What now?


It’s been over a year since I last posted, which even for me is impressive, and as to why, well, I had other things going to occupy me. One of which has young and needy paws.

As a quick 2023 language recap, I decided to improve my French … and did.

And as to this year, I’m putting French to one side, and improving my Spanish, Italian and secret language.

And one other project. I have history in making grand announcements and not following through, so if I’m still pursuing this idea in four weeks, I’ll let you know.

With luck, I’ll let you all know how it goes, with an update in four weeks …

Besos, baci et pax.


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Note to self


Read and listen to the news in French.

Read for pleasure in Spanish, French and Italian.

No English media consumption.

Apart from work related.

This is partly for language related reasons but mainly because I’m attempting to avoid UK politicians and politics.

The UK is (just) the sixth biggest economy in the world …

… but people can’t eat or heat their homes …

… and the extremely rich prime minister tells us ….

… there is no money.

Except …

… it’s a political choice not to have a more equitable taxation system.

BTW I don’t believe politicians are perfect elsewhere. It’s just that we (in the UK) have a particularly unimpressive bunch running the country (in the loosest possible sense) at the moment.

Besos, baci et pax,


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Opportunity costs of language learning


It’s been a while.

One of the things that is rarely mentioned regarding language learning is the opportunity cost involved.

In essence, the time that you spend doing one thing stops you doing something else, or at the very least limits the time you can spend on other activities.

I like languages and find them interesting. I also find many other things equally interesting.

If you are going to learn something/anything new, then concentration and time are needed, and both are finite.

You might spend a lot of time with friends and family.

You might have an intellectually demanding job, and arrive home physically and mentally tired after a hard day.

You might have two jobs.

Who knows?

We are all different and we all have different amounts of ‘free’ time, so let’s talk about the time that I have available or want to spend on languages.

I have decided that I’m happy to use half an hour a day for language learning. Sometimes it might be more and that’s fine but I’ve made a commitment to myself that most days that is what I will do. I enjoy this half hour and it is enough for me to scratch the language itch.

I currently spend this on my secret language. By the way, I don’t include language maintenance in this half hour. I do this by reading, listening to podcasts, watching YouTube etc in French, Italian and Spanish when I’m in the mood. I also have the occasional lesson on iTalki.

This is also why I am no longer attempting to maintain my Croatian. The time that I would need and so opportunity cost for me is too great. I don’t know it well enough to passively maintain it. I can’t do this and have time to learn my ‘new secret language’ within my allocated 30 minutes.

Of course you might be able to do both. In reality, if I really wanted or needed to learn Croatian and my secret language, then I could but for me personally, half an hour is enough.

I have other fish to fry.

Besos, baci n Pax.


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I like reading trash novels


Despite the carefully cultivated persona used on this blog, I am often not particularly sophisticated regarding my reading matter.

I like trash novels. I don’t mean I consider the books themselves trash or rubbish. I do mean that they are formulaic and won’t stand the test of time.

They are usually also undemanding. They are not Shakespeare, Dickens or Hardy. There is no character analysis nor social commentary.

There is however pure escapism.

I have an excellent trash nov. on the go and I can’t wait to read more.

Have fun.

Besos etc.


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The Origin of the word Solitaire


I don’t just have a language website. I’m more rounded than that;) From time to time I create other websites for fun.

Most recently, I’ve been playing around with Solitaireonline.org. This is, unsurprisingly, a website where you can (or will be able) to play different types of Solitaire.

As I am interested in languages, and by extension etymology, I wondered about the origins and original meaning of the word Solitaire.

It sounds Latin, and so I reached for my Lewis and Short Latin dictionary (one of my most treasured possessions), and looked for Solitaire.

The closest word was solitarius.

Solitarius is an adjective meaning alone. Lewis and Short included a few handy Latin quotes some of which I will include here for later parsing🙂

Natura solitarium nihil amat

nature loves nothing solitary.

I’ve given the literal translation. A more pleasing rendering would be ‘nature abhors a vacuum’.

And the pleasing:

Hae apes non sunt solitaria natura, ut aquilae sed ut homines.

I then turned the page in the dictionary and discovered the word solitas. I think that this is a noun. It has the meaning ‘a being alone, solitude’.

I checked my Oxford English Dictionary of Etymology to confirm that the word Solitaire originates from the Latin word Solitarius.

The entry also told me that Solitaire is in fact a word from old French. It is still used in French as Solitaire. E.g. jouer au solitaire ‘to play Solitaire’.

This must have originated from the Latin Solitarius at some point in the dim and distant past, and I wondered when?

I discovered a good French dictionary which includes Etymology (although you need to be able to read French to make best use of it) called littre.

The appropriate page concerning the origins of the word Solitaire is this one.

Solitaire in French has two main meanings (or so it seems to me) and these are:-

D’une pers – “Qui est seul, isolé, esseulé” 

About a person – “Who is alone, isolated, lonely”

D’un lieu – “Où l’on est seul, où l’on vit seul, où l’on peut se retirer”

Of a place – “Where one is alone, where one lives alone, where one can withdraw”

I don’t know when Solitaire was first used in modern French to describe the game of Solitaire but the word was used by Sévigné in 1674 with the meaning of aloneness of solitary:

Elle [Mme de Thianges devenue dévote]… est toujours de très bonne compagnie, et n’est pas solitaire.

So, Solitaire came into the English language via the French which in turn absorbed it from Latin.

According to littre, solitarius was derived from solitas, itself derived from solus (alone).

Provenç. solitari, soletari ; espagn. et ital. solitario ; du lat. solitarius, dérivé de solitas, qui vient de solus, seul

Of course, in a way, none of this helps, as in the UK (and I believe France), Solitaire is in fact called Patience.

Solitaire and patience are different games entirely.

I really should have been checking the etymology of Patience;)

Besos et Pax,


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Language dabbling! Feb-Mar


Well, once again, I’ve found myself changing direction with the way I play with languages.

My issue has and always will be that of time and the number of languages that interest me. This isn’t helped by the fact that I find myself particularly busy at the moment.

And so, for the rest of February, March and April, I have become a language dabbler, apart from with two languages which are:

  1. My secret language.
  2. Spanish. My level of spoken Spanish has hovered between a B2 and C1 for years, and my comprehension is much higher.

I have decided (for now), to actually try and improve my spoken Spanish and reach C1.

I’m not trying to improve my other languages (although what I do changes with the wind), but I will maintain them by dabbling here and there.

The advantage of dabbling is that there is no particular stress involved, of setting yourself targets, booking iTalki lessons and so on. You can learn ten words, a hundred, read something, write a few sentences or listen to music/watch Netflix.

Besos et Pax.


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Italian Restaurant Basics


Sometimes language learning becomes over-complicated. There are some situations when we can get by with a few words.

Here are a few of these words/phrases used as you enter an Italian restaurant, say hello and ask for a table:

Buongiorno or buonasera.

Buongiorno is used before late afternoon when you can use buonasera.

Vorrei un tavolo

I’d like a table

Siamo in quattro (There are four of us – literally ‘we are in four’).

And when you finish:

per  favore,  posso  avere il  conto?

Can I have the bill, please?

Besos, baci and Pax.


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The ‘Corso di lingua Croata’ is where it’s at.

Sup Y’all?

I couldn’t resist that snappy title, which is also and not coincidentally the name of the book that I am using to improve my Croatian.

The Italian part that is.

It always makes me giggle when I read ’99 ways to do whatever’, followed by the phrases repeated several times in the first paragraph. For the uninitiated, this is considered to be good for search engines like the Great Gangle. i.e You get more visitors to your blog/website/article.

This has spawned a whole style of writing skewed towards SEO (search engine optimisation) rather than the reader. My titles are, I like to think, unique, but then again few people read this blog, so maybe the ’99 ways to do whatever’ are the way forward.

After that scintillating digression, let’s cut to the chase, which is my plans (language related) for the year.

I’ve been improving and generally buffing up my Italian and Spanish over the last month or two. I’ve listened to and spoken a reasonable amount of both. Tick and metaphorical pat on the back.

I am now on the cusp of spending the rest of the year on Croatian.

And my secret language.

I don’t want to forget Italian entirely, and thought that I would periodically dip into the Corso Complete della Lingua Serbo-croata for interest. It was published in 1870 something so won’t be my primary reference;)

My primary refererence will be the Corso di Lingua Croata which was published recently.

As you might guess from the title, it is also in Italian.

Seemingly, or it might be that I haven’t found them, there’s a distinct lack of quality Croatian textbooks written in english.

Anyway, the Corso di Lingua Croata looks pretty good which I will be using in conjunction with iTalki lessons over the course of the year.

So my plan for the year is to focus on Croatian (maintaining my Italian through this) and my Secret Language. I use Spanish anyway so don’t worry about maintaining it particularly, and as for French …

I don’t imagine I will be speaking any French this year. I listen to it periodically, and read as and when so it’s still there along with my appalling accent.

And I almost forget, my aim with Croatian is to move from a low B1 to a high B1 over the course of the year.

In terms of time, I intend to spend half an hour on Croatian, and half an hour on my Secret Language six days a week.

I’ve maintained this over the past several months and it’s a good balance and reasonable amount of time for me.

Besos, baci et Paxeroo.


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Who uses Surface languages?


I don’t normally look at the visitor stats for this site. This might sound strange, or unbelievable if you have a site yourself.

If you run a website, it’s easy and often dispiriting to obsess over numbers and what not.

I’m trying to keep Surface languages as a bit of fun. If I worry too much about who uses it, the fun would go and so would my motivation to *play* with it.

Anyway, I looked at the stats and there are over 100,000 visitors a month.

I didn’t exactly do any detailed analysis, except that the following jumped out at me.

It wasn’t the fact that seventy percent come and go within 30 seconds (as you would expect and as happens on most websites).

But what was so cool was this:

Sixteen percent of you spend more than fifteen minutes each visit.

That’s awesome! I mean really awesome.

Who are you and what are you looking at on Surface languages?

I don’t expect a response (as this blog isn’t a highly visited part of the site), but I’d love to know:)

Anyway, whoever you are, thanks for using my site.

Besos, baci et pax.


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Sup y’all?

As you might or might not know, I’m a big fan of kelllebells (bodyweight exercises as well) but you also need to lift something. It’s satisfying.

Watch this if you are into kettles. It is hands down, the best kettlebell workout that I have seen. None of the others come close.

It looks like he is using a 24Kg bell. Don’t make the mistake of underestimating the cardio fitness and strength needed to do that for five minutes (one armed).

I’m going to add to the swings (one armed obviously) and squats that I do next year.

In other news, I’ve just chopped the wood ready to burn tonight, and I’m feeling pumped

I hope this finds you as it leaves me.

Besos, baci et Pax,


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