Sarah Blake LaRose (3kitties) wrote,
Sarah Blake LaRose

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language learning and technology

This entry will not make sense to some readers... I'm posting it in order to keep record of my Greek study process and things that need to be attended to when a blind student studies Greek with sighted peers. I will use it as reference material someday...

When studying a language in the classroom, the challenge of taking quizzes always arises. Since I can display Greek on the braille display, the professor and I can exchange files and I can take the quizzes right in class. This has worked for all of my quizzes in seminary so far, language or otherwise. With language courses, there are technical difficulties to resolve in order for me to take the quiz easily. The font we use must match in order for the text to display correctly. Some fonts use two characters to display letters with accents, points, or other special markings. (These letters are called diacritics). When two computer characters are used to display these, they may not display correctly in braille. Often braille represents diacritics with one character; so the computer program needs a single character to interpret for the braille display. It is possible for the screen reader to turn one computer character into two braille characters; but it will not turn two computer characters into one braille character--at least not in the context of foreign language fonts. I'm giving some slightly incorrect information... It does this when translating into contracted braille in English; but that is another story, and some of the translations are incorrect at times. The function of the translator is to ease reading on the braille display. JAWS is not meant to serve as a braille translator. It's primary function is to render text in accessible format. Confronted with text, it will generally give an exact interpretation. In Hebrew, if it sees a bet followed by a daghesh, it will show me exactly that. In braille Hebrew, it is possible to render this even though there is a more efficient way (because there is a sign for a bet with a dahesh). In Greek, for example, there is not a sign for an acute accent. So if JAWS sees an alpha and a separate character representing the acute accent, it will either not show me the accent or will show me a garbage character. (Last night when my professor sent me a sample, all the accents were showing up as v.)

The answer to this is to locate a Unicode font that supports precompiled diacritics. This is what we are working on now. There are other characteristics of fonts that are important to sighted readers; so we need a font that satisfied both the needs of the sighted reader and meets my needs in working with JAWS.

Edit: I have learned from my professor that he uses a program to prepare his quizzes... There is one for Greek and one for Hebrew. These programs are rather costly and apparently do everything for you: set your keyboard up and take care of your font, etc. He was not familiar with Unicode at all--and probably is not familiar with fonts. So if I write on this, I also need to explain what a font is and what Unicode is. (It tells every computer in the world exactly how to display this piece of text, blah blah blah.)

I still want to find a way to learn the Hebrew and Greek writing systems tactually. If I'm going to teach languages someday, I think it matters that I am familiar with how they are written. And I am very curious. There is plenty of technology that I can use for projecting things onto a screen, etc, and I can require students to learn to type in languages. I still think it is important for me to understand what they are looking at.


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