Who Am I?

My name is Ron. I’m a language enthusiast. I’ve studied Arabic, Spanish, and German pretty seriously, and I’ve also spent a lot of time studying English, my native language. My first “real” job was as a translator, and now I’m a technical writer by profession.

I’ve lived all over the world, but consider Florida home. Florida gets a bad rap, but it’s the best state in the US. Any place where you can wear flip-flops to a sit-down restaurant and not attract any attention is fine by me.

(Here’s a video of me speaking four languages.)

After high school, I studied Modern Standard Arabic. After about 15 months of full-time study and some follow-on advanced courses, I ended up at approximately a C1 level in MSA.

I then got an English degree and learned that even though I had been speaking English for 20+ years, I still had a lot to learn. I still do.

In 2013, I made it a goal to learn Spanish, and got pretty decent results. I’ve become a little rusty since then, but I’m looking forward to picking it back up.

Right now I’m studying German intensely, with the goal of getting back into translation, professionally. I lived in Germany for two years, where I learned a little German and renewed my interest in language learning. More recently, I was rated as “Advanced Low” on the ACTFL German reading test.

In my day job, I’m a technical writer. That’s why you’ll see a lot of bullet points and numbered lists in my posts. But that’s also why you’ll see a lot of slang and breezy writing here, too, because the last thing I want is to turn this site into a technical manual.

When I’m not learning foreign languages or writing, I like watching mixed martial arts, traveling, and playing video games with my son. I’ve also been known to bust a move.

  • Pingback: Language Surfer – Can’t Speak a Foreign Language? Why Speaking is So Hard

  • Pingback: Language Surfer | How to Learn a Language Fast: 5 Things to Speed Up the Process

  • Pingback: Language Surfer | The Art of Imperfect Language

  • Pingback: All About Language Proficiency and Language Fluency ← Language Surfer

  • Barbara Eckard

    Ron, Gracias por compartir su sabiduria de Espanol! Habla muy bien por solamente nueve meses. Asiste una escuela en San Jose, Costa Rica por siete meses hace 32 anos! Soy una maestra de Ingles como Segunda Idioma y ahora estoy estudiando por computador para mi Master’s en Educacion concentrada en ensenando gente como hablar, leer, y escribir en Ingles. Vivo en Carolina del Norte.

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Barbara, mucho gusto, y muchas gracias por el cumplido! Yo había vivido en Carolina del Norte por un año, en Sanford. Trabajé en Fayetteville con el ejercito.

      • Barbara Eckard

        Ron, Conosco Sanford porque hemos llevado ninos a una iglesia por un competicion en la Biblia que se llama Bible Bowl. Es una ciudad bonita. Que tipo de trabajo hiso con el ejercito? Tengo una amiga que es un capitan en el ejercito y va a Fayetteville regularmente.

        • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

          Yo era un escritor técnico y escribí sobre software y ordenadores por el ejercito. ¡Extraño la barbacoa de Carolina del Norte!

  • Belen

    Hello Ron, I think your blog is great. So helpful!! Do you happen to know easy resourses in Argentine Dialect?

  • Michele Farris

    Pretty cool! I’m a native Floridian but lived in Germany for 7 years (Army Spouse) and learned some German and lived in Italy as a 12 year old (Navy brat) and spoke street Italian/Naples Italian. I want to learn more Spanish and some Arabic. Thanks for posting, I’d love it if you can post some basic phrases in Arabic or good website to learn.

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Hey Michele! Sounds like you were bitten by the language bug. I think being overseas you really see how challenging, fun, and important it is to be able to communicate in the local lingo. (And it doesn’t get any more “street” than Naples…haha.) I’ll post some basic Arabic phrases on my FB page soon but in the meantime check out http://www.iheartarabic.com. It has some good basic stuff from a grad student at the University of Texas. Nice to meet you!

  • PleaseTakeABiologyCourse


    I somehow managed to stumble onto your blog. I’m potentially looking to start a career as a linguist for the Army, and your resources have been invaluable. Any advice would be welcome! Other than that, I just wanted to drop a line and say thank you!

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Hi Jennifer! Awesome, thanks for the note. Yeah, I’ll definitely answer any specific questions you have–you can email me at my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/languagesurfer. Or drop me a PM on Twitter: @langsurfer.

      General tips: When you’re taking the DLAB, stay relaxed. If it seems hard during the test, remember that it’s meant to seem hard, and just stay as calm as possible. When you’re at DLI, try your best not to get too stressed out, because there will be a lot of different people putting pressure on you (NCOs, peers, teachers, yourself). Just take it one day at a time, pay attention in class, and do your homework, and chances are you’ll be just fine. Also, some people go there and never enjoy how awesome Coastal California is and never leave their barracks room, while other people go there and party six nights a week and totally blow their opportunity in class. Do your best to keep some balance, not just because it’ll probably help your grades, but it’ll also help your life. lol

      Man, it’s exciting to see someone just starting out. Good luck!

  • mcmulkinn

    Hey Ron, I represent a rather large language school called Sprachcaffe (German)/GEOS (North American). I would love to write some guest blog posts for you. Let me know here, or by email at online.marketing@geos.net if this is something you might be interested in

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Hi! I definitely appreciate guest posts. If you don’t mind, please shoot me an email at ron@languagesurfer.com. Looking forward to talking to you!

  • William C. Townsend

    Found your site reading about the DLAB. I am a DLI grad and you are pretty spot on for studying for the test. Great site man! RU1095, down the hill Russian. I will follow your blog.

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Hey, nice to meet a fellow DLI grad! Thanks for the note. It’s been a while since I’ve taken that test, so it’s good to hear some feedback and get a reality check.

  • Dierdre

    I heard if you don’t have any foreign language background that taking the Pimsleur Approach trains the brain to learn a language much quicker. Should I do that first before starting Spanish on Babbel?

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Hi Dierdre! Just making sure you saw my response to your other post. (Just making sure my response didn’t get lost in the shuffle.) :)

  • Dierdre

    Look forward to hearing from you Ron! Gracias!

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Hi Dierdre! I don’t think you can go wrong with starting with Pimsleur, which is a solid program to get you going. With that said, I wouldn’t buy into all the hype about Pimsleur “training your brain.” I do think that listening–and a lot of it–primes your brain for acquiring a new language. But while Pimsleur provides aural input, it doesn’t have the market cornered by any means. I haven’t seen/read/heard anything to make me think that you *have* to do Pimsleur before Babbel or anything else to reap all the benefits, so I think its really up to you, your budget, and your personal preference. Hope this helps!

  • Andrés Bekerman

    Hi Ron, doing some research I came across your post “Comprehensible Input: 10 Ways to Find It”, which I found both informative and truly inspiring, as I’m working on a paper that touches on this same subject – I’d love to have some advice from you on my work. Would it be possible to continue this thread by email, in private? Many thanks!

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Hi Andrés! Sure, happy to. Send me a message please at ron@languagesurfer.com.

  • http://borovinskih.net Alexey Borovinskih

    Hey, Ron. I’ve just discovered your site, it is awesome. Could you describe your experience of learning MSA, the way you were taught? C1 in 15 months is quite an achivement, you know.

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Hi Alexey! Thank you for the compliments.

      I went to a program where I learned MSA 6 to 7 hours a day, with one to two hours of homework, five days a week. After about two months of learning the basics and the grammar, we began focusing on skill development. Every day consisted of at least one hour of listening exercises, one hour of reading exercises, one hour of speaking, and one hour of work in a language lab (doing some kind of targeted listening exercises). The remaining time was used for additional, miscellaneous instruction.

      We had periodic tests, and if you failed two in a row, you were kicked out of the program. Out of the thirty who started in my class, only nine finished on time. It was pretty intense, and everyone was burned out.

      For the ones who made it through, the results were good. I haven’t seriously studied Arabic in almost a decade, and I was still able to speak enough to fill up time in that video above. I’m rusty, and I make plenty of mistakes, but still coherent.

      Are you studying MSA?

      • http://borovinskih.net Alexey Borovinskih

        Admirable. 7 hours a day, five days a week, for 15 months is just admirable. Without any touch of flattery, I would drop out. I envy you.

        Yes, I have been learning MSA since 2007. It was mostly self study, very unstructured. I had only 6 months of language course(in a country), 3 days a week, one hour a day, plus ever neglected homework. Everything after that was self taught. It is very difficult to back track the exposure I’ve got, but I could pretty fairly say that I have over 10 000 pages read, and over 1000 hours listened to. I’m very lazy writer and quite shy speaker. Though I’ve never taken any assessment, after 7 years of learning I am hardly better than you. C1 is the top of the mountain for most of people, I believe.

        Thank you, for sharing. It would make a great article for your blog, by the way.

  • sushil pantha

    hallo ron

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Hi Sushil! How’s it going?

  • Rachel mills


  • Rachel mills

    I would like to no spanish

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Hi! Your “About” section says you live in Miami. Lots of opportunities for practice. Have you learned any Spanish at all yet?

  • Rachel mills

    Nice about you

  • Dierdre

    Hi Ron! I did get your response and thought I had posted back but I guess not! Sorry! Think I’ll just go ahead & start Babble. Thank you for your thoughts & help!! Just trying to find the time is what is hard-ha!

  • James Hall

    Hi Ron nice blog! I’m inviting you to test drive the Semantica video course – perhaps you will want to review it! Please email me at jamesATsemantica-portuguese.com

  • Alan Choque

    Hi, I’m Alan. I could help you with your spanish… Like you need any help!. I descover your page looking for “what I need to know to pass an exam for proficiency?”. I always wanted to learn english… then… when I started to take it seriusly, started too understand even the grammar of my own language (spanish) and like it too. So I think we can help us each other. Or, if you don’t need my help, maybe you can help me, if you want. Congrats for what you have reached so far.

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Hi, Alan, it’s nice to meet you! You’re very kind, but I know I have a lot of work to do with Spanish. This year I’m concentrating on German, but I do want to come back to Spanish someday and really improve. I’d be happy to help you with your English. Your English writing is great, so it looks like you’ve built a very good foundation.

  • http://Frenchcrazy.com/ John Elkhoury

    Hey Ron, I read a few of your articles and I really am enjoying your site. If you ever want to learn French, lemme know, I have a language site as well. I may add your blog to my list of “language resources” for my readers.

    Have a nice day

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Hi John! Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the kind words. I checked out your site, and you have some great content. Definitely adding you to my blogroll. I might take you up on that offer to learn French! Nice to meet you.

  • http://chkonstantinidis.wordpress.com/ Christine Konstantinidis

    Interested in a language blog in German? Here is the link to my blog: http://chkonstantinidis.wordpress.com/ I would be glad to be in your Bloglist! Kind regards Christine

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Ganz tolles blog! Hinzugefügt. :)

      • http://chkonstantinidis.wordpress.com/ Christine Konstantinidis

        Danke, ich freue mich!

  • Ian

    Hey Ron,

    I’m actually joining the Navy in a little over a month and will be an interpreter and going to DLI. I was just wondering if we are allowed to use other learning resources like italki for conversation practice in the language? (I’ve had a little experience learning languages and was just wondering about other resources).

    Thanks in advance

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Hi Ian. Congrats on going to DLI! It’s a great place. For the most part, you’re allowed to use as many supplemental resources as you want. But let me caveat that with three thoughts:

      – You’ll get plenty of speaking practice in class. What I recommend more than anything is passive listening/watching. The sooner you get to watching authentic news/sitcoms/whatever in your new language, the better. Even kids shows in the beginning are great for this. I didn’t fully appreciate that trick until after DLI, and it was the best thing I’ve ever done for my language development.
      – Be careful with burnout. You’re in class for 35 hours a week, plus one to two hours of homework a night. Just keeping up with the class is going to be a challenge for even the best language learners. (We started with 30 in our class, and only 9 of us graduated on time.)
      – Ask your security officer about iTalki specifically. It didn’t exist when I was in school, but I could see the Navy being hesitant about that particular tool. That’s the gist of it, but if you want more details, email me at ron@languagesurfer.com.

  • Samuel Scheer

    Hi Ron, impressive Arabic you got for a new learner!! :) Also your accent in German is really outstanding for an American, as I know SO many Americans who struggle a lot with it!! My native language is German, though I’ve become fluent in English, conversational in French and Hebrew (working on getting that fluent now) and planning to pick up either Spanish or Cantonese (my gf is from HK) next! What’s your take, what should I learn?

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Hi, Samuel! Thanks for the note and the kind words. I’m so glad to hear that my German accent is okay. I’ve improved a lot since I’ve left Germany, but when I lived there I had more than my share of people not understanding meine Aussprache. :)

      Spanish or Cantonese…hmm…Spanish is a lot of fun. I’m itching to get back into it myself. The grammar is surprisingly tricky as you get more advanced, but the rhythms of the language really get into your head. So I’d recommend Spanish to anyone.

      On the other hand, you have a ready tutor with Cantonese, which is spoken by…70 million people. (Had to Google, haha.) Very exotic and might open up opportunities. Downside is that it’ll probably take longer to learn and you’ll have less media to work with, but the payoff might be worth it. You’d definitely be able to do it, though, given your background and accomplishments with languages.

      Haha, sorry, I know that’s not much help. I have a feeling, though, that you’re going to end up doing both. So I guess in the end, I’d say, learn Cantonese first, impress your gf, and use her as a resource. That’s like, hundreds of dollars in free tutoring. hahaha

  • Melissa Flaquer

    Hey! I just found this blog and I think you are awesome.

    I’m also a language enthusiast and love learning about different cultures. I was born in a hispanic country, so spanish is my native language.

    Taught myself english from 13 to 15 and took some basic Italian and Portuguese (and forgot most of it). Took some ASL for about a year but had to leave it because of health and collage reasons.

    Been thinking about German for a while and finally got myself to start last week. So if you or anyone wants to practice spanish, english or german, let me know

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Hi Melissa! Great to meet you and thank you for the note. Very impressive list of languages you’ve got!

      I’ve been concentrating on German for a while, but mainly on listening and reading comprehension. My speaking needs a little practice, so in the future when I shift focus to speaking, I’m definitely down for some conversation. If you’re on Facebook, you can check out my page at facebook.com/languagesurfer <–easy way to get in touch with me, or via ron@languagesurfer.com…Herzlichen Willkommen!

      • Melissa Flaquer

        Wow, slow down. I only started duolingo 2 days ago and looked for some children stories. I was thinking about snapchat or what’s app and sharing simple concepts in both english, german and spanish.

    • revbish

      Hi Melissa,
      I’m a native of the U.S, studied Spanish & Portuguese in college, and spent 6 months in Mexico many years ago. I’m now studying German on my own but I’d love someone to practice any of these languages with. I used to be fairly good with Spanish but have forgotten so much due to non-use, but I try to use it whenever I have the opportunity. Let me know: revbish@gmail.com

  • Terrence Valentine

    Hey Ron, I’m starting Babbel Spanish. How far will that take me? What should I do after I finish it (he says optimistically)?

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Hi, Terrence! I think Babbel is a great program. But I think it’s only a part of a good routine. You’re right to ask what to do after you finish it, but you should also be doing other stuff at the same time you’re using it.

      With a) Babbel, plus b) listening to the radio and/or watching easy TV programs daily (even if you can’t understand everything), plus c) some active listening or speaking exercises, you could probably get up to an advanced beginner/lower intermediate level in 3 to 6 months of daily work.

      That may not sound like much when you say it like that, but at that level, someone would be able to “get by.” They’d pick out the main ideas of basic texts, they’d start to become more independent with the language, and they’d they’d have real conversations with people but would still get tripped up. At that point you can definitely say you “speak Spanish” in good conscience, but just not perfectly.

      After you’re done with Babbel, the best thing to do is get more exposure to texts via listening and reading, and get speaking practice whenever possible. Build your vocab (lots of tips around the site) and maybe try Duolingo as an intermediate user, which would help you review a lot of the stuff you learned with Babbel.

      Good luck! Let me know about your progress!

  • Alana Perry

    Hi Ron! I’m a university student from the U.S. currently working in Spain for a video conferencing service called Languing. It can be used to practice whichever language(s) you’re learning with native speakers. We’d love it if you’d give it a look, and maybe a review? http://www.languing.com
    Thanks, and I’m glad I found your site!

  • Clara Gonzalez

    Hi Ron, I am Clara Gonzalez and I am the UX Researcher of Radio Ambulante, an award winner Spanish language podcast telling uniquely Latin American stories.

    Since launching in 2012, our audience has grown to over a million listens per year, and our content have been featured in The New York Times Magazine and the California Sunday Magazine, and we have co-produced stories with podcasts like This American Life or Radiolab.

    60% of our listeners are based in the US, and at least half of them are Spanish language learners.

    We know that this is only a growing niche audience that’s the reason why we have created additional material such as transcripts and subtitled audio-slides with each of our episodes.

    We would love for you to look at our podcast and add it to your list if you consider.
    Let me know if you have any doubts or need further information.
    Thank you,
    Clara Gonzalez