Time to time, I get these questions from elderly students:
Why use “surf” for internet searching?
Why twitter? This word doesn’t make sense.
Surely I am not entitled to answer these language issues, because I am a computer/tech teacher not a English teacher. However, after years I come to realize one of the main block between seniors and modern tech is the language barriers. In the past decade, many words have been coined and become part of daily conversations, and even more words have been transformed from their original meanings into whole new ideas.
|photo by Carlos Magariños|
When time comes like this, I often quote Gilbert Highet, “ Language is a living thing. We can feel it changing. Parts of it become old: they drop off and are forgotten. New pieces bud out, spread into leaves, and become big branches, proliferating.”
Surely the quote helps nothing, but we get the feeling that this is a part of the normal life. What does help is whenever you get words you don’t understand, ask youngsters to make sentences out of the words, just like learning a foreign language. Some words might be easy to explain, such as Wi-Fi or App, because they are, sort of, physical objects. However, many words are not so clear-cut, such as browse/browser or website/web address.
Today, the younger generations use a lot of tech words, and I admit that most of youngsters only know how to use those tech words, but don’t know their real background knowledge. It would be hard for them to explain whys and whats of those tech lingos, but they do know how to put those words in use and this is what all the matter is. The point here is, there is no reason why “cow” is named “cow”. Of course all words have their origins, but if you never wonder why that animal is named cow, it’s a good time to stop asking why, and focus on how instead.
When it comes to learning new tech words, don’t overdig the whys and whats behind it, unless you are talking to teachers. Stop bothering your tech-helpers with those whys and whats questions. The key is to know how to use the words, and their explanations are often not as important as we thought.
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