Lithuanian and Bulgarian

Hi All,

I feel European, and am not at all pleased about how England is withdrawing into itself.

So many wasted and lost opportunities.

I can’t alter that:(

But I can add more European diversity and interest to Surface Languages:)

And so I’m going to add sentences in both Lithuanian and Bulgarian to Surface Languages over the coming few weeks/months.

Basically, as soon as I have the translations and audio. And time …

I’ll also need to muck about with some bits of code n stuff to make it work with two scripts. Bulgarian uses the cyrillic script but I also want a romanised version to make it more accessible to those of us who don’t read cyrillic.

I’m fairly sure, although I’ve not looked, that my original coding didn’t account for this.



Oh dear!


Following a referendum, it appears that the United Kingdom (my country) is leaving the EU.

I think this is a terrible mistake.  I voted to stay and so did many of my friends. But there is nothing I can do about this. We are leaving, and in part (it seems) through fear of differences and immigration and a yearning for a mythical past that never existed.

I don’t like the hostility that the referendum has stirred up. It makes me sad, and worry about the future direction of my country.

I’m no politician. I don’t have any answers, but one thing I know is that  communication helps. If you speak a few words of someones language, it is much easier to identify with them.

So, to help celebrate the linguistic and cultural diversity that we have in the UK (for the moment),  I’m going to add sentences in one of the lesser spoken languages of the EU over the coming month or so.

I’m leaning towards either Bulgarian of Lithuanian.



False Gods

Beware false gods. And idols. I haven’t turned religious but am referring to people who become experts.

There is a trend general internet trend followed by people who become experts and authorites on something. They do something a bit out there, a bit radical, a bit polemic,  and through this gain a following. So far, so good and often interesting.

They then make pronouncements and set themselves up as experts, and after a while, start selling something.

These instant experts usually have no particular relevant qualifications, either gained through practical experience or more formal methods of learning.

As a somewhat crotchety old man, I at times, read their blogs and muse a bit upon their confidence and perhaps arrogance. When you are young, you believe that you know everything. The older you get, the less you know. You realise that there are subtleties and uncertainties in almost anything that you do.

In my more charitable moments, I think that these ‘so-called’ experts scratch the surface of something and think that they have mastered  the subject. They never dig deep enough to peel back the layers. They never even realise that the layers exist.

The more you learn about a subject, the more you realise that you don’t know.

Programming is a good example. It is straight-forward to learn how to write some javascript (and a useful skill), but in more depth you might want to connect to a server. A whole load of server side scripting will be required and maybe connecting to a database. Perhaps a knowledge if SQL will be required?

But this is still at a high level, it is possible that you might need to understand how an operating system works, write interfaces to devices, structure code containing millions  of lines and  and so on.

You can not master programming in weeks or months, but you can learn how to function in a specific domain.

I think that the same goes for learning a language. It is easy to scratch the surface, but digging deeper takes time.

So, sense check what you read.

Besos & baci,


Language Goals 2016

I know it is slightly early, but  New Years Day is not normally a good day for resolutions (or thinking about such), due to it being the morning after the night b4 and all.

Last year, I was trying to improve my Italian from B1 to B2 on the CEFR scale. This had also been an aim from the previous year, which I hadn’t managed to reach.

You will be relieved to know that I’ve finally arrived at B2 (as judged by a tutor), and aim to carry on (piano piano) improving. To reach this level, I do a weekly language exchange, have had sporadic lessons, read a lot in Italian and listen to the radio. Awesome success.


I also wanted to reach a B1 level in Polish.

Instead, I’ve stopped entirely. I love the sound of Polish, and I like the way the language hangs together, but that wasn’t enough to keep me motivated over a longer period. I need a reason to continue with a language, and I didn’t find it with Polish. I’d like to think that I will return to the language some day. Epic fail.

I wanted to reach an A2 level in reading Russian. I started but again didn’t have the hook to make me continue. Epic fail.

Instead, I read a book in Afrikaans. Modest success.

I wanted to maintain my Spanish. I’ve done this with a weekly language exchange and listening to podcasts. Success.

So, chaps, what am I going to do next year?

I’m going to focus on French.  I would like to reach an B1 level in spoken French by the end of the year.

I intend to spend 30 minutes a day, five days a week, studying, and by that I mean actively learning French. In other words, a mere two and a half hours a week. I’m not really big on formally sitting down and learning ‘stuff’ nowadays so that is probably about my limit.

I’m also going to do what has worked for me in Italian, that is reading a lot, listening to podcasts and finding a teacher using iTalki or similar for an hour a week of conversation. At a later point (when my French is good-enough) I’ll look for a language exchange. My experience of language exchanges is that to be effective you need to become friends, and for that to happen you both need to have conversational ability to some degree.

I’m not starting from scratch as I learnt some French at school, and can to a degree read it. However, I can’t speak to save my life. I mean I can say ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’ and so on, but I can’t put a sentence together, and due to horrendous memories from school feel like a total numpty whoever I try and say anything. I’m not going to name names, but teachers who criticise (and my French teacher) was one of these, cast a long shadow …

I need a plan, which will no doubt, change from month to month, and I will outline in good time, but for now I’m going to ease myself into the process of learning  French by reading and listening to music.

I’m going to start by reading French Short Stories for beginners by Olly Richards which I came across the other day. The stories are suitable for beginners from A1-A2 which suits me perfectly.

Besos and baci



2014 and what next for Surface Languages??!

Apparently, six people read this blog yesterday.

Six! Can that be true? Has my blog really gone viral so soon? Well, happy Christmas, buon Natale, feliz Navidad, Boże Narodzenie and all the rest to you good folks (and anyone else who stumbles into my parlour).

You six are all special, and don’t forget it. Apart from being intelligent, good-looking and all around good eggs, you are also the first to hear about my plans for next year. These are :-

1. Six new languages for Surface languages. Icelandic and Basque will be two of them.

2. Add a lot more Russian to SL. Yay!

3. I will add an export facility to SurfaceTexts (and any other features that seem particularly cool). There is an ‘export’ button which is not plumbed in. No code as yet.

4. I will add some more languages to the crossword/puzzle section of SL.

5. I will start and finish a new game for the iPad/iPhone … I have what I consider a completely awesome idea – which based on past experience isn’t necessarily a good indicator of success, but nevertheless I am going for it.

6. Improve my Italian from my current (weak) B1 level to B2.

7. Continue learning Polish, and maybe start chatting on-line once I improve. I’m still at the level of idę do parku na spacer (I go to the park for a walk) , so chatting on-line is not so productive.

It is number five that currently has my attention. I almost have a design (in my head). W00t W00t! Ph34r de coding skilz 3tc.



Coming soon … ! Probably …?

A new language course is almost ready to be added to Surface Languages!

The first part  French language course is almost complete. I’ve not linked it into the main French page as it isn’t finished, but you can see the contents.

As yet, there is no audio!. This will arrive soon, and so I hope by the end of next week another course will be finished.

Spread the word. Tell the cool kids!

I don’t know any cool kids, as I’m kind of a geek. But if I did I’d tell them, so that they could get into some language learning goodness.

Of course, the exact time-scale depends a bit what else is going on in my life.

As a part-time language learner, and webmaster real life often intrudes. I recently  mentioned that I had had to replace a tap – which is a simple example of the kind of things that take up  my free time.

But I now find myself wondering what I will add next to SurfaceLanguages?




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.





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,


Italian dictionary. Coming soon …

I’m been kind of obsessed with adding dictionaries (and just as importantly) dictionary games to Surface Languages for some time now. It has proved more difficult than I imagined:(

Difficult but extremely interesting in a nerdy sort of way. I am a geek so this isn’t a problem, but it has still been time consuming, and I have other things to do. Once the first dictionary is up and running, I’ll update anyone who is still with me on my Italian and Polish learning. Loving both – but guess which is easier?

Luckily, the summer still hasn’t started, so I haven’t been distracted by wanting to spend too much time outside. Apart from morning walks with the hound, and the odd bit of compulsory lawn mowing.

Oh. And I have some pots … Geraniums mainly ..

So, where am I dictionary wise?

Well, there is a hidden Italian dictionary on the site. As the functionality isn’t complete, you can’t find it from any menus.  But, I hope to have it finished by the end of this week or next depending on what else I have to do in the meantime.

And then on to dictionary games!

I intend to add lots. Yes, I am the sort of person who reads dictionaries for fun, and it strikes me that dictionaries and word search games are like raspberries and cream, hand and glove, carne y uña, and so on. (I learnt that last one recently).

Adding dictionary games will be like a walk in the park (on a summers day) and I can’t wait.

Pax to you all,


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.