Ten months of Croatian

Sup Doods and doodesses?

Today it’s time to sit back, take stock and give  all of you an update on my Croatian after ten months, and if you are sitting comfortably, then I’ll begin.

Before the update, let me set the scene:-

I had as an aim the intention of learning  Croatian to a low B1 level from scratch this year (ready for a holiday to Croatia).

I naively thought that this would be achievable by spending around an hour a day on focused study, a lesson a week (carried out almost entirely in Croatian) and listening to Croatian audio while commuting to work.

I haven’t managed this and my realistic level is somewhere within the A2 range (currently).

In other words, I have put in a fair amount of effort to be able to string together some basic sentences.

The reason I am mentioning this, isn’t to discourage potential Croatian learners but rather to encourage them.

I’m writing this as an antidote to the language learning apps and blogs that promise fast results.

In my experience, the brain takes time to absorb new words and structures and it is not a quick process.

You may be different but I doubt it.

I am an average language learner, and you probably are too (by definition), and therefore our experiences are likely to be similar. I’d say it’s important to forget the geniuses and outliers for the purposes of this argument or you are likely to be disappointed by your slow progress and give up.

The internet is chock full of ‘fast learning strategies’ for languages and anything else that you can imagine,  but in my experience (I have several degrees and post graduate qualifations) learning anything to a decent standard takes time.

There are strategies that can help improve progress and obvious ones (as I am talking about language learning) are:-

Memorise responses to common questions (which is not a bad approach). This will help initial conversations (but you won’t understand the responses).

Learn common phrases that are relevant to you (but you won’t understand the responses).

Learn frequently used vocabulary which is relevant to you.

So, there are things that you can do which help initially and definitely help with motivation, but I am not convinced that these make much difference in the longer term.

You can also have a conversation of sorts quite rapidly (with a willing victim such as I am doing in my lessons), but this doesn’t equate in my mind to having  much of a grasp of the language.

The fundamental point is that learning anything (including languages) takes time, and by way of illustration let’s look at a Croatian words grad ‘city’, zena ‘woman’ and selo ‘village’.

Croatian has three genders, masculine, feminine and neuter and these three words are masculine, feminine and neuter respectively.

In English, we form the plural by adding an ‘s’ to a word (I know that there are exceptions), but in Croatian we have the following possibilities depending on the gender of the word and it’s function in the sentence:-

gradovi, gradove, gradova, gradovima, zene, zene, zenama, zena, sela, selima

I’m not saying this to put you off, as I think Croatian is a cool, chic and generally awesome language, but as a reality check.

It takes time to internalise grammatical structures.

You (if you are like me) are not going to do this quickly.

It takes time.

Your brain needs time to do this. I don’t know why or how this is the case, but it does.

As the somewhat cliched phrase tells us, it’s the journey not the arrival that matters, which is lucky in this case, as the journey will be a long one. If you carry on putting one foot in front of the other eventually you will get to where you want to go (if you are aiming in the right direction).

So, what about me and my Croatian?

I have already decided :-

hrvatski jezik je šik i nastavit ću ga učiti!!!

Baci and besos.


Posted in Croatian, Learning Croatian | 2 Comments

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,


Posted in Polyglot People, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

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,


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Learning Croatian to a B1 level


I have now been learning Croatian for approximately four months, and now seems as good a time as any to report back on my progress.

My aim is too reach a B1 level before the summer.

I’d take this with a pinch of salt, but according to my language teacher, I am now approaching a B1 level. In the interests of full disclosure, honesty and so on, I’d be more comfortable with a description of low A2 (on the CEFR scale). Either way I’m happy with my progress, and have another four months or so before the summer (my arbitrary deadline).

I’ve finally found an effective method of learning languages that works for me, and I’m writing this as much for my benefit (so I remember what works) as for anyone who is reading this.

Now I am vaguely aware that in the language learning community there is a debate as to whether you should listen a lot before speaking, or start speaking immediately. Probably due to an inherent laziness and no particular sense of urgency, I’ve never put much emphasis on speaking initially.

I’m also sure that if you want to achieve a high level in a language that it makes no difference when you start speaking. You need to speak a lot to become good at speaking, and speaking from day one guarantees that you won’t understand the answer. Naturally need to listen to a lot of comprehensible input before you have any hope of understanding what people say to you.

So, in the long run, both are equally important.

But, my aim with Croatian, is too reach a B1 level in both speaking and comprehension by summer of this year.  This given the short amount of time forced my hand a bit and I decided to have iTalki lessons (where I speak) ab initio.

If you genuinely want to learn something, regardless if what it is, you need to learn actively not passively. In my  mind that means deciding on your own route, or plotting your own path. It is partly for that reason that I no longer have any affiliate links on Surface Languages (not intentionally anyway). It isn’t that I think all language products are bad, but more that we all learn in different ways and my way will be different from your way and so on.

My strategy so far has been:

Weeks 1 and 2.  I learnt as much as I could using Teach yourself Croatian.

Weeks 3 and 4. I used several different teachers to find one who suited my style.

Months 2 and 3. I have had a weekly one on one Croatian lesson.

During the lesson my teacher writes down the words that I try to use, and  I learn these over the following weeks. This is crucial.

I have listened to simple Croatian texts as I drive to and from work (which takes me about an hour each day).

I have analysed and tried to understand the grammar used in these texts. This is also crucial, as Croatian has a complicated grammar.

Month 4. I have started listening to the Youtube series Easy Croatian (which isn’t easy to understand) to try and get a feel for more natural speech.

I will continue with this for the next two months.

It has also helped that the weather in the west country has been appalling.



Posted in Learning Croatian | Leave a comment

Plans for 2019

Sup doods and doodesses?

Plans. Plans. Plans. The end of the year is always a good time for them and here are some of mine.

Plan broj jedan (plan number one).  A new website called Polyglot People. – Now part of Surface Languages.

I have recently started working on this site.  If you click on the link, you will be able to see that as yet, nothing happens:) The clue was in the word recently.

It is designed to teach sentences in different languages.

I decided to do this on a new site and not by merely bolting something onto the appropriate part of   Surface Languages because:-

Surface Languages was never designed to be mobile first (you know for all you cool kidz who use phones/pads etc), and Polyglot People will be, and geek that I am, I wanted (needed) to scratch a programming itch.

I anticipate finishing Polyglot People by the end of March – assuming the  day job doesn’t sap too much of my energy.

Plan broj dwa (plan number two)

Carry on with learning Croatian until I reach B1 level. I still love it.

By the way I have absolutely no idea whether Plan broj jedan and  Plan broj dwa are the correct way of expressing this in Croatian.

I suspect not.

If you are a Croatian reader or someone who knows more Croatian than me, let me know what I should have writen.

I’d wish you all a Happy and prosperous New Year but I live in Brexit Britain so it seems unlikely for some of us.

So not too tempt fate, Happy New Year to you all, and I’m crossing my fingers that I am still employed in twelve months (really).



Posted in Learning Croatian, Polyglot People | Leave a comment

Si annis multis vixerit …

Si annis multis vixerit homo, et in his omnibus laetatus fuerit, meminisse debet tenebrosi temporis, et dierum multorum, qui cum venerint, vanitatis arguentur praeterita.

Powerful stuff indeed and well worth remembering.

I will, all things being equal, parse it tomorrow as an interesting exercise for myself and maybe of some passing interest to you, dear reader of these pages.



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Learning Croatian and more!


It’s been a while, but never fear me and mine are hale and hearty. I’ve had a bit of a roller-coaster of a year which has ended well despite a very unpromising start. I won’t bore you with the details or over-share but I didn’t have any spare emotional or mental capacity. My language learning and this site were totally neglected.

But that was then and this is now, and you want to know about my Croatian learning and what the ‘more’ in the title refers to.

Firstly, Croatian …

I love it!

I really love it:) Even more than Spanish and Italian!!

And definitely more than French;)

I now have a weekly iTalki lesson and have progressed in large dog sized leaps and bounds. I have  understood how to learn a slavic language. Phew. Finally.

Secondly, ‘the more’ refers to a new website I am working on  called Polyglot People.

It will be free and based on sentence based learning (which is part of my learning strategy for Croatian).  I promised that I would share my technique for learning Croatian and I will.

But temper your excitement. I still don’t believe that  there is a one size fits all for language learning – which is why there are no longer any links to language products on this site (not intentionally anyway). We are all different, learn in different ways and have different learning styles.

That said, I’m fairly certain that Polylgot people will be of help to some of you. My aim (and this is very dependent on the day job) is too have the site up and running by the end of May.

In the meantime, I’m back and hopefully more regular (snigger).

Happy Xmas Baci and besos,





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I’m learning Croatian

Sup All,

Does anyone read this bog at all? Or do my words fall like leaves in the forest?

In the damp forest.

Enough of that, here is a quick update as to what I’ve been up to regarding languages, since (gulp) January.

I listened to and read a lot of German (der Prozess mainly) during the first few months of this year, and then life and work intruded.  No worries. That’s the way it goes, and I’m lucky to have a job.

And I maintained my Spanish and Italian language exchanges.

Moving on:

Ucim hrvatski jezik (I’m learning Croatian)

Yep. I’m learning Croatian. I’ve booked my first lesson on iTalki in two weeks. I hope to learn from all the mistakes I made when (attempting to learn) Polish and arrive at a B1 level by the middle of next year.

Now, based on my past performance, you may rightfully be dubious as to my chances of success, but this time something has changed in my thinking, and I am sure that I will achieve this.

I have a new method, which if it bears fruit, I will share with you, dear Croatian learning reader.

Besos and baci



Posted in Learning Croatian | 2 Comments

Stickiness and language learning

Sup all,

I’m writing this to remind myself as to why stickiness is important. Hence the link from my language and goals.

One of my favourite exercises is the kettlebell swing, and one of the books by Pavel Tsatsouline (Kettlebell Simple & Sinister) is essentially written describing this one exercise (and one other). It’s a great book, and if you are into exercise, I’d  advise reading it.

One of the key insights of the book, is the importance of keeping things simple, and the book describes doing 100 kettlebell swings, day in, day out, rather like brushing your teeth.

There is no waviness. All you do is 100 kettlebell swings. You don’t need to wonder what type of exercise to do, how many swings, whether you should have a rest day, number of set, reps and so on.

In other words, it is easier to stick to, than a more complicated workout schedule.

I think it is brilliant.

But, it made me think about other areas of my life, and in particular languages, which as a hobby I rather neglected last year, partly due to lack of time and also organisation.

I thought that I would try the same approach with the learning of German as I use with kettlebells, and that I have set myself a very simple task with a high stickiness factor and low waviness.

I will use Lingq for thirty minutes a day (like brushing my teeth) to improve my reading and listening German comprehension.

I will let you know, my babbers, how it works out.

I’ve also decided that for the first three months of the year, all my leisure reading will be in Spanish, which in essence, is everything that I read on my kindle.




Posted in Language Learning | 6 Comments

Language learning goal – 2018

Sup d00ds?

A belated Happy New Year to you all.

Well, assuming that you have all been waiting with bated breath for my language learning announcement, here it is:

I want to improve my German reading and comprehension.

Essentially no talking. Only understanding.

Primarily, I’m interested in what the German speaking press have to say about Brexit. Personally I think it is a huge, huge, huge mistake for the UK diminishing us both as a country and individually.

I am going to spend 30 minutes a day listening and reading using Lingq as my primary learning source.

No days off. No excuses.

BTW. I’m not an affiliate for Lingq but think it’s worth the $10 a month for access to so much audio at different levels. Lingq is a bit like marmite (if you are from the UK, you will know where I am coming from, but for the rest of you), you will either love or hate using it. There is no middle ground.

My current German knowledge is limited to the number of Assimil lessons that I completed.

I will also learn a few dozen German phrases that I think I will have an opportunity to use. These are very specific to a situation, I occasionally find myself in.

So, my objective is SMART, Specific, Measurable, Achievable etc, and I am intrigued as to what I can achieve in this timeframe – 30mins a day for a year.

A secondary minor objective is to improve my Italian, which I will do whenever the opportunity arises.

Last year was a semi-success as I conquered my fear of speaking French and reached an (albeit low) B1 level in speaking (according to my iTalki teacher).

My French accent was and remains appalling.



Posted in Assimil Diary. German, German | Leave a comment