Ben Curtis is an Englishman who's lived in Madrid for over ten years now. He and his wife, Marina, have a website Notes from Spain: http://www.notesfromspain.com/, which I began to follow very soon after starting up my blog.
I find this website a jewel when it comes to provide English input for any Spanish-speaking learner of English. Why? Well, when one learns a second language in their own country, it's very likely that the topics one tends to talk about are topics related to their own culture and country, rather than talking about what British people like doing in their free time or how good American people may be at this or that, just to illustrate my point.
It is so very true that learning a language not only implies learning the linguistic system but we also need to learn about its culture. Language and culture simply go hand-in-hand. English textbooks, which are written and published worldwide, tend to focus on British or American life as these two countries are usually the destination for learners of English.
However, many people in Spain also learn English because it's very useful - it's a lingua franca - and enables them to understand people round the world, do business round the world, surf the Internet, or have a better chance to find a job. Many times Spanish native learners of English find themselves in need of vocabulary to talk about their every day world here in Spain. Many times in my classes I have found myself "racking my brains" so as to provide them with the most accurate linguistic input to talk about topics related to our Spanish culture. That's why I think websites like Notes from Spain can be very practical because they are actually related to our culture, to our lifestyle. Ben and Marina talk about life in Spain, and most often in Madrid where they live, but they also have guests posting their travel journals as well.
Well, when I read on the website about Ben's coming new audiobook, I got in contact with him as I was really interested in having more information about it. Soon he got back to me and offered the priviledge of listening to his audiobook before it was published and see what I thought of it.
This is the pre-launch post he published where you can actually listen to him telling you about it: http://www.notesfromspain.com/2009/05/18/big-day-big-risk/ but I suggest you visit Notes from Spain because you will get more posts related to this important event in his life. In his audiobook you will be able to listen to some other major turning points in his life.
I have now listened to Madrid Confessions and I have truly enjoyed it, a smile drawn in my face now and then when picturing on my mind what he was talking about. It felt as if I was actually sharing a coffee with him and he was telling me all about it. Me as his sole listener of "Ben and the appalling event of Madrid bombings", "Ben and his first Spanish stag night and capea", "Ben at the doc". I actually didn't get to listen to the audiobook all through in one go, but preferred to scatter his narration along a few days, again as if we met now and were having a coffee together.
His voice is clear and friendly, and it is quite easy to follow him even if your level of English is not very high. Actually the fact that he's talking about Spain and our Spanish lifestyle makes it easier for you to follow even if you don't understand every single word. I like his introduction of Spanish phrases or idioms, and by doing this, he also makes a point, i.e. sometimes a translation doesn't get the full meaning of it.
Being a Spaniard myself, I can't help not agreeing entirely with some bits he narrates about Spanish life. I will not tell you about them; this you will have to find out by yourself and see what you think of it. I guess my disagreeing may have a source of unwillingness to admit that his view of Spanish life as an ex-pat should make him unbiased. Still, I feel I have some points to discuss with him about it. On the other hand, by arguing slightly with him on my head as I listen to his narration, I catch myself reflecting on what it means being a Spaniard and what our lifestyle is like.
Finally, I think it's very courageous of him to "expose" himself to us in such open terms. Even if one may like to have their own share of protagonism, it's never easy to assess how much of themselves one wants the others to know. Being out in the open can be very risky, but I still think it is worth the trying and I thank Ben for letting us share these Madrid Confessions.
So, if you're interested in being one of the first ones to listen to him, just click on this link: http://www.notesfromspain.com/shop/madrid-confessions.html