Project Polyglot Parry VI: Swedish Duolingo Accomplished! @duolingo #duolingo


I’m a real language-lover. Therefore, I’ve always wanted to be fluent in several languages. Unfortunately, aged thirty and after many, many false starts, I’m still only fluent in English! But hitting thirty made me determined that I will achieve my life goals — including fluency in several languages.

To keep my language learning on track, I’ve been doing regular updates. Read all my Project Polyglot Parry posts here.

I’m very proud to say that I completed the English>Swedish tree in Duolingo on 29/10/16! 😀 They even gave me this handsome (virtual) trophy!


My next goal is to complete the Duolingo English for Spanish speakers course. At my current rate of two-three sessions a day, I reckon I can finish the new tree by the end of March. And after that, I want to get to the maximum level possible on Duolingo in Spanish and Swedish: level 25 (that’ll take a while, though).

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry




As you can see in my posts (for example: 1, 2, 3, 4), I have mixed success in achieving my goals. Pretty much like everyone else. And over the course of 2016, I came to two insights. Two things that I have actually always known but which I have come to appreciate with a greater clarity and keenness.

  1. You have to START AT THE END. Determine what your ultimate goal really is, and then work backwards from it to work out what steps will get you there.
  2. You have to MAKE YOUR GOAL “SMART”. This means goals which are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

So don’t just say, “I wanna get into shape and be fit”. Rather, figure out exactly what “into shape and fit” means. Be specific and measureable, e.g., run X miles in Y time, get down to a BMI of 22. The goal has to be attainable: so running 100 metres in 10 seconds or less might not happen. It has to be relevant to what you want generally. And it has to be time-bound: so work out how long those goals realistically will take, and work to that timeline, with various short, middle, and long-term deadlines.

Here’s a great bit of an article from Tim Ferriss and Benny Lewis about using SMART Goals to learn a foreign language. Enjoy!

© 2016-2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

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12 Rules for Learning Foreign Languages in Record Time — The Only Post You’ll Ever Need

#9 – Create SMART goals.

Another failing of most learning approaches is a poorly defined end-goal.

We tend to have New Year’s Resolutions along the lines of “Learn Spanish,” but how do you know when you’ve succeeded? If this is your goal, how can you know when you’ve reached it?

Vague end goals like this are endless pits (e.g. “I’m not ready yet, because I haven’t learned the entire language”).

S.M.A.R.T. goals on the other hand are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

To start developing your SMART goal in a language, I highly recommend you become somewhat familiar with the European Common Framework that defines language levels. This framework provides you with a way of setting specific language goals and measuring your own progress.

In brief, A means beginner, B means intermediate, and C means advanced, and each level is broken up into lower (1) and upper (2) categories. So an upper beginner speaker is A2, and a lower advanced speaker is C1. As well as being Specific, these levels are absolutely Measurable because officially recognized institutions can test you on them and provide diplomas (no course enrollment necessary) in German, French, Spanish, Irish, and each other official European language. While the same scale is not used, you can also get tested in a similar way in Chinese and Japanese.

So what do you aim for? And what do words like “fluency” and “mastery” mean on a practical level?

I’ve talked to many people to try to pinpoint the never-agreed-upon understanding of “fluency,” and I’ve found that it tends to average out around the B2 level (upper intermediate). This effectively means that you have “social equivalency” with your native language, which means that you can live in your target language in social situations in much the same way that you would in your native language, such as casual chats with friends in a bar, asking what people did over the weekend, sharing your aspirations and relating to people.

Since we are being specific, it’s also important to point out that this does not require that you can work professionally in a language (in my case, as an engineer or public speaker, for instance). That would be mastery level (generally C2).

Though I’ve reached the C2 stage myself in French, Spanish and am close to it in other languages, realistically I only really need to be socially equivalent in a language I want to communicate in. I don’t need to work in other languages. It’s essential that you keep your priorities clear to avoid frustration. Most of the time, just target B2.

To make your specific goal Attainable, you can break it down further. For example, I’ve found that the fluency (B2) level can be achieved in a matter of months, as long as you are focused on the spoken aspect.

In phonetic languages (like most European ones), you can actually learn to read along with speaking, so you get this effectively for free. But realistically, we tend to write emails and text messages—not essays—on a day-to-day basis (unless you are a writer by trade, and you may not have those goals with your L2). Focusing on speaking and listening (and maybe reading) makes fluency in a few months much more realistic.

Finally, to make your project Time-bound, I highly recommend a short end-point of a few months.

Keeping it a year or more away is far too distant, and your plans may as well be unbound at that point. Three months has worked great for me, but 6 weeks or 4 months could be your ideal point. Pick a definite point in the not too distant future (summer vacation, your birthday, when a family member will visit), aim to reach your target by this time, and work your ass off to make it happen.

To help you be smarter with your goals, make sure to track your progress and use an app like Lift to track completing daily essential tasks.

You can join the Lift plan for language learning that I wrote for their users here.


Next Step in Blogging? #newyearsresolution @resolutions #SMART


Me: I’ve got a blog
Other Person: Ooh! What do you blog about?
Me: Err, y’know, I’unno: stuff I’m interested in. Language, politics, atheism and religion, healthy living, films, err, sport…
Other Person: Err, okay?
Other Person’s eyes glaze over and they look bored and disappointed

I’ve had the above exchange loads of times.* Apparently blogs need one overriding, dominant theme. Yet I’ve always thought of this blog as being like a (admittedly crappy) newspaper or magazine: of course plenty of different topics will be dealt with.

But apparently I’ve misunderstood how blogs are supposed to work. Therefore, I’m guessing this blog needs to focus on one topic. It can bring other random stuff in it, but it’s got to be 90% one thing. After all, my YouTube channel — which I kind of view this blog as the written version thereof — is probably 75% atheism/religion, 25% everything else, and my subscriber base bears that out.

The problem: I’m interested in too many things. I don’t want to limit this blog’s content!

So maybe I need to keep this blog as my kind of “core” or “hub” blog, but spin off various other blogs which solely focus on my topics of choice.

But this approach has a problem, too.

I simply do not have enough time to post, say, four blog entries a week, one for each of my prospective blogs (e.g. the Health and Lifestyle Blog, the Religion & Philosophy blog, the Languages Blog, the Film Review Blog). I’m barely finding time to do one blog entry a week. But that’s the sad and frustrating thing:

I have so much waffle to say and not enough time to say it. Gah!

So one of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2017 has to be to massively increase my time spent blogging. It would help if I could get some residual income from my articles! That would give justification (to my wife!) for me to devote such extravagant amounts of time to the endeavour.

Let’s see if I can crack on with this in the new year.

*I was going to say “cottrels of times”, but apparently “cottrels” is a dialectal word that nobody’s ever heard of. Who woulda thought that an insular and undiscovered dialects existed in West London, eh!

© 2016-2017 Bryan A. J. Parry


SMART GOALS: New Year’s Resolutions 2017 part 1 #newyearsresolution @resolutions #SMART



I have a bunch of stuff I want to do in life. I believe in “To Do” lists as a way of getting things done. I note my daily errands as “A”, “B”, and “C” — in order of declining importance. But what about goals that last more than a day? Like most people, I make New Year’s Resolutions. And like most people, I declare these goals in front of people in the hope that social pressure and the fear of looking a fool will drive me on. Sometimes I even write them down and stick ’em on the fridge. Yet like most people, I find my enthusiasm and direction peters out as the year gradually grinds to a halt, ready to start again with the next set of New Year’s Resolutions.


The main issue is that, like most people, my goals tend to be general, not SMART. An example:

In 2017 I will learn Spanish well enough to speak with people.

A noble goal. But very vague. Firstly, I don’t define my success very well. After all, “speak with people” is vague, and can cover anything from basic beginner level A1 up to advanced C2, and anything in between. Indeed, I find that body language, gurning, and smiling tend to do a lot of work when trying to talk to people who speak a different language.

Not only is success therefore hard to gauge, and therefore by definition hard to achieve and feel like you have achieved it — so you never get the satisfaction you are looking for. Worse luck: if you have no clearly defined end goal, you have no clearly defined path of getting there — wherever “there” is. After all, say you are taking a road trip to St. Ives. But you don’t look at a map, or SatNav, or ask anyone, or anything, and you just get into your car and hope the wind will somehow take you there. Guess what? You ain’t getting to St. Ives in time. It’s so obvious, yet often overlooked: (DISCLAIMER: SNIDEY POLITICAL ASIDE COMING) just look at those politicians who took us into Iraq(!) So you need to define your END GOAL, and then WORK BACKWARDS to figure out the steps needed to get you there.


SMART stands for:


So we could break down my earlier vague goal into a SMART one like this:

  • I want to achieve the C1 (“Advanced”/university entry level) level of Spanish (=SPECIFIC) and get the DELE qualification to prove it (=MEASURABLE);
  • the study guides recommend around 200-300 hours to go up a level, and I am currently B1;
  • therefore, I need around 500 hours to get to C1; this is around 16 months if I do one hour a day, around 11-12 months if I do 1.5 hours a day;
  • I can realistically only fit 1.5 hours a day into my schedule (=REALISTIC/RELEVANT);
  • so I’ll give myself 12 months to do it (=TIME-BOUND);
  • and this is ATTAINABLE if I have a fully rounded program of study covering all bases, including reading, writing, speaking, listening, grammar, vocabulary, real world use of the language, and use of various media including books, TV, radio, and music. ((I’ll save you the specifics on this point!!))

Therefore, you can see that I have done my homework, as it were, and know exactly what will get me where and how long it’ll take. I will even break this goal down into step one: move from level B1 to B2, and step two: move from B2 to C1. I’ll give myself six months for each. So I therefore have a mid-to-long-term goal (12 months: get to C1 in Spanish and do a DELE qualification) and two mid-term goals (move up one level, then move up another level). I can, do, and have given myself short term goals, too, such as X number of words a day and Y each month.


In my next post, I will share some of my main goals for 2017. I’ll make a SMART plan for them. You can use the further examples in my plan to help you get a grip of SMART planning. And you can also see how I get on!

© 2016-2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Self-Motivation #selfmotivation #newyearsresolution @resolutions #SMART


Here’s the private note I wrote myself in January 2016 to keep focused. Spelling and formatting as in the actual note. Never looked at it till now, so kinda defeats the purpose. Anyway, in red ink (‘cos red = emergency and thus unforgettable, so went my thinking) it reads:

If I want to achieve my creative and linguistic goals, I need to dedicate SUFFICIENT time EVERY DAY.

But …..

…… I don’t have the time. Therefore, I need to think how to filter this time throughout the day, e.g., vocab. cards on the train.

So ….. Come up with a daily plan that gives me …..

* 2-3.5 hrs of screenwriting/novels/etc (=BIG creative works) per day

* Vocab cards + listening/speaking of 30′ + Memrise

= 1 hr / day per language

–> Swedish, Spanish, and….. Other langs = only Memrise. But langs I am serious about, do above.

* Blogging = 1 hour

* 21CLF — sth, even a subsection 30′ per day

Think about how to thoroly embed my serious langs into my life in order to speed up my learning

Can’t say I disagree with my own conclusions. But I’ve been very inconsistent.

  1. “Big” creative works, e.g., screenplays and novels. FAIL! Well… definitely haven’t done any work at all on these for several months, and very little in any case in 2016.
  2. Language stuff. SUCCESS! I have been doing, more-or-less fairly consistently, flashcards, reading, speaking, listening, and so on, in both Spanish and Swedish. At least half an hour each language a day; very often, an hour or so.
  3. Blogging. More-or-less SUCCESS! I haven’t been doing an hour every day, but I work on my blog (behind the scenes) almost every single day, and throughout the week, I easily tot up an average of one hour a day.
  4. “21CLF” is one book I am writing. FAIL! I have actually done a lot on this during 2016. However, it has been in fits and starts. Mainly, other stuff periodically take precedence and this book gets sidelined. But I was right: I’ve gotta at least look at this project on a daily basis or it’ll never come off.
  5. Thinking how to embed my languages in my life. MIXED! I’ve done this somewhat, but not extensively. But then I didn’t set myself a SMART goal. That is, no specific, measureable, broken-down targets; therefore, how can I judge my success?


I need to start setting myself SMART Goals for 2017. That is, goals which has are distinct and definite parts so I can measure my success, and a predetermined timeline to do them by. All of my above goals, despite specified time to be spent, are still a tad vague.

Also, speaking for myself, I find I work very well when I have a series of deadlines stacked up and am forced into planning more. Hence why I tend to do well on courses and in work-based assignments. Hmm, maybe there’s a lesson there for 2017…

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

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5 Year Plan: Update #newyearsresolution @resolutions


I decided in 2013 to set a five year plan for myself during this cross-roads period of my life (ages 28-33). Well, 2016 is the forelast year, so I thought I would look over my goals to see what I have achieved and where I haven’t quite lived up to my own hopes. Click on the picture above for an enlarged version. With one year to go, there’s everything to play for.

Sometimes goals change. That’s good and fine. But we can’t lie to ourselves and say that our failed goals were things that were no longer relevant.

I’ll talk about both personal and professional goals (often, they are mixed: learning Spanish, for example, involves both), what went right or wrong, and how should I take things forward now. Who knows, maybe you’ll get something out of this exercise in self-analysis, too. (key stuff I’ve highlighted with red text colour).

1. Have achieved C1 level (lower advanced) of Spanish and be going for the C1 DELE certificate.


I started out as A2~B1, and four years later I am… B1. Albeit, more solidly. Was my initial goal realistic? Yes, it was. Around three hours a day, every day, for around six months would have got me to C1. Around an hour a day would have got me there by around two years ago. So why have I failed?

Partly, I have been inconsistent. There are been large chunks of the last four years where I haven’t studied Spanish at all. Likewise, I have reassessed my goals. My thinking has shifted to this: when me and my wife finally decide to go and live in Spain (she is Spanish), if indeed we ever do, then and only then will I dedicate myself to hardcore studying.

2. To have achieved the levels and qualifications in Swedish B2 and Ancient Greek A-Level


I wanted to also get to B2 or above in Swedish, with the qualification to prove it. And have carried on with my ancient Greek and have an A-level in it to my name. Both have fallen by the wayside. Mainly because they aren’t essential to my life, they have been squeezed out. But I still desperately want these things and plod away, sporadically, at trying to achieve these goals. Yet: if I cannot commit 100%, that includes regularly, to these goals, perhaps I should ditch them totally, no matter how much I want them…

3. Have finished a few particular screenwriting projects I had in mind and have sent scripts off to companies.


The worst of all my goals. I am exactly where I was four years ago. Although I am at least regularly blogging, so I’m getting some writing practice. However, I set up this blog mainly so I could warm up each day before getting on with the “real” writing: my books and screenplays. The blog was meant to be the starter before the main course!

My failure to move forward on the writing front is gutting. I had a plan, though: write this one particular short book, then rework one particular screenplay, then turn back to this other specific book, and then get back to this other screenplay. So two specific books and two specific screenplays. Not unrealistic at all given that none of these projects would have been from scratch. All I have done is a bit of work on book one, and virtually nothing on any of the other projects.

The main reason for the failure isn’t that I lack the desire. And it isn’t that this goal is not very important to me. Rather, the goal requires serious dedication day-in, day-out over a period of months and months. Yet real life keeps getting in the way.

4. Have a car


I originally thought that I would learn to drive in the second half of 2015 and have a car by 2015. I actually started learning to drive this year, 2016, and am about to do my theory test. So, I missed my deadline, but I am in the process of doing it now. Delayed almost success? Let’s call this a one-quarter success; when I pass my tests and get a full licence, that’ll be half success; and the car ownership part would be the full deal.

5. Get married


Some success at last! Despite various hardships that we were subjected to, happening at the worst time, we managed to put on the wedding of our dreams in 2013. And still married after three years. Wahey! We simply said, “We do not care what the world throws at us! We’re doing this and that’s that, no matter what sacrifices need to be made!

See here and here for some wedding vids!

6. Save up and buy a house


Me and my wife cracked it and bought the house last year. It’s going well. We saved, saved, saved, and then, guess what? We saved a bit more. We rented cheap, shared flats. We didn’t spend as much on takeaways and Gucci Hyratchis

7. Finish writing a particular book


This is a case where I completely underestimated the enormity of the project. So I switched to another more manageable book project to work on first. But sadly, I have not quite sorted that one either. Mainly, I have had to keep sidelining the project due to other more pressing day-to-day priorities.

8. Do an MA in English Linguistics at UCL: 2014-2016


This one was always dependent solely on finding the right time to finance this. I started the MA a few months ago. It’s going very well. But there is still a long road ahead. Will I succeed to the level I want? Only time will tell. I’ll chalk this up as a half-success right now. I’m due to finish in 2018.

9. Build a career in politics


I wanted to build a career in politics. Not because I like that seedy world, but because I have strong beliefs and think that getting elected is the best way to get my views implemented. I ran for local council and, whilst I didn’t get elected, I did quite well. The plan was to then have a tilt at the General Election in 2015 and all other upcoming elections. Sadly, I was simply not able to sacrifice enough time to make this happen and decided to knock it on the head for the meantime. I mean, 40 hours unpaid a week was already too much!

10. Freelance more


I still do freelance language lessons and editing and proofreading. However, the percentage of my income coming from this has more-or-less stayed the same. I was hoping to significantly increase my earning power. However, I’m not too disappointed about this as I had intentionally, deliberately prioritised other aspects of my work and life. This goal is important to me, however, so I need to formulate a new long-term strategy.

11. There were various other goals I have had which didn’t feature on the above list…

11a. Become a member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders and improve my standing within it and the profession.


This goal is on-going as I haven’t yet reached the top of my potential. However, I did indeed join the SfEP and keep working away.

11b. Join on a full honeymoon to Thailand

Fail/Change of Goal

We went on a mini-honeymoon which I have termed a “snackimoon”. It was brilliant. But we still had designs on Thailand. However, over the last three years, whilst we both still want to go to Thailand, it’s not actually that important to us anymore. At least, not compared to what it was.

11c. Get into and stay in shape


I got into shape for my wedding and stayed in shape for a while afterwards. But bad habits reasserted themselves. Maybe I need to renew my vows every twelve to eighteen months!


13 key life goals. A five year period. Four years down, one to go. My current score? 3.75/13. That can definitely be improved upon.

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry


Project Polyglot Parry V: September 2016 Update @irishpolyglot #newyearsresolution @resolutions @duolingo #duoling


I’m learning two main languages, Spanish and Swedish. I’ve been using Duolingo to learn them of late (in fact, I’m more-or-less relying on Duolingo at the moment, which isn’t good; you should use more than one resource to give you good variation). I’ve been doing around 30 minutes a day for each language, which is the bare minimum you should do.

If you know how Duolingo works, I’ve just managed to fully regild my completed Spanish tree. Which is great news. Next steps:

  1. Keep the tree gold.
  2. Work on and complete the “reverse tree”; that is, the English for Spanish speakers course (which is a learnsome challenge). Then keep that gold.
  3. Start the online virtual Spanish classroom from the Cervantes Institute, probably at B1 level.
  4. Go and sit a B1 level DELE.

This will make me firmly intermediate in level. I should have started step 3 by Summer 2017, and maybe completed step 4 by the following summer. When Finish step 4, I’ll work out the best way to keep that level and build on it. The ultimate goal is to be C2, of course.

I was stuck on Swedish for a long time. I kept mucking up infinitives and this sapped my energy. But I’ve been powering on lately. Moving onto new topics has got me pretty excited. In particular, I have loved getting to grips with the kommer att future form and the håller på present continuous. There’s a lesson for you: don’t get bogged down on troublesome topics, as it will kill it for you. Just keep moving.

I hope to have finished the tree by 30th November. So my middle-term plan is thus:

  1. Finish and keep the Swedish for English speakers tree golden.
  2. There is no English for Swedish speakers course, so I need to start a distance / online / self-learning course at B1 level (I am, more-or-less A2 right now).

2016 actually marks ten years of learning Swedish(!) I’m pretty sure I should be fluent right now. Cambridge recommends 1000-1200 hours to be fluent (C2); so, studying an hour a day, I should have been at C2 level by 2010. But more on that next time!

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry


The Greatest Frustration Duolingo Can Give… @duolingo #duolingo

… is when you get a sentence wrong because you idiotically made a mistake on the ENGLISH!! 😀


© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry


New Year’s Resolutions 2016: Half Year Update


Six months of 2016 have gone. So it is time to review my goals for 2016. How much have I achieved? How much am I likely to achieve? Where am I going right? Where am I going awry? And where did I have my goals and priorities messed up? NOTE: This post is probably more for me than you guys!


  1. Do something, at least half an hour, from each [CATEGORY] on this list, every day. MORE-OR-LESS
  2. [LANG] 30′ minimum every day each for Swedish and Spanish using Memrise and Duolingo. MORE-OR-LESS
  3. [LANG] Work towards B1 level in Spanish and aim to sign up for a course in the last quarter of 2016. MORE-OR-LESS
  4. [LANG] Do an A2 Swedex. MORE-OR-LESS
  5. [LANG] Complete Duff’s The Elements of New Testament Greek, and then Taylor GCSE 1, again. One chapter a fortnight. Upon completion, look into doing GCSEs in Ancient Greek again. NOT HAPPENING: other things are taking priority (see below).
  6. [ART] Continue updating The Doggerelizer weekly, Wrixlings monthly, start updating YouTube twice monthly. BLOGS YES, Y/T NOT HAPPENING
  7. [ART] Do one cartoon per six weeks; begin to upload them and/or other artwork online. NOT HAPPENING
  8. [ART] Get the first draft of Part II of a book I’m writing, code name 21CLF, finished in a “polished draft”. MORE-OR-LESS: I have switched to a new even shorter rewrite which I will release first, hopefully very soon, with the full Part II released by year’s end.
  9. [ART] Get the first draft of Part III of “21CLF” finished. NOT HAPPENING
  10. [ART] Get one feature length script up to 2nd/3rd draft stage. NOT HAPPENING: currently focusing on getting the even shorter rewrite and Part II of “21CLF” out; will refocus on screenplays when this happens.
  11. [ART] Send off the pilot of one of my sitcom series ideas to a producer. NOT HAPPENING: see point 10.
  12. [ART] Over the course of a year, do an average of one 30′ sitcom script per six weeks — total redrafts of scripts are counted towards this goal. NOT HAPPENING: see point 10.
  13. [LIFE] My weight has ballooned again: cut myself down to a healthy BMI & weight (around 13st; a pound loss a week for 52 weeks) and stay there through healthy changes of diet and exercise regime, specifically, a minimum of three days going to the gym, daily use of the work gym for 30′ intense sessions, and less snacks. NOT HAPPENING: see point 10.
  14. [LIFE] Pass my driving theory test and begin lessons. MORE-OR-LESS: I have been reading DVLA materials and studying for the theory.
  15. [LIFE] Get out and stay out of my overdraft. ACHIEVING.
  16. [WORK] Sit and pass the International Phonetics Association exam. NOT HAPPENING: They only run it twice a year, and then they often cancel. Last year there was no exam, for example. Therefore, I joined the International Phonetics Association and have applied for an MA (see point 17 below).
  17. [WORK] Research and apply to do an MA/MPhil in an area of Linguistics. MORE-OR-LESS: I have applied; I need to see if I have been accepted. And if I am, I need to actually do it!
  18. [WORK] Begin a DELTA to improve my ESOL career. NOT HAPPENING: I have indeed looked into this. However, I have put it on the backburner in order to focus on an MA which, at this present moment, seems more immediately fruitful.
  19. [WORK] Do the first two editing courses, set up as an official business, network and set up online media relating to the business. ACHIEVING: on course 1, hopefully successfully, with course 2 to come soon.
  20. [WORK] Get a better paid job. NOT HAPPENING: I am in the process of bettering myself and improving prospects through training.
  21. [GEN] Go to Thailand with the Missus. [during Thai dry season] NOT HAPPENING: seems unlikely, to be honest.
  22. [GEN] Finish reading the Koran. NOT HAPPENING.

All in all, things aren’t going 100% perfectly, but they are hardly off the rails as they arguably were this time last year. I’ll try to update again at the three-quarters mark.

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry


The Greatest Pleasure Duolingo Can Give… @duolingo #duolingo

…is when you finish one lesson but it refreshes more than one!



© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry