Of crosswords, sentir and drzewo

I finally finished the crossword coding – if you are learning Italian you might like it.

Anyway, I finished the programming (spent all day playing with it) and thought I would tell my sister to get some feedback and general approval.

“I don’t speak any Italian” she said, and then looking at the crossword produced said “but I know that the Italian for Rome is Roma”. 

“You can press ‘check’ to check your answer is correct” I said and added “or press ‘cheat’ if you don’t know the answer”.

She entered ‘Roma‘ and pressed check.

It didn’t work?!! Huh?

I felt like a right numpty.

I’d made a newbie programming error and hadn’t checked for capitals. In the programming world ‘roma’ and ‘Roma’ are considered to be different. How my testing hadn’t revealed this is beyond me …

Anyway, it is fixed. Until the next ‘bug’ is revealed. Watch this space.

Back in the real world, today I learnt about some of the differences between the meaning of sentir ‘‘to feel’ in English and Spanish.

Confusing isn’t the word. ‘Es confuso‘ or ‘estoy confundido‘. There are all sorts of examples of sentir at word reference, and they have all left me none the wiser.  There are so many possible uses that I can’t see the wood for the trees.

But what I did learn (by saying in incorrectly) is that you can not say (using sentir), the city felt (or feels) safe using the English construction.

So, I made up three rules  to guide me in most situations:

1. Sentir  is on only applicable to ‘feelings and emotions’.

2. If you are referring to how you feel, then sentir is used as reflexive. So ‘Me siento triste por no entender esto‘.

3. If your ‘feeling’ relates to someone else, then sentir is not reflexive. So, ‘Siento lástima por — ‘ when you are ‘feeling sorry’ for someone else.

I’ve also finally remembered the Polish word for tree ‘dzerwo‘. Happy days. Make haste slowly. Etc.

Learning languages can be frustrating.





Eat your own dog food …

I’ve always liked this expression. It is used in some parts of the computing world, and means that you use your own products both to demonstrate their quality and to discover bugs and son on.

So, I am about to eat my own dog food … as opposed to my dogs’ food.

And by dog food, I am referring to the Italian crossword maker which I’ve recently added to Surface Languages.

It works!

It is complete 🙂

But there some glaring bugs 🙁

And doubtless some others which are more subtle! It is those that ‘dogfooding’ will discover. And in the meantime help me revise some Italian vocabulary.

An example of (a more subtle bug):

One across was Pasqua (Easter) and one down was paradiso (paradise). I had forgotten to convert all words to lower case and so program considered P and p as different characters. This meant that you could never enter the correct answer for both words. Ho. Hum. Frustrating for those solvers.

I will be eating my own dog food in the heat, as the temperature here in the West Country is about 30 degrees. Naturally, we don’t have air conditioning as we spend more time shivering than sweating, and all the shops have sold out of fans. It makes a change from rain but I’m walking our hound ridiculously early in the morning so neither of us over-heat. Chasing a ball in 30 degrees is no fun ..

tempus omnia revelat



Crosswords and language learning

I’ve almost finished adding a crossword game to SL. To be more precise, I’ve added it to SL but it isn’t entirely finished. There are bugs, and all things being equal they will be fixed next week.

I uploaded it by mistake too early. So if you try it, go easy on me.

Remember PPPPPP?

Proper planning prevents p**s poor performance. (No swearing on my blog). Unless you are FBTFFOF – work that out yourself. Anyway, as usual my attention to detail planning wise is poor. Very poor.  These reasons and many more explain why I write iPhone Aps for a living, rather than run a FTSE 100 company or something more grown-up.

For the geeks among you, feel free to copy the code (mainly javascript). I wouldn’t recommend it particularly, as it turns out that writing a decent crossword generator is something you need to do more than once to get it right. And as with so many things in life, it might well be something you only do once. It also turns out that my javascript knowledge isn’t as l33t as it could be. Ho. Hum. This isn’t the first time I’ve written shonky code, and it won’t be the last 🙂

For the non geeks/programmers javascript is a programming language commonly used to make webpages more splooshy. (I’m going to turn auto-correct off. I meant to write splooshy, and definitely not splashy).

I’m really hoping that these crossword generators will be a useful language learning resource, as picking up vocabulary can be difficult and needs re-inforcement in as many different ways as possible. This struck me as a good one – while chilling in the garden drinking a cool cider or maybe red wine.




Italian & Polish

It has been some time since I’ve mentioned either Polish or Italian in my ramblings, what with the dictionary issues and all. On that note, I’ve added the first one, and even finished the first of four dictionary based games.

So, all is going well on the programming side of things:)

But what about language learning?

At the beginning of this year, I set myself the (arbitrary) goal of reaching the B1 language level in both Polish and Italian. I already spoke some Italian (A1 ish) but not very much and no Polish at all, but SL is about languages, and I should learn them …

So where am I at?  (Don’t write like that kids if you want to pass your exams.)

My Italian is going well. I have a conversation partner and speak once a week. I’m starting to feel more confident in speaking (although with plenty of mistakes), and am starting to get a feel for how the language works. Success breeds success, and I’ve been spending more time on Italian than Polish over the last six weeks or so. Earlier in the year I spent more time on Polish, so I imagine the overall time spent will even out over the coming months.

I’m confident I will reach the B1 standard in Italian before the end of this year, and this will give me a good base going forward.

As an aside, I’m finding Italian grammar more complex than Spanish, but I don’t know if this is because it is more complex or just that I’m more accustomed to Spanish.

And now onto Polish.

Well, I was told by a Polish speaker the other day that Polish was very difficult for English speakers to learn.

I’m not going to disagree with that assessment.

If I had to guess my level, I’d say it is a low A1 – in other words I’m still very much at the beginner level. There is no way (this year) that I will reach B1 or even A2.

Surprisingly perhaps, I feel fine with this. Polish is a difficult language for english speakers to learn for many reasons. It is not impossible, but it is difficult. I am making progress, but slowly. The grammar is hard, most of the commonly used words are completely unrelated to english or romance languages, and there are a lot of consonants. (Actually, that isn’t a good reason for my tribulations with Polish, but there are a lot of consonants. How does this work playing scrabble. Is it easier or harder?)

I only have so many hours in the day, and so many hours to spend on Italian/Polish and while I will reach a good level in both (given time) I’m in no hurry – no tengo prisa, non devo sbrigarmi,  nie jestem w pospiechu (??). It is about the journey, and I don’t feel frustrated with my slow pace of learning. As long as I carry on improving, I will reach my goal.

But as well as this, I think that it is easy to forget how much there is involved to  reach a good A1 standard. I was ‘roughly’ assessed to be A1 in Italian at the start of the year, and I was surprised by how much I then needed to improve to reach A2.

So, I’m pleased with what I’ve achieved so far.

Anyway, it is a nice day, and I’m off to water some geraniums:)




I’m learning Italian and …

… it gives an insight into my (probably) flawed decision making process.

I’m learning Italian which is why the first dictionary I added is  an Italian dictionary. (The next will probably be Polish – for the same reason).

This is probably not a good reason for deciding which dictionaries to add, and in what order. Plan to fail or fail to plan?! Hmm.

Anyway, I’m happy, the weather is good, paws are clean, and I think (to improve) my Italian, Surface Languages needs the following three ‘dictionary’ games to be added:

1. A  Word making type game like this 🙂 As I already know how to do this, I’ll do it first.

2. A word search type game. Quite therapeutic and I think easy to add.

3. And this is the what I really want to add an Italian crossword based on the dictionary. I imagine there are all sorts of complexities to iron out with this. I’ve never written crossword/dictionary code before.

I can’t wait …



Italian Dictionary

I know I sound like a stuck record – continually wittering on about dictionaries. (If any of you can even remember what a record is or the origin of the expression you get a bonus). I’m showing my age … soon I’ll start talking about gramophones.

Anyway, I have finally added an Italian dictionary to Surface Languages. Phew!

I’m well chuffed.

OK, I accept there may be teething issues but that is the nature of the beast. Bugs will occur and I will fix them.

Other Dictionaries?

Naturally there are other Italian dictionaries out there, and  this begs the question: do we really need another one?

Of course we do!


Well, for a start, on a personal kind of level, it is a proof of concept. I now know how to add a dictionary to SL and as importantly how to obtain the information from Wiktionary – (perfectly acceptable according to the Creative Commons License).

This means that I can add dictionaries (over time) for some of the smaller (although equally important) languages. I have a hankering to add Catalan …

And answering the next question which is: what are you going to do with the dictionaries?

Look up words!!??

Obviously,  but I also have the basis to allow me to  create an app for  iphone and android devices when I have a moment.

It also means that I can add some cool and sparkling dictionary related games – and I will do this next week. I hope … 🙂

And even better, down South (UK South that is) where I live, summer is about to start – according to the met office! For once, I’m going to believe them, what with it being July and all!

Peace and happiness,