The Importance of Patterns

Patterns - a piece of abstract art created by Simon Ager illustrate this blog post

Last week I went to a concert that featuring a jazz pianist and an artist. While the pianist played, the artist painted on her iPad, which was connected to a projector and projected on a big screen. The artist created pictures based on the music, and I think the pianist also created some tunes based on the art. It was all very abstract, especially the art. During the concert I was looking for patterns, shapes or anything in the art that looked like something familiar. I didn’t find much, but enjoyed the experience anyway.

Afterwards I got thinking about patterns and familiarity and came to the conclusion that we tend to feel most comfortable with the familiar – familiar people, things, places, sounds, etc – i.e our comfort zone. When we encounter the unfamiliar we try to find anything in it we can make sense of. We look for patterns, and anything else we can recognise. If we cannot find such things we may decide that the unfamiliar is not for us.

Abstract art and some forms of music, for example, are sometimes said to be “challenging”, and I think this is because there is little in them that is familiar, and this is why it takes longer to appreciate them – we need longer to find any patterns they may contain and for them to become familiar.

When we first encounter a foreign language everything is unfamiliar, and this can put a lot of people off. However a language that has a lot in common with your mother tongue can be easier to learn than one that has little or nothing in common with it as you will find more that is already familiar, and probably feel more comfortable with it.

To become familiar with the patterns, sounds, words and structures of a foreign language we need to get a lot of exposure to it – i.e. listen, read, and watch films and TV programmes. Doing these things alone is not enough to learn a language – you need to speak it and maybe write it as well – but they will make it more familiar to you.

The more you learn of a language, the more patterns you will spot within it, and the easier it will be to spot those patterns. The patterns might be how words are put together to form sentences, how grammatical changes are applied to words, how words can mean different things in different contexts, how speakers interact with one another, what topics are appropriate to different situations, and so on.

So you may need to get outside your comfort zone at first, but over time your comfort zone will expand to include the new language.

Omniglot now mobile friendly

The new mobile-friendly Omniglot homepage

I think I’ve managed to make Omniglot work better on mobiles and other devices with small screens now. I know that the homepage goes a bit strange in IE when you make your browser narrow (not sure how to fix that), and there may be some other elements that are not behaving themselves, but it seems to be generally okay in the tests I’ve run on different screen sizes and devices. If you spot anything that isn’t working, please let me know. If you can suggest solutions, even better.

New Omniglot design

My redesign of Omniglot is now complete, except for the homepage. All inner pages are now aligned to the left, and have drop-down menus at the top, which should make it easier to find your way around, and should work well on all sizes of screen. Initially I tried to keep the central alignment, but couldn’t work out how to centre the menu, so gave up on that. Then I realised that the left alignment gives more flexibility, which is one of the goals of the new design. I’ve also finally finished converting the whole site to HTML5 – this doesn’t change the look of it, but does make managing it easier, and streamlines the code.

I have been working on a new homepage and am trying to come up with a fluid design that works well on all screen sizes. You can see what I’ve done so far here – this page is changes frequently as I try out different layouts and adjust the contents and images.

Does the new design work for you?

Have you spotted anything that could be improved?

What do you think should appear on the homepage?

New Omniglot design

Recently I have been working on a new design for Omniglot which should be better on all devices, including phones. I’ve built a drop-down menu using CSS Menu Maker and have tweaked the colours and a few other things. You can see the pages I’m working on in the telling the time section. I also plan to redesign/refresh the homepage, and welcome your suggestions for that.

Here are some screen shots (what I see in my browsers might not be exactly what you see):

Screen shot of the new design of the time index page

Screen shot of the new design of the time index page

What do you think of the new design?

Does it work on smaller screens?

Blwyddyn newydd dda!

Bloavezh mat / Šťastný nový rok / Blwyddyn newydd dda i chi i gyd / Einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr / Happy New Year to you all / Bonne année / Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh / Blein Vie Noa / Bliadhna mhath ùr / Blydhen Nowydh Da / С Новым Годом / Срећна Нова Година!

Happy New Year!

Bloavezh mat / 新年快樂 / Blydhen Nowydh Da / Šťastný nový rok / Gelukkig Nieuwjaar / Happy New Year / Bonne année / Einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr / Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh / Felice anno nuovo / 新年おめでとうございます / Blein Vie Noa / Feliz Ano Novo / С Новым Годом / Bliadhna mhath ùr / Срећна Нова Година / ¡Feliz Año Nuevo! / Gott nytt år / Blwyddyn newydd dda, and so on!

New Omniglot designs

You might have noticed recently that various different designs are being tested on Omniglot. The idea is to improve user experience on the site, and to increase my revenue from the site. While the latter certainly is true – my income from Google ads has been up 200-300% since the changes were started a few months ago, which means that my overall income has almost doubled – I’m not convinced of the former.

When you visit the site in different browsers and on different devices you’re likely to see different designs. You may even see different designs each time you visit in the same browser/device. I can see the old site in Chrome and Firefox on my laptop, but in IE, and on my Samsung tablet, I see new designs. You can see the old site by clicking on this link.

I have put a poll on the Omniglot Facebook group asking whether you prefer the new designs or the original site. Please let me know what you think, if you haven’t done so already.

If the majority are for the old site I will switch back to it.

Here are some examples of the new designs:

Homepage
An example of a new homepage design

Inner page
An example of a new inner page design

Homepage
An example of a new homepage design

Inner page
An example of a new inner page design

Here are the original designs:

Homepage
Original homepage

Inner page
Original inner page

Merry Christmas

Zalig kerstfeest / Nadolig Llawen / С Рождеством / Nollaig chridheil / Joyeux Noël / Nollick Ghennal / Frohe Weihnachten / Nollaig shona daoibh / A Blithe Yule and a Multilingual Merry Christmas to you.

My Dutch studies a sort of on hold this week, but will continue after New Year – I was planning to learn it just for one month, but will continue as I’m enjoying it and finding it fairly easy, a lot easier than Russian, anyway.

How’s your language learning going?