it has led to some problems in understanding.
  maybe the two are related?

| In both that case and computer languages it is very frustrating when an
| expert refuses to make broad simplifications because they are "wrong" -
| it is often useful to have something to work from, even if it is not
| correct.

  in a personal or controlled context, such simplifications are perfectly
  OK, since the responsibility to correct the simplification later is under
  control.  when answering something on a newsgroup, there is no telling
  what the person will go away with and believe later, without correction,
  and especially what somebody else will go away with or search for later.

| I guess from your name and email address and post that you speak at least
| two natural languages.  Did you really learn the second by erasing your
| mind and learning it like a new born child?  Or did you use useful but
| erroneous comparisons with your first language, revising things as you
| knew more?

  no, I didn't make such comparisons, but I "compared" at the meta-level,
  instead.  that is, instead of comparing the expression of a concept or
  action or whatever from language to language, I wondered how one would
  express the same concept or action or whatever in English if I had seen
  it in Norwegian and vice versa, but it has been important to me to try to
  discover the concept in each language on its own.  this has the curious
  effect that I develop vocabulary and whole concepts in each language and
  struggle to translate between the two languages, because concepts are
  often so local to the culture that a translation will always fail, which,
  by the way, is often proved beyond any doubt in the subtitling of the
  many American TV shows broadcast here.

| People are not computers.

  people who have a more methodical mind than others hear this a lot.  I
  have never quite figured out how it is a valuable statement to make in an
  argument, though.  why is being more methodical an _unhuman_ trait?

  save the children: just say NO to sex with pro-lifers