Once again, I’ve been inactive here for a while. I moved to Tokyo two weeks ago and I’m hard at work learning Japanese and trying to maintain or improve my Chinese (I’ll be posting later on how I’m doing that while in Japan, I promise).
But I have another, very exciting piece of news to announce.
A few months ago, two friends of mine name Ash Henson and Chris Schmidt asked me to join their not-yet-founded start-up. Ash has had a profound influence over me in the last few years. It was after talking to him that I decided to take up palaeography instead of Qing history. He helped me through the process of applying for the MA program. He’s been the board off of which I’ve bounced most of my ideas about language learning over the last few years, being an accomplished polyglot (he speaks Mandarin, Cantonese, Dutch, and German, and is learning Japanese) and an accomplished and passionate scholar of early Chinese phonology and palaeography. You might know him if you read Olle Linge’s blog Hacking Chinese (which you should), because he contributed to two great posts (Asking the experts: How to bridge the gap to real Chinese and Asking the experts: How to learn Chinese grammar).
So I joined them. We’re called Outlier Linguistic Solutions (our Chinese name is 久茂語林), and our first project is a dictionary of Chinese characters for learners. It’s going to be incredible (in my very honest, though slightly biased opinion). It will be the only book for learners to present Chinese characters in an etymologically- and pedagogically-sound manner. It will teach you how Chinese characters really work. We explain characters in terms of their functional components: components that express sound and/or meaning. We will teach you exactly how each meaning component expresses meaning within the character (something literally no other book in English gets right), how the sound component expresses sound (including the possible range of sounds that each sound component can express), and how the character got to look the way it looks and mean what it means in modern Chinese. No other dictionary or textbook does any of this, and the ones that try get it wrong. The people that can do this sort of research aren’t generally interested in helping second language learners (they’re busy trying to read excavated texts), and the people who work in language pedagogy don’t know enough about palaeography and historical linguistics. We’re taking our academic training in those fields, combined with Ash’s background in language pedagogy and our combined experience as language learners, to create the tool we wish we had had access to when we first started.
I’m doing some of the research, and I’m also in charge of our online marketing.
So that’s what I’m up to now. We have other awesome projects lined up after that, but that’s our primary focus right now. We’ll be doing a Kickstarter in a few months to try to fund the rest of the project (it’s been in development for years already), so Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to our website so you can keep up with what’s going on. And please, spread the word. Tell your friends who are learning Chinese (or Japanese, because we want to develop a Japanese edition), tell your professors, tell anyone you think might be interested in what three geeks in Taiwan and Tokyo are up to!