The evolution of Surface Languages

I tend to work on Surface Languages in fits and starts depending on what else is going on in my life, and also when I have ideas of how to improve it substantially.

I’m reasonably sure I’ve come up with a way of improving SL immensely, of taking it to the next level, of making it more useful to more people … etc .. etc…

Firstly, I’m going to finish what I am currently working on. I’ve added  Portuguese (European) and Albanian to the list  of languages. As yet these both lack audio, but I hope to add the Portuguese audiosoon – maybe by the end of next week. I don’t want to commit to a timescale to Albanian as it is not so easy to find someone  to record the audio.

I’m also going to add a language learning game, or maybe two. I have the ideas in my mind and just need to code them. Easy peasy, fun to do and fun to use. I hope …

So far. So good.

Secondly, and this is the ‘take SL to the next level’ part, I’m going to add a whole new section for people who want more than ‘get by’ type language.

For you programmers reading this I’m writing it in php and this section will live under or something similar. The rest of this site is written using Ruby, but for various reasons I think php will be a better fit for this.

Naturally, I can’t write language courses in multiple (or even a single) language, and it isn’t feasible for me to pay people to do this.  I don’t think it is even particularly useful. There are lots of cheap courses out there already (the Teach yourself) type books etc, which are good places to start. There is also a lot of good information and interesting resources. It is certainly possible to learn a language for free or more or less for free.

But there are gaps.  I have an idea which will (fingers crossed) be an incredibly useful learning aide for people who are moving from beginner to A1 start of A2 type of language learning level for a language.  I’ve highlighted learning aide because this is what it will be. An extra resource. An aide to learning.

I think that anyone learning a language should use many different resources and this will be another free resource. I don’t think there is anything quite like it out there.

I’m excited about doing this. I just need to finish the bits and bobs above and do a bit more thinking.

Other news. For those who read this and the previous entry, if anyone did, and the stats indicate this is unlikely, our dog has now recovered, and is back to full speed when chasing balls, sticks and birds.

He has never even come close to catching a bird, but I guess hope springs eternal. He is a ‘bowl half full’ type of hound.

Tomorrow, he has his boosters, and we discover whether his diet (he is a bit chubby according to the vet) has been a success.

I’ll keep you posted.






Polish and Italian

I haven’t written about my Italian/Polish year for some time. Well, there is no time like the present especially when you are trying to avoid something painful – see below.

I’ve had two Polish experiences this week. One on-line via Skype, and the other at my Polish evening class. I’ve also had an Italian lesson. Busy week?

The experiences are like chalk and cheese. I am making little progress with Polish.  Conversely, I’m very pleased with the progress I’m making in Italian. I can chat away – obviously I make a lot of mistakes, but I can make myself understood, and I’m retaining the language. Yay!

And Polish?

It is not going well. I find it is an order of magnitude more difficult than Italian.

It is a challenge. A big big challenge. Bardzo duży. Bardzo bardzo duży.

I accept the above and embrace it even. Perhaps a trifle reluctantly, but I recognise that I have a problem here and I need to address it to make progress.

So I’ve metaphorically sat back and considered where my biggest blocker lies with the Polish language. It is vocabulary acquisition or more accurately lack of. I am not retaining or maybe learning sufficient Polish vocabulary to be able to have a conversation. I remembered the Polsh word hard today trudny but the word easy łatny eluded me completely.

So, a big push on Polish vocabulary over the next six weeks.

I’m not going to worry about endings, grammar and so on over this time. I’m just going to learn a large amount of vocabulary – which is what I’m trying to avoid while writing this.

I want to able to communicate and then build from this.

Other news. Our dog sprained his paw while chasing a ball too energetically. He is playing up to the level of sympathy being offered. Soon, I’ll be carrying him upstairs.






Where I go from here?

We have all heard of SMART objectives haven’t we? Right ! RIght ?

Specific Measurable Attainable Relevant Timely.

These are the things I don’t have in relation to this site or to anything really. Until now.

The four objectives  I have for the following few two months (see uncertainty creeping in already) are :

1. Add a Portuguese section (european variety) to Surface Languages .

2. Add Malaysian to Surface Languages.

3. Add a very cool language learning game to Surface Languages.

4. Objective four has nothing to do with SL. I’m going to learn an extra 200 Polish words.

There is one  caveat and that is being able to find someone to do the audio for Malaysian (at a price I can afford) which might not be straight-forward.

The date is 13 April 20013. The clock is ticking.

Wish me luck.



Patatas fritas, vino tinto and SIM cards

Here are a few useful Spanish bits and pieces referring to Spanish as spoken in Spain. Mainly so I don’t forget what to use in certain situations …

The Spanish word for chips is patatas fritas. And if you want a portion una ración de patatas fritas. Very useful for anyone with children. Especially when they reject tapas. It happens.

You are in a bar (or restaurant), order a bottle of wine and the waiter pours a smidge into your glass for you to taste. You can say está bien or está perfecto to indicate your approval. Unless you want to talk about tears, bouquet and the rest. The glass will then be filled …

If you don’t want to order a bottle of wine, you can always have a copa (glass) which in these abstemious days is probably for the good. So,  una copa de vino tinto should get you a glass of red wine. Una jarra is a jug and will get you a bit more. For example, una jarra de media litro is half a litre – in a jug. More like a carafe than a jug. I would say.

And never order ‘diet coke’ as this will confuse everyone. I think we only have this in the UK. Ask for coca cola lite or coca cola zero. 

You are in a bar, have finished your drink and want to pay. You are in a hurry and so you head to the bar (la barra) to pay. What do you say? You say quiero pagar la cuenta or cuanto es? or cuanto es lo nuestro?

At the end of a meal, assuming of course that you enjoyed it, use estaba todo muy bueno (it was all very good).

And then, after lunch, you need to buy a SIM card. Quiero compar una tarjeta SIM. And because this is confusing in any country no tengo claro qué necesito hacer (I’m not sure what I need to do).

Qué me recomiendas? (What do you recommend?)



Language learning games

I’m writing this at 6.40 in the morning. I had read somewhere that a distinguishing characteristic of many successful CEO’s was that they got up early every day to do important ‘stuff’. This coincided with my wife leaving extremely early for work, and so I decided to try it.

Never again. This is presumably one of many reasons I’m not a successful CEO.

Back in my world, I’ve added what I would loosely call ‘language learning games’ to help users of Surface Language to learn words for fruit, count to 20, months and so on.

The stats show that these are very popular which has tempted me to add some more.

I’ve two ideas:

A game to help learn sentence order. The sentences would be split into the constituent words, jumbled up and would have to be re-arranged.

A game to practice spelling of individual words and increase vocabulary. Groups of words would be split into letters (or groups of letters) and randomised. The letters would have to be re-arranged to make the words in the list.

I recently came across a Spanish expression pasar la noche en blanco (to sleep badly) so I might say he pasado la noche en blanco.

I thought that I might make a collection of similar colloquialisms and add a new section to SL?