Romanian language crossword

The clue is in the title really.

What with it being a bank holiday here in the UK, and me having time on my hands, I thought I’d *quickly* add a Romanian crossword and so on to the word games.

The code was already written (and tested) on Polish, Spanish and Italian. So what could go wrong? It would work straightaway and I could return to my normal bank holiday pursuits.

Well, it turns out that Romanian has a large number of diacritics.

I knew this already, but didn’t know how many. Each diacritic requires a special piece of code so that the comparisons with or without diacritics work correctly.

The Romanian word for cat pisică has a diacritic on the a.  The crossword needs to be able to treat piscia and pisică as the same word. This allows the solver to choose not to enter diacritics (which can be tedious on some gadgets).

I thought I had handled all the different diacritics when adding the Polish crossword.  Polish has a lot of them. So for example, in Polish ę needs to be treated as e or ż as z.

But it seems that Romanian has more.  Romanian has (for example) the aforementioned ă which needs to be treated as an a.

A few lines of code need to be amended.




A bit more on crosswords

I might at times lack focus and direction. I’ve explained this elsewhere, and it is one of many of my excuses for not being a CEO, world leader or some such.

But also, when developing Surface Languages, my ideas change and evolve, and not solely with the direction of the wind.

An example of this happening concerns dictionaries.

A while ago, I was very keen on adding a load of dictionaries to SL, and I’m still keen, but I’ve realized that I was in danger of becoming sidetracked with the whole dictionary shebang.

There are already great dictionary sites out there – although not perhaps for minority languages – and Surface Languages is about language learning.

So, I’m going to add the word games for most of the languages on this site over the coming weeks, and not obsess over dictionaries.

Crosswords and language learning

Of course, learning a language is far more than learning lists of words.

But I like crosswords, and the best way, in my opinion, of acquiring vocabulary is by doing different things with the language.

Talking. Way! Reading! Way!. Listening!! Writing. Duh!

Doing crosswords is just another way of increasing and re-inforcing your foreign language vocabulary, as it is of increasing your vocabulary in your mother tongue. (lengua materna, madrelingua, język ojczysty in the languages I am learning. I don’t know enough Polish to be sure of  this but ojczysty appears more like ojciec ‘father’ than mother to me. Hmmm).

Anyway, I increase my English vocabulary by doing crosswords.  Naturally, I do the quick crosswords from  the Guardian,  and only when I have hours to spare would I do the cryptics from the same paper.

I thought that it would be very helpful to have crosswords for beginner language learners with a limited number of ‘easy’ words.

As the crosswords are generated at random, and taken from a short list (of between 500-1000) words, the same words will appear frequently.

This, dear reader, should help make them stick.




Polish vocabulary for beginners

I’m creating a list of Polish vocab for beginners for the crossword and word search generators.

As I’m learning Polish (and am still a beginner (boo, hiss) ), I am including all the words that I have learnt (or sort of know) over the previous year.

The good news for me is that I know more Polish words than I thought. Maybe as many as a 1000. I’ll find out when I finish this list. Yes, yes, yes, I know language learning is far more than lists of words. I chat in Spanish and Italian (with lots of mistakes!), but not yet in Polish. Soon though.

The good news for other Polish learners is that they are all words added by a beginner, and so suitable for beginners.

Of course everyone has different ideas as to what you should learn and what a list of words suitable for beginners list should contain. The answer is … there is no answer. It depends on what you want to do with your language. But still, I need a word list for the various crossword makers and generators.

This list is personal to me, and what I have learned so far, and as such (and I don’t know why) fruit and veg seem to be over-emphasised. Not every-one wants to learn the word for cucumber (ogórek, pepino and cetriolo in the languages I am learning) but it appears in the crosswords.

Other than this the contents are very generic – dog, cat, table, chair, man, woman, child  and so on.

Creating the word list for the Polish crossword generator has made me think again about the Italian crossword. This has two settings: easy and … difficult.

Difficult includes the entire dictionary of around 500,000 words.

The easy setting includes words chosen by me! My level of Italian is now (I suppose) a highish A2, and so the words I have chosen  for the easy setting, might well include words that a beginner has not come across yet.

And so …

… I’m considering using the Polish list as the template for all other languages for the easy word game setting.

This should work well, and if I am cunning I can automate the creation of these lists.

If I have time, I’ll also include a ‘medium’ option for the crossword, which will include the current contents of Italian and Polish. Maybe?

Decisions. Decisions.



A Polish Crossword. Part 2.

I’m sitting here listening to Melech Mechaya, and I feel pretty chuffed becuase …

… I’ve fixed all known bugs in the randomly generated Polish crosswords.  Happy days!

The key phrase here is ‘all known‘ as it is very rare for any piece of computer code not to have any hidden ‘gremlins’ within. Sad but true.

Now, these crosswords are currently generated from a list of two hundred or so words that I have written down over the past year.

As my Polish is still at a beginner level (sigh), the majority of the words in the list are the sort of words you learn when starting out with a language: cat, dog, black, white and so on. These are perfect for beginners.

I will add the remainder of my ‘known’ words soon. As luck would have it, I’ve kept a list of words that I know, should know, or maybe have learnt during the last year.

I’m interested in seeing how many Polish words I’ve managed to retain during this time period.

I’m thinking it could be as many as ….

…. five or six hundred????

This equates to around two a day!! Hmmm. While I’m not the fastest language learner in the world, this seems rather slow. Ho hum.


Moon Face.


A Polish crossword

Yes. Well, I like crosswords. Good time wasting distractions that they are.

And so today, I thought I would add a Polish crossword to Surface Languages.

In theory, this should have been very simple. I’d written some ‘generic’ crossword generating code, which is already used to create Italian crosswords. I thought that all I would need to do was add use a Polish dictionary in place of the Italian,  and bobs your uncle.

Of course, nothing in life is simple. I should know that by now.

Part of the charm of the Polish language is the numerous diacritics and accents that it uses. For example the Polish word cześć  (‘hello’) has diacritics on both s and c. I’m sure that memorizing these is good for the brain.

I have added options to the crossword code which allow diacritics to be (gasp) ignored. So, for example, czesc  would be considered correct if the “don’t check accents” option was ticked.

Neat? It can be slow entering accents in Polish and other languages on an English language keyboard.  And maybe you don’t want to? Give the user options:)

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work.

I had a hunch this would be the case. There are as they say ‘issues’ which I will try and fix tomorrow assuming I have time and can figure out the cause.

The word maker and word search do because there is no need to enter letters. (The dictionary is currently very small, as I was using it as a test but it proves there are no coding issues).

Rain = wet paws and damp fur. Sigh.




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.




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 …



New language learning game

I’ve added a new language language learning game to SL.

For the technically inclined it uses a mixture of jquery, javascript, ruby and html, and naturally took me longer to get working than I hoped. I have also discovered there is still one slight bug which I will iron out tomorrow. No doubt there will be more which I will track down and squash over time – probably to do with different scripts, cyrillic, arabic and the like …

For anyone else, I hope you enjoy using it. If you have any suggestions or improvements let me know. I’m going to spend some time over the next day or so improving, refining, bug fixing and adding this ‘Word Game’ to other areas of the site.

I also have audio for the European Portuguese which I will add anon.

Other News.

Our dog was weighed in the vet and discovered to have gained 0.5kg. Not too bad considering how greedy he is, but the vet indicated strongly that he needed to loose it again. He has a graph showing said hounds weight gain and loss over the past years.

He also had his kennel cough booster. Unfortunately, he remembered what it entailed from the previous year and really I don’t need to say much more than I’m now immunised against kennel cough, and it took three people to administer the booster. (Whoever decided that the  kennel cough vaccine had to be dribbled through a dogs nostril obviously hadn’t spent much time actually trying to administer it …)

Update on Polish coming soon ….







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?