Polyglot people

Sup All?

I briefly created a site called Polyglot People to scratch a coding itch, and to experiment with a ‘different look’ and a more ‘mobile first’ style of design.

I then decided that it was pointless having a separate site for what was essentially a new front end to the sentences on Surface languages.

After all, there is no rule telling us that a website should be identical on every page, and there is a certain homogeneity about many wordpress sites that makes the internet a less interesting place.

So, warts and all, Surface languages, continues to be at the forefront of the anti style movement, and will over time proudly embrace its idiosyncrasies.

And with that justification out of the way, I’ve given Polyglot People a new home here on Surface languages itself.

Currently it doesn’t work, but I will fix this soon (ish).

Baci & Besos,


A change to my language goals

Sup doods?

I have recently changed my language goals, and now seems as good a time as any to tell you why.

The short version is that I want my language goals to be fluffy and achievable, and they are to speak five languages (other than English) to a level of B1 (on the CEFR scale) or above.

If you don’t know what the CEFR scale is, look it up and return.

I’ll wait ..

You are back?

The obvious question you now have and that you want to ask me is why B1?

B1 is quite achievable in a reasonable timeframe, and is somewhere between 200 – 400 hours. There is a good consideration of the time needed on the blog how to get fluent.

The figure of 400 hours is probably more reflective of my learning speed, but still is not an enormous time investment.

So, we have a reasonable length of time and a level which is sufficient to get by, function and exchange pleasantries in most situations.

I like languages, but I am also interested in numerous other things.

Additionally I have a full-time job, run a few websites, have a family, friends, a dog and so on.

In other words, I live a normal life and have a fairly limited amount of free time to dedicate to what could be considered a fairly strange hobby.

But anyone (almost anyone) can find an hour a day to spend on a hobby.

And the other final reason is that I don’t like over-estimating my level at languages or anything else.  If I say I can speak a language at B1 level, I want to feel sure that I can communicate at that level or considerably higher.

BTW. I completely love learning Croatian and am spending considerably more than an hour a day on it.

Besos and baci,


Au revoir le français and either Guten Morgan or Bună dimineaţa

Sup doods and doodesses?

I have said au revoir but not adieu to French for the moment. My yearly goals which continue to haunt me (as usual) stated that I would improve my spoken French to a good B1 or B2 during the year (2017), but also left some wriggle room to play with Romanian or German.

I don’t normally achieve these goals for all sorts of feeble reasons.

But …

… I have reached a B1 level in spoken French according to the unfortunate individual who was giving me regular lessons.

Although, I’ve reached this level, I don’t feel particulary comfortable speaking French, and I sound terrible but  I’ve scratched that particular itch, conquered my fear of speaking, and now don’t feel any urge to continue.

This is mainly because my plans for a longish trip through France have been shelved, and I need a reason to learn a language.

And so, I must say a la prochaine  to the French language, and Guten Morgen or Bună dimineaţa to either German or Romanian.

In my goals for 2017, I decided that I would complete Assimil German and Romanian. This was a stupid thing to say, as my past experience of Assimil courses is that they are good but require a lot of time to complete, and far more than I have available. Bear that in mind if you purchase an Assimil course. The thirty minutes a day needed to complete each lesson according to the blurb at the beginning of each course is laughable – unless you are some mega genius.

Message to self. SMART objectives. The A stands for achievable, and I know that with the time available, it will be difficult for me to complete all 100 lessons. Fifty would have been more sensible.

So which will it be? Romanian or German.

Romanian speaks to my heart, and German to my head. I have a reason to learn German, and potential victims to practise on, and yet I am loathe to abandon Romanian entirely.

My compromise up until now has been to play with both, and I have now completed ten lessons of Assimil in each language, which for those who are interested explains both the Guten Morgen and Bună dimineaţa.

I know this state of affairs can’t continue, as learning a language requires time (and effort) but above all time, and much as I’d like to learn both …

… I can’t.

I have a job, family, friends, language exchanges, this website, and so on and so forth.  In short, I lack time, and am slowly leaning towards German …

Besos, baci and so on.



How to say cheers in different languages?!?

Sup all?

I just added a new page, with a quick test (doubtless to be improved over time) to test whether you can say cheers in different languages.

All well and good, but the page is using bootstrap, a slightly different way of making sites mobile friendly, and a slightly different test system (compared to  the usual flashcards).

I’m tempted to do the sentences in the same way.

As and when. Time permitting. And so on. And so forth.

Besos and baci,


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.




And in other news I’ve added 500 Bulgarian sentences with audio.

Bulgarian uses the cyrillic alphabet but I’ve also included a romanised version, so for example,  Как я караш? (How are things) is transliterated as Kak ya karash?

So you don’t have to learn cyrillic to learn the sentences.

Lithuanian sentences coming soon …



My language journey and general incompetence

Sup doods?

Every month I’m been setting myself some sort of language related goal, and attempting to  reach it.

I’ve also written these down (to the right somewhere).

It turns out that it is very enlightening. Partly because I don’t often  attain these goals and partly because I dither and flit with languages.

To be fair, I’m not particularly bothered with this, as playing with language is just one hobby among others, but it is slightly galling to be constantly making the same mistakes, and showing a startling lack of self-awareness.

This year I’ve dithered with French, Afrikaans and Polish, and so it should come as no surprise to anyone who reads this, that I’ve made yet another language related decision.

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 thing is that I do have a reason and eventual aim, both things that have been lacking with my language learning year to date.

I’m planning (or rather the boss is planning) to spend three weeks wandering through France, Italy and Germany in roughly two years.

I don’t speak any German and would like to reach a B2 level.

I understand French well (ish) but can’t speak more than a few words, and would like to reach a B2 level as well.

Is this possible?  I’m sure it is possible for some people, but is it possible for me. Do I have the necessary mental fortitude and general stamina.

On the plus side of things, I have a time-scale and an aim. On the negative side, I have to contend with my poor organisational skills, lack of attention to detail and inability to finish what I have started.

As to Polish, I still love you all but you’re going to have to wait your turn.

Besos & Baci,



I found out that an old friend killed himself recently.

We had lost contact through changing jobs,  career choices and life styles.

He was a good person who faced challenges he couldn’t overcome.

I’ll have a drink for you tonight.

Rest in peace.



Organisation is key

Sup my friends?

Yet again, I’ve made an organisation related resolution. On the RHS of this post, under the rather pompously named ‘My language journey’, I’m going to add details of :-




Yeah! Name and shame. Public accountability.  Instead of putting such vital info. on this blog, I’ll scatter the pages throughout Surface languages, and reserve the blog for more trivial matters.

Such as the meaning of Calcatrix.



A new year. A new me. French!


This year I’d like to think that I will be more productive than the last, or in fact any previous years of my life. The fact that I’m writing this at 10.32, so far having achieved nothing today, suggests that this is unlikely.

Well, we are what we are, and we must work with what we are given. I thought I would analyse my early morning mistakes which caused such a drop in productivity, to avoid them next time.

Forewarned is forearmed.

Our dog needs to be walked, and this is how I imagined that the morning would begin. I would listen to French podcasts for an hour while walking him early (leaving the house at 7.30). An excellent use of time, and I would arrive home at 8.30, ready for work, fresh and invigorated  after listening to French and exercising said pooch and myself.

The productivity gurus couldn’t ask for more. New year. New me. More productive.

Back in the real world, it was dark and raining and so I didn’t leave the house until 8 which wasn’t bad going considering the weather. I then got distracted, listened to De Pelicula for 30 minutes, met a friend for coffee, chatted for a while, forgot about French podcasts and arrived home about 9 o’clock.  My fault.  But then my dog yakked up when I cleaned his paws (he does this for reasons unexplained). This doesn’t happen in any article about productivity I have ever read, and is quite disconcerting.

After the necessary shower and change of clothes, I ate breakfast and made coffee, and arrived at my desk ready to start my day at 9.45.This leaves 47 minutes unaccounted for. The internet, my puppies, the internet.


Mental note. Must try harder.

Besos, Baci, and pax for 2016.