Category Archives: My posts on other fora/blogs

A conversation with a Russian learner about aspects of verbs.

English: Native language in Ukraine. Legend: U...

English: Native language in Ukraine. Legend: Ukrainian language dominates as the native language Russian language dominates as the native language. Bi-lingual, with a slight Ukrainian language lead (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the followers of the video content on YouTube, Dennis, wrote asking about the question of aspects. I answered as I could and also as you will see got his permission to share the conversation so that more language learners would be able to take advantage of the topic.

  • Conversation started Thursday

  • 11:18


    Dennis Meurders


    Dear David,

    Thank you so much of the add. I’m honored! 
    I’m a very big fan of your youtube videos concerning the Russian language. I use them in addition of my Russian language course and I ust say that they give me a headstart of the rest. So they really help!
    I was wondering however if you could tell me which video talks about the time aspect ( поличать vs поличить) if you know what I mean with that. We talked about it yesterday in class and most people (including myself) find it very difficult.

    I hope you can help me out with this one.

    Thank you so much in advance!

    Dennis Meurders Read the rest of this entry

FUCATOKK – repost of an old attempt of mine at an easy conlang (unfinished – collaboration welcome)


Uncle Davey, 2003

Lesson 1 – Alfabet

The alphabet of Fucatokk contains the same 26 letters of the modern English alphabet and no diacritics.

Each letter has one sound only and always keeps that sound. Words are spelt as they sound in the Fucatokk language.

Some of the letters, especially ‘q’ and ‘x’ have quite different values to those usually given in modern English, but most letters are not so surprising.

The punctuation marks and the numbers, other than where they abbreviate letters using the Fucatokk alphanumeric shorthand, follow typical European usage, except for the absence of capitalisation, which is perfectly acceptable form in Fucatokk.

Many people visiting this will know Esperanto, so here are the Esperanto equivalents of the Fucatokk letters:

a = a (Short. Long is ‘ey’)
b = b
c = cx (English ‘ch’ as in ‘church’)
d = d
e = e (Short) (more…)

Remarks on Job

The Whore of Babylon from russian illuminated ...

The W of B.

Accepting predestination and the sovereignty of God on the one hand is
not a reason not to act as though you can change things on the other.
Fatalism is never commanded in the Bible.

Job worked hard all his life to get into the situation he was, but
nevertheless when he lost everything, he said “the Lord giveth, the
Lord taketh away”. When he had his losses restored I would assume he
also worked and tried to make the best of what he had, even though he
would have acknowledged that it was a gift. He didn’t just sit back.

That’s why I’m not in favour of just sitting back and accepting the
Anti-Christ, the beast, the Whore of Babylon, the False Prophet, just
because these entities are prophesied in Scripture. We are to reject
the mark of the Beast, and not acquiesce in that mark being put on our
flesh. We are the sheep of another Shepherd, and our brandmark is
written on the fleshy tables of the heart.

The devil will always say, “you cannot change it, because even your God
has prophesied it. Go along with my plans uncomplainingly. If you
challenge what false prophets and wicked people are doing, it looks as
if you are complaining against the sovereignty of God” But this is not
the case, as the Word shows what believers are to do in such cases. We
should not be amazed and put to a crisis of our faith over it, but we
should act in whatever way we can to resist it. That issue of what
happens to faith is the true lesson of the Book of Job. As you can see
from the dialogue at the start happening in the halls of eternity
between God and Lucifer. Lucifer claims that Job only believes because
he has had the charmed life. His faith is of no value because he never
had any reason to doubt it. This is a central reason why God allows
Satan a lease over Job’s life for a season. The test of faith is
absolutely crucial.

In this day and age people’s faith is tested by godlessness in the
media, in the fact that the so-called scientific consensus is so-clled
rationalist, which means that basically society considered as an
acceptable credo only that which can be emoirically proven, and hand in
hand with that puts faith in a very low position – except for when
psychologists state that individuals can get some purely carnal benefit
from it. These days for a person to know God means they have to put
their faith against the sniggerings of know-all atheists from all
quarters. But in Job’s day people were not up against the so-called
rationalists and their fairy tales about evolution and billions of
years and a creator-free origin. People basically knew there was a God,
in that there were no serious voices in society voicing any other
possibility, and so the inner certainty of his existence was not a
difficult thing as today.

And yet God has always used faith as the basis for differentiating this
on his side from those who are not. Works were only ever acceptable as
the fruit of faith, but only faith ever pleased God. It is written that
“without faith it is impossible to please God; for he that cometh to
God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of them that
diligently seek Him”. So what do we have here with Job? Is the devil
right that Job’s faith is cheap? Or will he make a statement of faith
even after his comforts are stripped from him with all the severity
that the cleansing and trying fuller’s fire of God can muster?

Well, what says the tortured, inmpoverished Job with the rotting flesh,
the dead family?

“For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the
latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this
body, yet in my flesh shall I see God; whom I shall see for myself, and
mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed
within me.”-Job 19:25-27.

There we have it. This man, who has been blasted beyond measure, utters
with faith as strong as knowledge, a prophesy of Christ, and of the
Resurrection. And this testimony has gone down as among the most
beautiful words of history, a sentence of incredible value – worth more
than all his possessions.

He was not tried for ever because he did not need to be. After he was
shown to be of faithful integrity and the devil shown up to be a
speculating, fraudulent accuser, everything went back to the way it had
been before.

God was able to bring everything back to normal again.

And of course much more than “normal”.

Just as God is able to wipe every tear from your eye, and will do so one day, if He finds faith in you.


Uncle Davey
(publ. Sept 2006 on Usenet)

The Mystery of Gothic and why I left

Guido Westerwelle

Guido Westerwelle - a politician whose remarks are only to be discussed in abtraction from politics, on!

I am repeating here a few comments I made about the Gothic Language on How-To-Learn-Any-Language forum some time back. As I am now not posting there owing to their heavy-handed moderation policy ( I was censured for discussing politics in a thread about why a certain German politician – Guido Westerwelle the Foreign Minister no less, refused to speak German at an international press conference because it happened to be held in Germany.

I am looking forward to the Eurovision Song Contest this year – instead of being done in French and English as per the tradition, as Lena won it for Germany last year (with a song that has not even been given any lyrics in German and is sung in Essex English by someone trying to impersonate Lily Allen but who is at any rate a good deal hotter than Lily, and that of course is what the Eurovision is all about these days…) it will have to be held entirely in German to appease Westerwelle’s nationalist complexes!

Anyway, it was for taking an anti-Westerwelle line that I got censured in HTLAL. I warned that if moderated I would simply leave and stop contributing and at that the moderator called my bluff and pulled the whole thread! In case anyone thinks that it means that I am spitting my dummy out and walking away like a big kid, let me explain the following points:

1. I have very limited time to post and type on the internet. Thankfully I have the pleasure and privilege of a small following of people who like to read my things or watch or listen to my multimedia outputs, and so I have the impetus always to continue. Even on I enjoyed the privelege of popularity – not that many posters have received over 1,5 times the votes compared to the posts they have made. Many people have more than the 139 votes I received, but these are folk who usually have hundreds of posts and not just 87.  If it were not for the fact that I know many people like to follow what I do, at some times of year it would all stop as I get just too busy. Read the rest of this entry

Atheist chats with theist. (Some Skype chat from this evening – experimental piece)

Blaise Pascal first explained his wager in Pennsylvania

In my search for new blogging and media techniques, tonight, while chatting to a radio friend Fat Steve and noticing that the chat had become a nice cameo piece, I got his permission as you will see to try the following:

[22:44:09] Fat Steve: Davey, I was reading a thread on Amazon and this guy on there reminded me of you

[22:44:54] David J. James: In what way? Read the rest of this entry

Question on lexical sufficiency

Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad Korzeniowski - the ultimate benchmark in mastery of an acquired language is surely that of having added to its artistic literature?

Reader (and poster) Bill_Sage667 from’s forum wrote me the following question and agreed kindly to a public answer here:

Dunno whether u’ll be able to find the time to reply to this, 1 in a million chance lol……but I’ll write out my questions anyway lol

You said something about 15,000 words needed in order to achieve a good degree level in Russian. Are imperfective and perfective verbs considered separate words, as well as adjectives and verbs under the same lexemes (e.g. беремменость, беремменая, беремменеть, забеременнеть) when you were estimating the number of words?

And what if someday I want to attain the proficiency of an educated native speaker (might take me 20 yrs but oh well)? How many words am I supposed to know (for active and passive knowledge)? For Russian, that is. btw thanks for releasing the Gold List Method to the public for free!

Firstly, Bill, be careful about the number of ‘m’s and ‘n’s you have in those pregancy-related words. You have too many ‘m’s and not enough ‘n’s. I’ll leave you to review that one.

You’re very welcome about the Goldlist. As I say in the section I wrote in syzygycc’s The Polyglot Project, I’m just paying forward the favours I got from so many people when I was a young learner.

In my opinion 15,000 words, as long as they are properly selected, are perfectly adequate and in the headlist you would use all the forms initially as separate forms (but not the various conjugations and case endings, only the so-called ‘dictionary forms’) and you could soon condense them on distillation.

If you use the frequency distionary I am selling on you will be able to focus on commoner words first. Within the first 10,000 words you do get words that are already pretty specialised that you wouldn’t use maybe more than once a month or so even if you were a native, and so it continues over the next 5,000 as well. You’ll find 15,000 enough to read the great novels comfortably and to appreciate the poetry of Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva and even Strogonova (the last of which you will find uniquely published in this blog as a ‘page’. She is no poorer a poet than these well-known ones, only far less known.)

I would also like to draw people’s attention to something else I wrote about the 15,000 word ‘marathon’ in a thread over on the HTLAL forum:

What this Gladwell character [I'm referring to upstream discussion of someone who said you must have 10,000 hours of learning to become fully fluent, like a native - a claim almost unanimously rejected by every serious linguist and polyglot I know other than those who teach languages privately, as this idea is grist to their mill] needs to bear in mind is the Pareto rule. If it were true (which I dispute) that you need 10,000 hours to become as native (although how this deals with your accent is anyone’s guess) then you could get 80% of it in 20% of the time. That means you’d need to have 2,000 hours study to get to 80% of native fluency. Since that’s ludicrously overcautios, I’d suggest that the 10,000 hour target for full native fluency is overcautious.

The fact is, a person could be like Konrad Korzeniowski (Joseph Conrad) and already writing ground-breaking literature in the language he or she had learned and still have a strong enough accent to provoke politely meant but annoying compliments on the quality of his language by native speakers.

In the end you just have to accept what English speakers accepted for their own language in the main long ago – that as long as it doesn’t hinder comprehension, a foreigner’s accent in English is just as valid as a “native” accent. This is easily accepted by multi-national or mega-regional languages like Spanish, Russian, Chinese, etc, but in places like Poland as there is largely only one way of speaking, the bar is raised for their own language.

So in fact that means that the same n-thousand hours done by an Englishman in Russian could have the Russians noticing very little different about the foreigner, especially if he has a bad haircut. Whereas if he has a really bad haircut and the same n-thousand hours of Czech, the reaction will probably be “he looks like one of us, but our language is difficult and so we must forgive the way he sounds, although obviously we are frank and friendly people so we will tell him to his face at regular intervals that his Czech sucks bigtime.”

Given this subjectivity, I decided long ago never to walk in anyone’s linguistic shadow, but simply to set amounts of words as targets. 15,000 words is in language learning, to my mind, what the marathon is in athletics. If you’re fit, you can do it with patience and training. And if you can do it, nobody can say you’re not fit.

There are longer races, there are tougher events. But the marathon is the ‘classic’ and the marathon runner knows that it’s really a competition against yourself and not really against the runners alongside. Even people coming in at six hours are clapped and get a medal. So should language learning be.

If this article is of interest you can look up the article as plenty of people have some interesting stuff to say, both about the 10,000 hours nonsense and the number of words needed. I get into a discussion with “Lingua Frankly” blogger Niall Beag (known as Cainntear) on when the Pareto rule isn’t just a number like 10,000 with no real basis for being a law. There are also those who are ready to stand up for the honour of the number 10,000 and tell the detractors of 10,000 hours to mind their jolly manners. Excellent thread.

I’m going to add more thoughts there today.

Who is this mystery customer?

Countries where the Russian language is spoken.

The Russian Linguation

The following review can still be read for Derek Offord’s “Using Russian – A Guide to Contemporary Usage” on (not the American Amazon and I really don’t understand why they don’t carry these reviews over, when I want to write for only the UK or only the US I shall forget about the internet altogether!) As it was way back in 2001 I seem to have lost the accreditation for the review along the way. At first it was under my name, but at some stage they must have had a technical blip and the older reviews became “A Customer”. but it’s mine, well enough. I don’t know if my style has changed much in ten years.

36 of 37 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars
This is essential reading for those doing a Russian degree.
28 Sep 2001
By A Customer

This review is from: Using Russian: A Guide to Contemporary Usage (Paperback)

I bought Using Russian when I was browsing in a bookshop for another language, as I already speak Russian, but when I looked at a few pages it immediately appealed as an excellent update to the way the language has developed since I did my degree. Sections in the book refer to different problems that face the English speaker in particular, such as faux amis. There are also sections on homonyms and other confusing aspects and they act rather like a checklist of what you need to have got right in your head in order not to make too many ‘howlers’ in translations or in conversation.

One particular plus in this book and as I found out in the whole series of ‘Using’ books that this is part of is the focus on register. If there is one thing that separates the wheat from the chaff among language students. it is the understanding and application of the idea of register, and this applies to Russian perhaps more than most European languages, as this is a language in which not only the vocabulary, but also the syntax, grammar and phonetics are all subject to complex nuances. This book was not available when I needed it. Now that it is I urge you to make use of it. It is the book about Russian that I would have liked to have written myself. If I thought there was demand for it, I’d offer to do a sister volume for Polish.

In any event it made me go out and by the sister volumes already in existence for French, German and Spanish. They are of a similar quality to this volume, the weakest is probably the German one, the Spanish one I would put as second favorite. It can be read cover to cover, or simply dipped into as a work of reference.

It is not material for learning the language from scratch, but would be a very useful second step after completing any of the standard self-instruction books such as the Colloquial series, the Teach yourself series or the Linguaphone course.

Either A-level or degree level students of the Language will profit from it and find it enjoyable because of its good presentation and readable style.

Review of Hotel Centralny, Kedzierzyn-Kozle, for Google.

Kedzierzyn-Kozle - aleje JPII

Kedzierzyn-Kozle on a good day.

(Published to Google Hotpot earlier this evening, and it also gives me my post for the day here. I think that’s fair.)

I’m sitting here writing this actually in the hotel room having found it on the road in Google on my Android phone when I discovered that the place I was really supposed to be going was unexpectedly booked up.

I had a bit of a nightmare getting here from where the GPS said it would be only 9 km. The main bridge in Kedzierzyn-Kozle was shut, the next bridge up on the Oder per the GPS turned out to be some seasonal ferry that wasn’t there, and when I finally found the new road that wasn’t on even google maps and still isn’t, it turned out that there had been a nasty accident so I got caught in the road over the middle of the Odra waiting for the emergency services to do their bit. Read the rest of this entry


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