A sheer pleasure to have YOU as a reader of my blog. At present my main teaching area is English so you will find that most of my posts are in English -my second language of communication. I promise to publish posts related to Spanish eventually; in the meantime, those of you interested in Spanish will find some interesting links regarding my native language. Truly hope you will visit my blog now and then; will try not to disappoint you!


Mi foto
GÄVLE, Sweden
I am an English/Spanish language trainer who thinks communication is a key issue in human interaction. Good sensible communication is needed whatever the language. On the personal side I strive for happiness by keeping love, respect and honesty as main ingredients. Last but not least, my smile is my trademark :O)

20 de diciembre de 2010


Yesterday, at an Irish-Dutch-Spanish Christmas party, I got to talk to one of the guests who's married to an Irishwoman. On my telling him that I was both an English and a Spanish teacher, he immediately brought up the subject on these recurrent errors native-English speakers tend to make when speaking Spanish -even if they're fluent in our language.

We started to think of a few and he wondered why these mistakes kept cropping up in his wife's fluent Spanish no matter how many times they'd been corrected. In language teaching we usually call them fossilized errors.

One of these is the use of the verbs ACORDARSE y RECORDAR. It's very common to hear a non-native Spanish speaker say no me recuerdo instead of no me acuerdo, and we just can't understand why.

ACORDARSE means ¨remember something which we may forget or have forgotten¨, so I should say:

No me acuerdo. I don´t remember.
Acuérdate de llamarlo. Remember to call him.
(Notice the use of to+infinitive when we refer to something that needs to be done).
Siempre me acordaré de ti. ¨I will always remember you.¨

Acordarse is a pronominal verb, i.e. we need to use the pronouns ¨me, te, se, nos, os¨ when using it.

RECORDAR means ¨recall¨ with the idea of bringing back to your mind something that happened in the past:

Recuerdo cuando fuimos a visitarlo. I remember visiting him.
(Notice the use of -ing after remember when we refer to something that has already happened).
Siempre lo recordaré. I will always remember/recall it.
It can also mean ¨remind¨:

Recuérdame que le llame mañana. Remind me to call him tomorrow.
Me recuerda a mi padre. He reminds me of my father.

ACORDAR this verb isn´t pronominal and it means ¨to agree¨:

Acordamos vernos a las 4 en punto. We agreed to meet at 4 o'clock sharp.

16 de diciembre de 2010


As you probably know by now, both Twitter and Facebook have become two worldwide communication entities with their own idyosincracies, which is not my intention to discuss in this post.

My aim is to feature Matthew Bennett and the good work he is carrying out with such generosity on his website/blog. I got to *know Matthew on the ciberspace thanks to Twitter from my first days when I started tweetting.

For this reason I am writing this post and I truly hope I can contribute to extending his readers with these lines. I have also got him his ¨own place¨ as Matthew Bennett's Website on my blog.

If you are interested in improving your Spanish or English language skills, you can join his Learn Spanish Newsletter or his Boletín para aprender inglés , repectively, for free and start practising straightaway. I am sure he will not disappoint you. I have read his page About me: a quick version and, believe me, it sounds ever so interesting.

*this morning I heard on the radio that we can say ¨talk digitally¨ according to one of our academics, so I guess I should say ¨know digitally¨ ;O)

13 de diciembre de 2010


Hi, everyone!

Last Sunday I got back from Sweden, where I spent a full week in Valbo, a locality now part of Gävle. I had been in Stockholm the year before but this was my first time outside the capital and in snowy Sweden. I'd never seen so much snow in my life before and I felt like somebody who's taken to see the sea for the first time.

Before travelling I thought it would be tough to deal with the cold and so much snow; me, who's never been interested in skiing or winter sports. Cold and winter were defined to me by temperatures above 0 degrees, and mostly 5 degrees would mean ¨freezing cold¨. Now I must certainly redefine myself when it comes to temperatures. What's more, I must say I was happily wrong! I just loved walking in the glittering white snow when the sun was out. I felt so calm, so in awe, and kept trying to breathe in the serenity and silence that the landscape was laying before me.

On Saturday I took the train down to Stockholm to see the Terracotta Warriors exhibition, which is being displayed in the city till January, and to do some city exploring on my own. Stockholm is a beautiful city and the harsh winter does not mar its beauty even if one needs to be more cautious when strolling the snowy pavement. Of course, the snow in the city is a different ¨thing¨ since streets and roads get so dirty by the traffic, but when one is well wrapped-up in warm clothes and so absorbed in contemplating the lovely architecture along the water shores, nothing can take away the relish of exploring this city, whatever the weather conditions!

So there I was...map in hand; frequently turning it round while I looked up from it at the buildings that surrounded me in order to spot the right landmark that would give me a clue of where I was in the printed paper; the same way one sees this virtual drawing pin when using Google Maps app on iphone!

When I came out of Central Station, I used the City Hall as a ¨guiding star¨ and made a deal with myself in my mind that I would come back to it later on in the day. My first target was the Terracotta Warriors as mentioned before. Unfortunately, this thought wasn't fulfilled this time but I know I will be back there anyway. The City Hall (Stadshuset) is my favourite building in Stockholm and has become part of my personal list of awesome buildings!

Unknowingly, I took the longer route to Östasiatiscka Museet (the East Asian Museum where the exhibition was being held), which is on Skelppsholmen island just opposite the Royal Palace. Nor did it matter to me, as exploring means actually that, discovering the route which will take you to where you are heading but can also unveil what you may not have expected to see. How unaware was I of whom I was about to run into by having taken the longer route!!!

I went past the Grand Hotel, where all the Nobel Laureates are accommodated during their stay, and kept on my way to the museum, stopping now and then to take pics with my iphone and delighting myself with the views. And JUST THEN, as I had walked over the bridge that brings you onto Skelppsholmen and could already see the Terracotta Warriors displayed on a publicity board, I see a slender tall figure, slightly hunched to shield himself from the cold morning, and walking towards me.....well, not exactly towards me but on the same way as me in opposite direction.

I just halted and made him come to a halt, and said: ¨I can't believe my eyes! No me lo puedo creer! Are you the person I think you are? ¿Es usted la persona que creo que es? Are you Vargas Llosa? ¿Es usted Vargas Llosa?!¨ He simply smiled at me with this lovely warm smile and said.....Sí, sí lo soy!!! I was so taken aback by this sudden encounter that I could hardly articulate myself. There I was, being greeted so warmly by the Literature Nobel Prize, Mario Vargas Llosa! We talked for a couple of minutes, he asked me where I was from and what I was doing in Sweden, I asked him bashfully if I could take a picture of him, and he suggested we should find somebody to take a picture of both of us together. Then, I just saw him off walking back to the hotel while I was left there floating in airy Stockholm, disregarding what was going on around me. I spent the whole day recalling that brief moment spent with this year's Literature Nobel Prize and I felt so happy!

I had listened to, and later on read, his moving discourse before the members of the Swedish Academy the previous days, and I'd seen him so ceremoniously be given the well-deserved Nobel Prize by King Carl Gustav XVI during the ceremony which I watched on the Swedish television the night before. Never in my life had I dreamed that I would run into him in a Stockholm street when he was walking on his own. Nor would I have expected to be the receiver of such a warm greeting, which simply confirms what a lovely person he has already shown he is.

On my way back home, sitting on the train to Gävle, I read his Banquet Speech and tears welled up in my eyes. Somehow, I felt I had glimpsed some traces of the bewilderment his main character was experiencing. I, myself, was still in awe by having been honoured with such an encounter.


On Sunday I took the plane back to Madrid. At Arlanda airport I met Juan Cruz, the journalist who was covering the Nobel Prize week for El País and who I had met on the flight to Stockholm the previous Sunday. He remembered me :O) He was flying back to Madrid as well, and so were Vargas Llosa and his wife. I told him about my ¨Nobel anecdote¨ and showed him the pics. Then, while waiting at the departure lounge as flight was delayed, he introduced me to his wife, Pilar, and also to Vargas Llosa's wife. We got to talk some more during the flight. Finally, when off the plane and waiting for luggage, I was once more ¨taken¨ to Vargas Llosa by Juan Cruz and he reminded him that I was the person he had met in Stockholm the day before. Thanks a lot, Juan, it's been so nice to have met you and thanks for being so friendly and warm with me!

Last but not least, I recommend that you read Juan Cruz's blog and his articles in ¨El País¨ whenever you have a chance. He is also a writer and I like to listen to his beautiful Canarian accent -and to what he says, of course!- on the radio or the television.

7 de noviembre de 2010


Today's newspaper, El País, featured an article Aprenda inglés con Brad Pitt y Angelina Jolie that I am sure has arisen many readers' remarks and opinions. This same topic crops up in my classes now and then when discussing Spanish learners' doubtful success in speaking English fluently. There seem to be many arguments to back up the poor fluency of most of my countryfolk when facing a situation in which they need to communicate in English; and among them one that is much agreed on is the fact that we watch TV and films in our mother tongue, i.e. they are dubbed, and consequently, this seems to prevent us from developing better listening and speaking skills.

Even our Minister of Education, Ángel Gabilondo, has remarked that dubbing films affects negatively in our mastering of languages. To complement the information gathered by Francesco Manetto -the author of the article-, there are two other interesting articles. One in favour of not dubbing by Fernando Galván, who writes Oído menos acostumbrado , and another one in favour of letting the viewer choose by Luis Moser-Rothschild, who writes La realidad y la libertad del espectador .

And what's my view in all this?

Well, I am more in favour of letting the viewer choose, although I do realise that being exposed to the language, English in this case, will always benefit the learning process. But, let's be realistic in all this, watching all the films and TV series in English will not guarantee that we will speak English fluently and more easily. In essence, the teaching-learning process needs to be approached in a communicative way so that the learner becomes the centre of the learning process and the teacher becomes an interlocutor, a guide, a facilator, an instructor, a trainer. Fortunately, this is happening more and more in our schools nowadays, and the aid of native-speaker assisstants provide a great support to our non-native-speaker teachers during the teaching-learning process.

Fernando Galván says that, according to a Eurostat report, half of the Spanish population between 25 and 64 cannot speak a second language, but I think we would be very simplistic if we are to blame this inability to the fact that they have not been able to watch films and TV series in the original version. There's more than that for certain. Right now, and as Luis Moser-Rothschild explains, anybody can decide whether to watch a film or their favourite TV series in the original version or dubbed, and if it isn't available, the blame should be put somewhere else.

More and more students of English are taking to this, but a setback appears eventually: they can't move a step forward which is to switch to no-subtitles, so they end up stuck in this situation. I mean, it's ok for them to watch a movie in the original version with subtitles, in Spanish first and, then, when their command of the language improves they move to English subtitles. However, they get so used to relying on this ¨scaffolding¨ that when faced with watching a movie without subtitles they simply miss a great part of it, so they back out and their frustration is initiated again. I am not saying this to support the view that not dubbing isn't effective......IT IS! but I want to make clear that dubbing is not the culprit of our poor listening skill in English. There's more to this, which I will not discuss in this post. I just wanted to offer my personal opinion on this.

On the other hand, I do think that exposing children to their favourite cartoons and other programmes in English will benefit them considerably. There is a ¨minor¨ drawback: they will not be very willing to do so because watching TV is an enterntainment for them, not a ¨class of English¨; having to read takes away most of the fun, let's face it! Thus, one almost needs to ¨force¨ them to do so. I have to do this with my 8-year-old daughter, and I must admit I'm not always successful. Mind you! Our children and youngsters listen to a lot of English in their music, so this should also count in their favour. When I hear my daughter singing an English song she likes, she gets most of the lyrics right, and she doesn't understand all of it, so something must be improving then!

Scandinavian countries are well-known for their impressive skills in speaking English as a second language. Still, let's not forget that their mother-tongues belong to the Germanic languages . Our mother-tongue belongs to the Romance languages and this should be taken into account as well, since English sounds so alien to us at the beginning. I have been told that Germany and France dub most of their films -please, correct me if I'm wrong-, and they seem to outdo us when it comes to understanding English. One nationality that I am very impressed with is the Portuguese. It is true that they do watch their programmes in the original version, so I gather this facilitates their better auditory and oral skills, but I must also say something in their favour, their vowel system is richer than ours. I will talk about this in another entry in the future.

Least but not last, Spanish dubbing has always shown great professionalism and we cannot wipe them out just because we are made to believe that they are harmful when it comes to learning English.

In conclusion, ¨to dub or not to dub¨ should not be the target on which to blame this obstacle we, Spaniards, have when using English communicatively. There is more to it than that! Having said that, we should encourage our students to watch their favourite programmes in the original version because it will certainly benefit their skills.