Spanish Sentences

Sup d0ods?

It’s been a while, and I hope you are all good.

I’ve just added a large number of professionally translated Spanish sentences to Surface languages. There is no audio as yet, but it will come along shortly – over the next month or so.  I’m all for learning sentences in different languages. I find it therapeutic and it increases my vocabulary, but there we go.

I intend over time to add sentences in different languages and these are the languages which I will add first (as and when):

French/Afrikaans/Portuguese European/Catalan/English/Russian/Maltese.

You will notice that I’ve included English. All the sentences are the same and there is no reason that with a bit of jiggery pokery, and waving of hands, it shouldn’t be possible to learn Spanish through French, or English through Maltese and so on.

I hope to add this next year.

I’m also adding a new test. I’m not giving any clues, but I’m learning the numbers from one to ten in different languages. If nothing else, this should stave off dementia.

I read somewhere (and I loathe this sort of statistic) that 30% or so of people who set public goals achieve them. Well, this hasn’t worked for me as yet, but just in case :-

I’ve been at a good intermediate level in Spanish for years. I can chat and so on, but really I’ve not forced myself to improve and I’ve plateaued. I’m going to make a massive effort to improve and beak through to the next level.

Besos and baci.


Romanian. July 2015

It is a typical July day in the West Country – everyone is wearing coats, there are damp paw prints everywhere and it is raining.

And I have completed my first week of learning Romanian, or more accurately four days.

The resources I have (for now) are Teach yourself Romanian and some Pimsleur Romanian lessons, and of course some phrases on Surface languages (but more on that later).

I’ve never used Pimsleur before, and it is quite good fun, when walking a dog for example, but with a few caveats.

Firstly, the language used so far uses the formal register. My experience (admittedly talking over Skype) with Italian and Spanish is that the informal register tu forms of speech are far more useful.

Secondly, the first four lessons seem to focus on some bloke attempting to chat up a romanian woman. It is a bit, ahem, dated. ‘Hello miss. How are you?’. Perhaps a bit more imagination wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Thirdly, the pace is slow, and I am by no means a fast learner.

Bearing this in mind, it is quite entertaining, and almost therapeutic. You can buy the lessons in dribs and drabs from iTunes and so I might buy a few more, as an easy way of starting the language. Painlessly.

Romanian sentences.  I’m a big fan of learning sentences as a way of increasing vocabulary and am in the process of adding hundreds to Surface languages – these are (I hope) being translated as we speak.



Polish. The struggle continues.

Are you sitting comfortably? I’m not, but that’s a story for another day.

Then I will begin.

But before I do  let me tell you that I’ve just completed a new App which will be here as soon as it has finished the apple approval process. Come on boys. Let it through. Allow the world to feast their eyes on another awesome Surfacelanguages app which is ..

… an Italian word puzzle type game for those of you who like such trinkets and are learning Italian.

For those of you who like such trinkets and are not learning Italian, other languages will follow soon (ish).

As the title of this post indicates, I’m still struggling with Polish. This has again been brought home to me recently as I’ve been doing a large number of language exchanges (scambi) in Italian.  And this in turn has made me think about my progress or otherwise with both Italian and Polish, or more colloquially where I am at. (I know, we are not supposed to write like this, but people say it. Where are you at? Or even where are you to?)

Returning to Italian before talking about Polish. I have reached the point where I really enjoy chatting in Italian. Sure I make mistakes and whatnot but I have fun, and importantly I can generally understand what is said to me. This is crucial (like duh) if you want to have a conversation, chat or meaningfully exchange information about topics.

I’ve made progress, and success breeds success, positive feedback and encouragement encourages more effort in turn leading to more success. And so on.

Back to Polish. It is not that I haven’t made any progress. It is that my progress isn’t very fast. I’m plodding along, like the proverbial tortoise.

In fact, when I was whinging about this, the Boss (who is wiser and more insightfull than me – and also controls the diary) reminded me that I said the same about Spanish. Of course I initially denied this. I was trying to save face. Polish is more difficult than any other language and so on. But the more I thought about it, the more I had to agree that she was correct.

Actually when I think back to learning Spanish (and I’m still learning by the way – it’s not like you can suddenly say I know Spanish …),  it took me years to feel confident speaking the language. If you read my blog regularly, you will see that this is a recurring theme. Learning languages takes me a long time. I don’t mind this, as it is just a fun hobby, a diversion, and a way of learning more about the world.

I haven’t as you may have guessed tried any Polish language exchanges. This is in part because I can’t say much, but more because my Polish comprehension is still very weak.

My experience with exchanges (in general) is that for them to be useful, both people need to have a similar language level. Otherwise most of the talking is done only in one language. This can still be fun, and you can have entertaining conversations but it is not especially useful in language learning terms.

The difference for me is that Italian has become a part of my life.  I have people to talk to, I read and while I try to remember and write interesting (well to me) words and phrases down, I don’t really do any formal ‘studying’.

I haven’t reached that level with Polish. I will and I am looking forward to that point, as that is when the language comes alive and becomes interesting.

Besos and baci,


2014 and all that

Time for a bit of a summary of 2014 as I see it.

2014 in general for the UK

Well, 2014 has been a pig of a year without much to recommend it, and much of this caused by the greed and stupidity of our politicians.

If you live in the UK, you can vote in a few months. Do it.

Vote Green or independent (and by independent I don’t mean in the sense of linking homosexuality with flooding).

The main parties have had their snouts in the trough for too long, with associated and oh  so legal benefits in the subtle British way such as  shares in companies, freebies, repairs to their moats and so on. These politicians only look after themselves, and their friends in the big corporations. I would never vote for any of the mainstream parties again.

Clegg, Cameron and Osborne should be ashamed of themselves when people are going homeless and hungry (there are more and more food banks in the UK), and more and more of the social safety net has been removed by legislation approved by these three.

And yet companies such as Amazon pay little tax, social housing in London is being sold off and in place investment properties are constructed.  No-one will live in most of these.

Tax empty second properties. Tax the big companies. Put money back into the social services.

Labour, the Tories and those Lib Dems (who also voted to allow secret courts), are in the main composed of career politicians, a political ‘elite’  who lack the desire to implement the changes we need to produce a fairer society.

A society where people can eat, where there is access to justice, a living wage and some sense of fairness.

Yeah. Roll on 2015. But vote independent. Don’t vote for the mainstream.

Surface Languages and associated Apps.

That is enough about the inept politicians that are ruining the country. What about Surface Languages and my other sites?

I’ve added three languages Tagalog, Portuguese (Portugal) and Belarusian to Surface Languages.

I’ve added lots of iPhone language apps.

I’ve added a few additional Android language apps.

I also completed the coding for some cool stuff I intend to add to Surface Languages early next year.

Polyglot People

I set up Polyglot People which was an experiment using the same audio as Surface languages. It has not been hugely successful other than as a learning experience for me – and as a basis for my Afrikaans site (see below). I’ll leave it for a year and probably ditch it.

Easy Afrikaans

Easy Afrikaans was a site I’d set up around ten years ago and then pretty much forgotten about. This year I returned, added a lot of audio, more tests and so on. It has been one of my success stories this  year, and next year I hope to add more to the site.

No more games

I until this year was also working as a games programmer. I’ve decided not to do this anymore – at least in a professional capacity. It took too much of my time and energy – and not in a positive way.





My Polish and Italian (after another year)

It’s been some considerable time since I treated the internet to an update on my progress with these two languages.

I think in some ways, this blog is an antidote to the current meme sweeping the internet about how skills in general (and languages in particular) can be learnt at great speed. I’m not bitter or anything – OK!?

You might be able to guess that my progress has not been rapid.

Keep in mind that I’ve been learning Italian & Polish quite part-time and some might say perhaps uncharitably sporadically, while working, being a dad, husband, cleaning paws and so on and so forth.


I’ve been spending more time learning Italian than Polish. Considerably more, and I’ve been reading a lot.

I aimed to reach B2 on the CEFR by the end of this year.

My Italian oral and written comprehension is at B2 level or above (woop woop) – which is partly to do with the fact that I understand Spanish well and also because I’ve listened to a fair amount of Italian. I walk SWP every day, and normally listen to Italian or Spanish audiobooks. So I listen a lot.

Now speaking,  well my spoken Italian is still at a B1 level although I’ve spoken a lot over the year. I have fun speaking (mangling) Italian and can more or less talk about anything,  but still the fact remains that my spoken level is still assessed at B1. I make mistakes, and at times I  struggle for words. But still, I can more or less talk about anything.

Italian (and Spanish) are frequently described as ‘easy’ languages which I always find amusing. Easy to speak badly perhaps. Do these people who describe these languages as easy actually speak them well? Who knows. But being able to introduce yourself,  say a few basic sentences and not much else does not qualify in my view as speaking a language.  I like to talk about anything,  politics, day to day life, cost of living, going to the pub, literature (books to you and me), feelings, weather, climate change … In fact, I talk too much according to the boss.

It can be discouraging to hear people describe a language as easy and quick to learn when your personal experience shows the opposite. There are a lot of polyglot videos on the internet where some so and so states that they speak X languages, and then you hear a monolog roughly the same in each language. Normally it will be something like ‘My name is Z. I speak N languages. I’ve been learning Italian (substitute whatever language you want here) and I think it is a beautiful language’ and so on. This doesn’t demonstrate much, and I wonder how many of these ‘polyglots’ can have free flowing conversations about a wide range of topics.

How many people who describe Italian as an easy language do you hear actually conversing at any reasonable level?  You need a lot of words to discuss a wide range of subjects and it takes time to acquire these words. It takes even more time being able to use them in context. It might be different for you (and you), but this is how it is for me.  And this, my babbers is my blog and how it is for me. If you find Italian easy and have learnt fast (and are a native English speaker), then you are a shining star. Or deluded. Look into your heart and take your pick.


There is no doubt about it, I’m finding Polish difficult. There are reasons for this.

I’m disorganised. Who isn’t? Maybe I need to read ‘ten ways to be more effective in life’ or ‘five strategies for learning faster’? There is more chance of hell freezing over. But I digress.

Polish is difficult. There is no doubt about it. In relative terms it is considerably more difficult than Italian. Italian is described (not by me) as an easy language, but it is definitely more accessible (for English speakers) than the slavic languages. Anyone who describes Polish as easy has a screw loose. It is interesting, fun and has lots of consonants but it is not easy.

Polish is not particularly accessible. Once you move beyond basic sentences mam na imię … (My name is …), you have no choice but to understand the grammar or you will sound like a complete numpty. Slavic grammar is complicated, and it takes time to understand and internalise.

I don’t have a pressing need to learn Polish. I have a reason to continue it that I won’t go into here, but it is not pressing. I’ve reached the level where I could learn much faster, but I don’t have enough of an incentive and this is what is slowing me down. The language is difficult but my slow rate of progress is now down to lack of time spent with the language.

So what is my level? Low. Pretty low. Less low than twelve months, but still low. I know a lot of (unimportant) nouns and some bits and pieces but am far, far, far away from being able to impress with my Polish.

Where do I go from here?

I’m carrying on with my Italian and hope to reach B2 at some point next year. Fingers crossed.

Ditto with Polish. Really I should find a conversation partner, but I am (at the moment) too *ahem* lazy or perhaps inept.

It is lucky I’m a competent programmer.



Android language Apps

I’ve recently added a large number of apps for the iPhone (and iTouch) to Surface Languages.

I’m tempted to tidy up, generally improve and add some additional languages to the  android equivalents.

However,  there are some barriers to be overcome before I do this. In essence I can’t remember how I programmed the apps initially, so I would have to find (gulp) and ‘get my head around’ the code.  I would then need to change it, improve it and so on and so forth.

I  would also have to re-install and get to grips with the Android development environment.

Tedious. I have better things to do with my day.

But on the positive side, there is no need to go through any kind of approval process with Android Apps, and this definitely makes life easier.

I might wait and see how the iPhone apps perform, and then decide.



500 Sentences:) and iPhone Apps

Hi all and welcome to another wet and windy west country day.

There are damp paw marks on the carpet, paw marks on the bed (sigh) and paws have been cleaned on the carpet. Having a large dog in wet weather can be challenging.

At least the boss took said hound for a walk this morning.

Anyway I digress, I now have 500 sentences which I will have translated into Polish, Italian and Afrikaans. These are the first instalment of the ‘10,000’ sentences method of language learning which I want to add to Surface languages – described as  here.

I have also been playing with code for iPhone language apps which will be added here.  I’ll also spruce the page up which is looking metaphorically speaking rather shabby.

Considering that il tempo non e bello and in fact pogoda jest brzydka, pada deszcz I am in a surprisingly good mood.

Ciao for now.

Besos  2 all,


Los ojos son el espejo del alma

Well, call me a geek but Vultus est index animi has long been one of my favourite expressions.

And now I know it in Spanish as well:

Los ojos son el espejo del alma.

Now all I need to do is Cautus metuit fovea lupus in Spanish and I’ll be happy.

All you need are a few handy expressions in other languages to sound intellectual, witty and ever so.

Or alternatively like you are a total numpty desperately trying to impress.



What next for surface languages?

I am (which isn’t surprising) as I run Surface Languages interested in language learning.

I’m not a particularly talented learner (I learn languages extremely slowly)  but I get a large amount of enjoyment through learning what I do, and as I do this my ideas on learning change and evolve over time.

I’ve been wondering for sometime how to best improve this site (other than adding further languages), and I think I know how to do this in part inspired by an email I received and in part by my rather frustrating attempts at learning Polish.

One of the great things about not selling a product or method is that you are free to experiment with different ideas, and you can (if you are me) implement these ideas on this website.

Look at Rosetta Stone (the language product that is). The manufacturers have this idea that clicking on pictures of horses jumping, people eating ice-creams and so on will help you learn a language.  Now, they can’t say ‘this isn’t effective’ even if they suddenly discover that clicking on pictures doesn’t equip you to walk into a bar and start chatting. Their whole product range is based on this concept.

I have started to believe that speaking and understanding (are while linked) such different skills that it is useful to treat them as such while in the initial stages of language learning. I’ve mentioned elsewhere the resources I’m using to improve my Polish comprehension, and there are many other resources to aid comprehension for other languages – in particular French and Spanish.

But what about speaking?

One way to improve is to learn the sentences by heart that you want to say in your target language. The difficulty with this is choosing sentences which are generally useful. I want sentences which use common verbs and high frequency vocabulary and that are also useful to me. E.g. ‘I’m going to the shop’ but not ‘the house needs to be rewired’. I also want sentences which use different tenses such as ‘I went to the shop’, and sentences expressing opinions ‘I’m happy because …’

I’ve started writing down sentences which I would like to be able to say in Polish, and these will form the basis of the sentences used on surface languages.

I’ve made a few observations which I’ve written down, partly so I don’t forget and partly for your delight and delectation.

The first observation is that languages themselves are structured differently, meaning you can’t pick one sentence to illustrate a grammatical point in say Spanish and assume that this will illustrate the same point in Polish.

I don’t think this matters. The sentences I will choose are ones which I want to use in normal life, and not specifically to illustrate structures and grammar.

The second observation is that many languages have different levels of formality depending on who you are speaking to, and different structures depending on the number of people you are speaking to.

The solution is to assume that you are talking to one person who is a friend. i.e casual but not slangy conversation.

The third observation is that in some languages (e.g. Polish) there can be  a difference depending on whether a man or woman is speaking, or being spoken to.

Adding these different combinations would be too complicated for what I have in mind (see below), and as I am male I’ve made the arbitrary decision that all the sentences are spoken by a male to a male. I don’t feel particularly happy about this, but I am one person and can only deal with a certain level of complexity.

I received an e-mail in Spanish basically asking why Surface Languages didn’t have any English phrases. The answer is that it was designed for English speakers, but that is only because I didn’t think about language learners other than English speaking using it.

But now I have. If all the sentences have the same translations in English, Spanish, French, Polish and so on, there is no reason why you can’t learn English from Spanish or French from Polish or any other combination that you wish. This is also great if you are trying to maintain a language.

And so dear reader, over the coming months and years I am going to add a ‘learn by sentences’ section to Surface Languages using some sort of Spaced Repetition System which will allow me (and you) to learn sentences using different language pairs.

But first, I need to decide on the first 1000.





Learning Polish. An Update.

It’s been a while since my last post. I’ve been working on various (non language related) projects – although I will before long (I hope) add some free iPhone language learning apps to SurfaceLanguages.

Enough of that.  I want to talk about my Polish progress. As anyone who reads or who has read this blog will know, I’m finding it extremely difficult.  This isn’t surprising as Polish is a difficult language for a non slavic language speaker to learn. And just to clarify I don’t mean it is difficult to say ‘my name is …’ or ‘I live in …’, but to have more meaningful conversations. (I’m approaching fifty and am not interested in saying how r u, wotz up, lol etc.)

At the moment I’m not focusing on speaking (as I don’t have time for a regular conversation partner) but I want to understand and read. One thing I have noticed about many language learning blogs is that the writers are younger. The advantage of being young isn’t that you can’t learn languages when you are older, or that it is more difficult, but you have less commitments.

Less commitments = more time.

I don’t have much spare time, but what I do have is an hour in the morning when I walk my dog. I also have fifteen minutes in the evening. As I said, I have many demands on my time.

I no longer use Assimil Polish, and wouldn’t recommend it. It becomes too difficult too quickly. Instead  each evening I spend my fifteen minutes going through one of the stories from Mr Real Polish (there are one hundred along with variations, questions and answers and so on) , and during the walk listen to these at random.

Fifteen minutes is the time I need to understand a story when I hear it at random on the playlist.

My comprehension is definitely improving, and many of the more common Polish words are now starting to stick.

I am making progress – albeit slowly.