Learning a language through a language you already know!


Well, there you are speaking, Spanish (for example) and you want to maybe learn some Russian, but at the same time practice your Spanish …

or you are a native Spanish speaker wanting to learn Romanian …

or a Romanian speaker wanting to learn Bulgarian …

.. and you think what shall I do?

Well, you are in luck, I’ve started to add a language pairing page to Surface languages to let you do this, here.

It’s not quite finished, but mostly works.

I’ll complete it next week and add the link to the relevant places on Surface languages.

Thoughts welcome on this one until it is set in stone – so to speak.

Besos & baci,


Welcome everyone who speaks English as a second language!

Sup all?

I get the fact that the title to this post isn’t very catchy, but it has recently come to my attention that an increasing number of non native English language speakers are using Surface Languages.

Hello, hi, hola, cześć, ciao, salut, bună, привет 

I know this because I periodically check the log files, and I realised that several links were from websites from different countries and in languages other than English. I followed some, clicked, read (via google translate) and was surprised and chuffed to see that SL is being recommended by the non English speaking world …

… which got me thinking.

My next project on Surface languages will be to add an option on the sentences page to allow the sentences to be learnt from any of the existing languages. This will make the page useful for non English speakers, and also for English speakers who for example want to learn French through Spanish etc.

If you are a non-native English speaker, and like the idea, comment and let me know what you think:)

Besos and baci,


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.



Afrikaans. Other languages and Memrise

I want to be able to read Afrikaans, which means acquiring words and lots of them.

As part of this I’ve been listening to the Afrikaans sentences on Surface languages, and understanding them in groups of ten. I say understanding, as I’m only trying to read and maybe listen to the radio depending on how far I get. I’m trying to recognise, rather than reproduce the language.

As I started doing this,  it jumped out at me was that there was no way to test yourself on all the sentences  learnt. To think is to program.  I’ve now fixed this for Afrikaans and the other relevant languages.

It is now possible to learn sentences in groups of ten, and then test yourself on all the sentences learnt up until that point.

The next thing that has now jumped out at me (as it were), is that I need to improve the method of learning sentences.


I’ve also been using memrise to help me learn enough words to read Kobra with more success. Its handy and its free, and I have apparently learnt 370 words or thereabouts over the last week.  I have discovered that words only start to stick when I’ve also seen them in another context outside the memrise app, in this case in the book I am reading.



The elephant in the room. Comprehension


The ‘elephant in the room’  is an English metaphorical idiom for an obvious truth that is either being ignored or going unaddressed.

With languages, this is comprehension, and this blog post says it better than I could, but the gist is you can learn to speak a language relatively quickly, but there is no such thing as fast comprehension.

This is so true.

Anyway, with my French (and my resolution this year was to reach a B1 in spoken French), I’ve spent my time so far listening (using Lingq) and reading.

I’ll continue in this way for the next few months.

I read another interesting post on the polyglot dream which (among other things) explains why the author (Luca lampariello) stopped learning Greek. His reasons pretty much mirror my own for putting (for now) Polish on hold.

For anyone who is interested I’ve added a cloze test to the foreign languages sentences. Helpful comments appreciated.

Besos & baci,


What next for Surface Languages?


Here is a list, in no particular order, of what I would like to do or add to on Surface languages over the coming year.

Improve the look of the homepage.

Add five hundred sentences in Catalan, French and Russian.

Add a cloze test to the sentence tests.

Add two arcade learning games to the language learning pages.

Add two more languages.

For you polyglots,  I intend to add some number games – to test your knowledge of the numbers from one to ten in different languages – and the same with hello.

Remember, bis vivit qui bene vivit 😉

Besos & baci,


10000 sentences …

… to fluency.

There is this idea that if you learn 10,000 sentences (or so) you will more or less become fluent in a language.  There are wiki pages etc. written about this – perhaps in too much detail as the idea is straightforward.

And as ideas go, it is a pretty good one. I don’t know how good you would be knowing 10,000 sentences in whatever language, but it is certainly going to help.

So, I want to add sentences (with audio) to Surface Languages along with a kindof  SRS system. I’ve written the code. I’ve tested the pages. I have a database. I’ve done the technical stuff.

And now I come to the most difficult part of the process which is deciding on the sentences to include. (I’ve wittered on about the decision making process elsewhere, but it is not straight-forward – at least for me). Basically, I don’t think the content of the sentences matters as long as:

1. They do not include slang. (It is too specific to groups/age ranges).

2. They are useful. I don’t want to include ‘the elephant is in the bath’. ‘I am in the bath’ would be a more useful variant – and no I’m not  referring to myself.

3. I couldn’t think of a third proviso – which may be where I’m going wrong.

I don’t have unlimited money or time and so am going at least initially to limit each language I do to somewhere between 500 and 1000 sentences along with audio.

I’m almost ready to get the first translations done. These will be Polish and Italian. I’ll also need audio in these languages and in English (so that say an Italian can learn the English phrases).

Have fun kids.




Proverbs, Idioms and what comes next

Sup with you?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I should probably be building an ark. I live in the south west of England, also known as the west country, and it hasn’t stopped raining. Those climate change deniers should be ashamed of themselves. Muppets.

I’m still wet and cold from the morning dog walk. Furthermore,  there are muddy paw prints all over the house.

Back in the virtual world, I’ve started adding sections on Proverbs and Spanish idioms to Surface languages.  I’ll add explanations and audio over time.  Many of the proverbs are ones that I particularly like or find amusing or interesting for some reason. If you have favourite proverbs/idioms in (foreign) languages (and tell me) I’ll add them over time.

The same can be said for idioms. I have a lot which I will add to SL as and when. I’ve been learning Spanish for years, and need somewhere to record the idioms I have learnt – before I forget them.

What comes next?

Surface Languages is always a work in progress, and occasionally I write lists of what I intend or would like to add.  Sometimes I ignore these lists but also it isn’t always easy to find translators (for example) in a specific language.

In no particular order :-

Add the  Belarusian language.

Add a clock game for Polish and Spanish. I’m learning to tell the time in Polish. And struggling. So what better way to help me than add some neat ‘telling the time’ clock type game.

Add audio for the Spanish proverbs and idioms.