2014 and all that

Time for a bit of a summary of 2014 as I see it.

2014 in general for the UK

Well, 2014 has been a pig of a year without much to recommend it, and much of this caused by the greed and stupidity of our politicians.

If you live in the UK, you can vote in a few months. Do it.

Vote Green or independent (and by independent I don’t mean in the sense of linking homosexuality with flooding).

The main parties have had their snouts in the trough for too long, with associated and oh  so legal benefits in the subtle British way such as  shares in companies, freebies, repairs to their moats and so on. These politicians only look after themselves, and their friends in the big corporations. I would never vote for any of the mainstream parties again.

Clegg, Cameron and Osborne should be ashamed of themselves when people are going homeless and hungry (there are more and more food banks in the UK), and more and more of the social safety net has been removed by legislation approved by these three.

And yet companies such as Amazon pay little tax, social housing in London is being sold off and in place investment properties are constructed.  No-one will live in most of these.

Tax empty second properties. Tax the big companies. Put money back into the social services.

Labour, the Tories and those Lib Dems (who also voted to allow secret courts), are in the main composed of career politicians, a political ‘elite’  who lack the desire to implement the changes we need to produce a fairer society.

A society where people can eat, where there is access to justice, a living wage and some sense of fairness.

Yeah. Roll on 2015. But vote independent. Don’t vote for the mainstream.

Surface Languages and associated Apps.

That is enough about the inept politicians that are ruining the country. What about Surface Languages and my other sites?

I’ve added three languages Tagalog, Portuguese (Portugal) and Belarusian to Surface Languages.

I’ve added lots of iPhone language apps.

I’ve added a few additional Android language apps.

I also completed the coding for some cool stuff I intend to add to Surface Languages early next year.

Polyglot People

I set up Polyglot People which was an experiment using the same audio as Surface languages. It has not been hugely successful other than as a learning experience for me – and as a basis for my Afrikaans site (see below). I’ll leave it for a year and probably ditch it.

Easy Afrikaans

Easy Afrikaans was a site I’d set up around ten years ago and then pretty much forgotten about. This year I returned, added a lot of audio, more tests and so on. It has been one of my success stories this  year, and next year I hope to add more to the site.

No more games

I until this year was also working as a games programmer. I’ve decided not to do this anymore – at least in a professional capacity. It took too much of my time and energy – and not in a positive way.





My Polish and Italian (after another year)

It’s been some considerable time since I treated the internet to an update on my progress with these two languages.

I think in some ways, this blog is an antidote to the current meme sweeping the internet about how skills in general (and languages in particular) can be learnt at great speed. I’m not bitter or anything – OK!?

You might be able to guess that my progress has not been rapid.

Keep in mind that I’ve been learning Italian & Polish quite part-time and some might say perhaps uncharitably sporadically, while working, being a dad, husband, cleaning paws and so on and so forth.


I’ve been spending more time learning Italian than Polish. Considerably more, and I’ve been reading a lot.

I aimed to reach B2 on the CEFR by the end of this year.

My Italian oral and written comprehension is at B2 level or above (woop woop) – which is partly to do with the fact that I understand Spanish well and also because I’ve listened to a fair amount of Italian. I walk SWP every day, and normally listen to Italian or Spanish audiobooks. So I listen a lot.

Now speaking,  well my spoken Italian is still at a B1 level although I’ve spoken a lot over the year. I have fun speaking (mangling) Italian and can more or less talk about anything,  but still the fact remains that my spoken level is still assessed at B1. I make mistakes, and at times I  struggle for words. But still, I can more or less talk about anything.

Italian (and Spanish) are frequently described as ‘easy’ languages which I always find amusing. Easy to speak badly perhaps. Do these people who describe these languages as easy actually speak them well? Who knows. But being able to introduce yourself,  say a few basic sentences and not much else does not qualify in my view as speaking a language.  I like to talk about anything,  politics, day to day life, cost of living, going to the pub, literature (books to you and me), feelings, weather, climate change … In fact, I talk too much according to the boss.

It can be discouraging to hear people describe a language as easy and quick to learn when your personal experience shows the opposite. There are a lot of polyglot videos on the internet where some so and so states that they speak X languages, and then you hear a monolog roughly the same in each language. Normally it will be something like ‘My name is Z. I speak N languages. I’ve been learning Italian (substitute whatever language you want here) and I think it is a beautiful language’ and so on. This doesn’t demonstrate much, and I wonder how many of these ‘polyglots’ can have free flowing conversations about a wide range of topics.

How many people who describe Italian as an easy language do you hear actually conversing at any reasonable level?  You need a lot of words to discuss a wide range of subjects and it takes time to acquire these words. It takes even more time being able to use them in context. It might be different for you (and you), but this is how it is for me.  And this, my babbers is my blog and how it is for me. If you find Italian easy and have learnt fast (and are a native English speaker), then you are a shining star. Or deluded. Look into your heart and take your pick.


There is no doubt about it, I’m finding Polish difficult. There are reasons for this.

I’m disorganised. Who isn’t? Maybe I need to read ‘ten ways to be more effective in life’ or ‘five strategies for learning faster’? There is more chance of hell freezing over. But I digress.

Polish is difficult. There is no doubt about it. In relative terms it is considerably more difficult than Italian. Italian is described (not by me) as an easy language, but it is definitely more accessible (for English speakers) than the slavic languages. Anyone who describes Polish as easy has a screw loose. It is interesting, fun and has lots of consonants but it is not easy.

Polish is not particularly accessible. Once you move beyond basic sentences mam na imię … (My name is …), you have no choice but to understand the grammar or you will sound like a complete numpty. Slavic grammar is complicated, and it takes time to understand and internalise.

I don’t have a pressing need to learn Polish. I have a reason to continue it that I won’t go into here, but it is not pressing. I’ve reached the level where I could learn much faster, but I don’t have enough of an incentive and this is what is slowing me down. The language is difficult but my slow rate of progress is now down to lack of time spent with the language.

So what is my level? Low. Pretty low. Less low than twelve months, but still low. I know a lot of (unimportant) nouns and some bits and pieces but am far, far, far away from being able to impress with my Polish.

Where do I go from here?

I’m carrying on with my Italian and hope to reach B2 at some point next year. Fingers crossed.

Ditto with Polish. Really I should find a conversation partner, but I am (at the moment) too *ahem* lazy or perhaps inept.

It is lucky I’m a competent programmer.