2017. Same direction with a new voice



This is a picture of my four legged bezzie on our walk this morning. I hadn’t wanted to leave the house as it was wet, drizzling and not particularly warm.

As you might guess, I didn’t have much choice. It was my turn to walk today (or so I was informed by the Queen of my Heart), and my hound was keen.

New years eve is a perfect time for reflection, planning, and thinking about what went right and what went wrong during the year.  I normally listen to podcasts during my constitutional but today before I switched on my phone I reflected a bit on my year, and talked it through with perfect puppy.

And these are our conclusions:

What went right in 2016

Surface Languages

Surface languages has continued to grow with between 500,000 and 600,000 page views every month.

It has never been affected by Google algorithm changes as I never optimise the pages for SEO, and try and make them as useful as possible to language learners.

Most visitors find the site through word or mouth and links from other websites to relevant pages.

So, if you like my site and want to see it grow, tell people.

I added further sentences in different languages.

My secret website

I’ve finally made the first tentative steps towards building another website which is an exercise in creative writing.

I’m learning French

I eventually made the commitment to learn another language properly, and have been having weekly French lessons using a teacher from italki.com.


I am a big fan of body weight exercise (push ups, levers handstands …), and have made considerable progress during the year.

What went wrong in 2016

I set up several sites that were a complete waste of time and effort. I didn’t think about nor plan them sufficiently.

In fact the past several years of my life is littered with half-finished websites that were almost but not quite good enough to continue developing.

I wasted a lot of time and was unproductive both in language learning and website construction. This was caused, as usual, by a lack of structure and organisation in my day to day life.

Plans for the future

I’ve never been a ‘proper’  blogger. Every now and then, I metaphorically, put pen to paper and post something almost at random, generally related to language learning, but not always. I’m going to try blogging ‘properly’. I’m not limiting myself to language learning, but want to talk about the life and times of a fifty something year old living in the UK.

I’m going to use my own voice.

I’m going to continue with My Secret Website. I’m torn as to whether to link to it here or not. The reason for not is that I want to see if it can succeed  entirely on its own merits without being linked to any other site, rather than to hide the content which is quite fluffy and entirely innocent.

I intend to add five hundred more  sentences in other languages to Surface Languages, time and money permitting.

And finally, this isn’t a plan but a possibility.  I use three websites, Italiano AutomaticoFrançais Authentique and Mr Real Polish and was wondering about either creating something similar in English or adding a section to Surface Languages in a similar vein.

Happy new year my puppies.



My five romances. Or maybe four ..?

romaniaI was wondering recently how many languages that I can realistically learn to a B2 level on the CEFR scale given the time I have available. I like languages and language learning, but I also have other interests and hobbies, and my so my spare time, like everyone else is limited. I have maybe an hour a day free which I can invest in language learning.

Somewhat arbitrarily and answering my own question, I think  the number is …


But which five languages should these be?

Two of  my five language slots are already taken by Spanish and Italian.

The third language is going to be French, which I’m currently learning. I have found a good teacher on italki, and in addition I’m using Français Authentique as my primary learning method. It is extremely good, and as it is primarily oral can be used wherever and whenever you have a spare moment.

I am convinced that by the end of next year, I will have attained a B2 level (or thereabouts) in French.

But which other languages should or could I learn?

The possibilities are German, Afrikaans, Polish, Russian and Romanian.

Russian is appealing, but almost one million people in the UK speak Polish.

German would be useful to me as I hear it fairly regularly.

Romanian while being a romance language has around twenty percent slavic vocabulary. It has interesting grammatical features.

Decisions. Decisions.

I’m moving towards Polish and Romanian.

Anyone who reads my blog will see how I dither and flit in general, but the real positive over the past few months is that I’m really working hard on French. I’ve made huge progress and I am loving it.



My language goals. 2017

I know it’s slightly early but being organised I’ve already decided on my language goals for 2017. As ever, these are subject to change.

Last time I wrote about my language goals, I wrote:-

I’m going to learn German and improve my French. Of course, I state this, look at my somewhat checkered past, and wonder why I bother.

The good news is that since writing that, I’ve found a French teacher on iTalki, and am now having weekly conversational French lessons, and these are going extremely well.

I’ve never actually spoken French before (apart from the occasional merci or bonjour), although I have read a lot and listened a lot to French over the years.

This is a massive step forward,  and I’m confident that by the end of 2017, my spoken French will be a high B1 or possibly B2.

I’ve also started on Assimil German and am now on lesson 18.

I’m enjoying it, and will complete the 100 lessons. This will take approximately another 132 days. (Although there are 100 lessons, due to the two phases used by Assimil it takes 150 days to finish the course).

But it is here, at day 150, that my plans will I suspect come unstuck. I know that to make progress with my German, and to activate the mainly passive knowledge that I will (hopefully) have acquired, I will need to start:-

reading, listening and having a weekly conversation exchange.

I don’t have time,  as I’m busy with French but I do have thirty minutes a day.

This is the time required by Assimil, or so the blurb says.

I’d say this was hopelessly optimistic in terms of retaining information, when learning a new language.

But what if someone (ahem me), was returning to a previously studied language, like say Polish?

And because my version of  the Assimil Polish  is only available in French, I’d also be reinforcing my French.

Win, win, win.