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!


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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)

29 de octubre de 2011


Whether we like it or not, the Anglosaxon world has pervaded Spanish society and is here to stay. 
The term "Anglo-Saxon" can be used in a variety of contexts, often to identify the English-speaking world's distinctive language, culture, technology, wealth, markets, economy, and legal systems.
One of the many examples is the festivity of Halloween, which Spanish children are so eager to celebrate at school. My daughter starts to talk about it well before it's due and her main concern is what she will wear on that day. 

Halloween or All Hallows' Eve is celebrated on 31st October and is considered a pagan festivity by the Catholic world. Spain being a country of so much Catholic tradition began to frown upon this festivity as soon as it made its appearance in our society; something which children, so attracted to anything that means fun and festivity, don't give it much thought. Finding the right disguise so that they can impress their friends is what keeps them occupied the previous weeks. The phrase Trick or treat is constantly uttered on that day. We can now say that Halloween is here to stay and forms part of our festivity calendar. 

This festivity has its origins in the Celt world, a people whose culture spread across Europe more than 2000 years ago. The Celts celebrated the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the Celtic New Year on the night of October, 31st.  This time was considered to be a liminal zone in which both the living and the death could merge. To prevent the ghosts from invading the living world, they lit bonfires to drive away the evil spirits. The growing power of the Catholic Church eventually turned it into what we know here in Spain as All Saints' Date (Día de Todos los Santos) or Hallowmas. Hallow meaning holy and mas referring to mass. The night before was All Hallows' Eve whose phonetics turned into the well-known Halloween. The festivity was soon exported to the United States by the Irish immigrants driven away from their homeland during the Irish Potato Famine during the 1840s. Not only did they bring the holiday but the customs that went with it. One of the best-known artifacts is the jack-o'-lantern, a carved pumpkin which is lit inside. 

I encourage you to further your knowledge about this Halloween emblem on the highlighted wikipedia entry; tradition and folklore mix. 

Last but not least, here is a website full of links related to Halloween for all levels and tastes: http://www.esolcourses.com/topics/halloween.html

18 de octubre de 2011

Some more music: THE BLOWER'S DAUGHTER by Damien Rice

Many students say that their best way to learn English is by listening to music. Actually, most teenagers show a real interest in English when they need to understand the lyrics of their favourite songs. When you have started studying English in your adulthood, it is a pleasure to be able to understand the lyrics of that song which you simply loved at the time because of its tune. What's more, you may have read the lyrics and felt disappointed as they are not so transcendental as the music conveyed. 

Anyway, thanks to YouTube and many passionate people who want to share their passion it is very likely that your favourite song has already been uploaded with subtitles. Yesterday I uploaded a song I had listened to many times but I hadn't seen the singer play it. I thought it would make a nice musical post as well as offer something else to my readers. It is true that you will have to accept my own tastes in music but since you're visiting my blog it is very likely -hopefully, at least!- that you like what I post about. 

The Blower's Daughter is a beautiful song and so is the film Closer, though I don't recall associating the song to the film, or viceversa, when I saw it at the cinema. Today I had the chance to listen to this song again and on came the YouTube version and the film. As you can see below, I have posted three versions of the song. The official trailer for the film (with both Spanish subtitles and the original version itself) and a third one with the lyrics. It seems Damien Rice, the songwriter, dedicated this song to his clarinet's teacher's daughter with whom he was smitten. Enchanting!

12 de octubre de 2011


Yesterday evening when ending the last class, one of my students asked me if I could enlighten him about his confusion when having to use specially and especiallyThis type of questions are asked by students now and then and I thought I should start a thread of posts under the name Words easily confused by Spanish-speaking learners of English in the hope that I will help them eradicate some common mistakes. 

Well, it seems my first choice has proved to be rather awkward. After browsing different websites I have come to the conclusion that what I thought to be ¨an easy piece of cake¨, i.e. explaining the difference in a simple way, seems not to be that simple. May I risk to say that due to the fact that both words are spelt similarly, speakers of English tend even to confuse their usage so no wonder we, non-native speakers, should get more confused.

The best explanation I've found is provided by the BBC Learning English website and it's the one I've chosen as a hyper-link to the sub-heading specially vs. especially

When looking up both words in Wordreference the translation given in Spanish is rather similar: especialmente, particularmente for especially and especialmente, expresamente for specially. One of the examples given by the Concise Oxford Spanish Dictionary (OUP) is actually the same in both: Why did you choose that one especially? Why did you choose that one specially? 

So my advice is that you use specially when you mean expresamente o en particular:
These shoes are specially designed for toddlers. 
Estos zapatos están expresamente diseñados para bebés que empiezan a caminar.
We use especially when we mean sobre todo, excepcionalmente:
The dinner that evening was especially planned for the occasion.  
La cena esa noche fue excepcionalmente planeada para la ocasión.

English plus also provides an easy explanation for this pair:

Going analogical now I will write down the definitions given by the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary of Current English of the adjectives

especial (adj) particular; exceptional: a question of especial importance; for our especial benefit. in especial, above all. especially (adv) to an exceptional degree; in particular: She likes the country, especially in spring.

special (adj) of a particular or certain sort; not common, usual or general; of or for a certain person, thing or purpose: He did it for her as a special favour. What are your special interests? Newspapers send special correspondents to places where important events take place. On holidays the railways put on special trains. Specially (adv) particulary: I came here specially (on purpose) to see you.

11 de octubre de 2011


Listen&write is a great website to practise both your listening and writing skills. What's more: it's free of charge!!! 

You have a wide choice of levels so I'm sure you will find a suitable one to start with and from there start building up your confidence in understanding English. The fact that you can see the spoken words in written form will certainly help you consolidate their spelling via an old technique as it is dictation. 

There are three modes you can choose from:
  1. Full Mode: you need to type in the full word itself and if you spell it correctly it is shown on the screen directly.
  2. Quick Mode: only by typing in the first letter you get the full word on the screen.
  3. Blank Mode: the text is shown with blank spaces, you need to type in the correct word in the blank.
If you find the listening too difficult I suggest you should use the Blank Mode. You will be able to read the text and work out those missing words in the gap. Then, once you've done this, you can select the Full Mode and give it another try. I find the Quick Mode a bit confusing as it's far too quick! You type in the first letter and it immediately gets it shown on the screen but because you are so engrossed in understanding the next word or words you hardly have time to set in what's being done.

Anyway, you're free to find your own mood! Just give it a try & have fun with English! :O)

9 de octubre de 2011


English and Spanish are two very different languages and we -Spanish speakers-  instantly perceive that when beginning to learn our first English words; for instance, personal pronouns I, you, he, she, etc., which differ so much in form from yo, tú, él, ella, etc. Together with this realization comes the attempt to pronounce such words and the verb forms am, is, are and feel at ease with ourselves when we hear the outcome. To spice up the task, we are told that both pronoun and verb form are usually contracted in daily speech, so as well as trying to produce the correct sound we feel visually alienated by an apostrophe, which many times teachers fail to explain why it is there.

English pronunciation is not easy for a Spanish-speaker, certainly not, and the older we are the harder it becomes. Our speech organs have been trained to produce certain sounds (those featured in Spanish) so the production of new sounds is many times a matter of our natural ability to make new sounds. This is the first hurdle a Spanish-speaking learner of English must overcome and it can become an ordeal if we, teachers, treat all our adult students as standard students who will make it as soon as our instructions are set in; see my previous post When English becomes an ordeal. I would also like to direct you to a very encouraging post by Scott Thornbury, B is for a Bad language learner, in which he shuns those that mock other people's attempts to speak a second language even if they sound ¨funny¨ to the ¨experts¨. 
So, a plea on behalf of the bad language learner: never, never, never mock a second language speaker – even if it’s someone (like George Bush or José María  Aznar) whose politics you disagree with. It’s a cheap shot. And, if you are a language teacher, it ill becomes you.  It’s your job to encourage second language use, however non-target-like. What’s more, ridicule is counterproductive.  There is nothing more de-motivating than being laughed at. (Scott Thornbury's blog)
Both Indo-european languages belong to different families: English is a Germanic language whereas Spanish is a Latin language. The intonation is certainly different, Spanish is a syllabic language, so each syllable has roughly the same duration regardless of the stress. English, on the contrary, uses word stress and the duration of syllables is not the same. Many times I've heard students ¨complain¨ that English speakers don't seem to make an effort to understand them. They illustrate their statement by saying that they produce a grammatically correct question and, yet, they still get either a puzzled look or a ¨I'm sorry but I don't understand.¨ There's a simple answer to this: they're using the wrong stresses, so their utterance sounds flat and meaningless for the English speaker.

That's why I believe phonetics is such a useful tool for Spanish-speakers learning English. It provides them with a visual image of the sounds so that they feel they are getting there. I know many teachers find phonetics cumbersome and they try to keep their students away from it as much as they keep their own selves. I disagree. Teachers should use phonetics in their teaching in a light key so that their students can use images as a good way to improve sounds. The same way as deaf people can be taught to speak, we must facilitate our learners of English a way to improve their speaking skills. The goal is not for our students to memorize the phonetic alphabet, we would simply add up more learning and frustration in that sense. We should encourage them to see English phonetics as a tool to help them ¨visualize¨ the pronunciation of an English word, or a phrase. The aim is to get familiarized with the symbols so that they can identify the sound. Besides, all dictionaries provide the phonetic transcription of that new word we have just looked up. Knowing the symbols will help us tackle its pronunciation even if we haven't heard this new word before. 

When starting to teach new groups (as it was last week) I find teaching phonetics a good way to introduce them into English. A good reason is that it's very likely that they haven't been ¨exposed¨ to phonetics before. It also allows me to ¨expose¨ them to my teaching. I try to be very careful when doing so as I do understand new symbols may simply put them off. I try to make English sounds visual to them and I use Spanish sounds as a model to check on either similarities or differences. A speaker of a second language tends to assimilate those new sounds that are similar to their own language by producing them in the same way as their native language, and this is where we should make them notice those slight differences that, otherwise, will be dragged along their learning. New sounds, on the contrary, are most likely to be imitated as they should be pronounced.

I also teach my students something basic as the physiological mechanics of speech production. We actually produce sounds by voicing the air we expel from our lungs. This air that goes through the windpipe or traquea, encounters a first feature which amplifies the number of sounds we can produce:  the vocal cords found in the larynx or vocal tract. They vibrate or not depending on the sound we produce. Thus, we make voiced or unvoiced sounds. All vowel sounds and dipthongs are voiced; consonant sounds can be voiced or unvoiced. You will be able to check both voiced and unvoiced consonant sounds by clicking on consonants and more consonants

The speech organs consist of lips, teeth, tongue, alveolar ridge, hard palate, velum (soft palate), uvula, glottis and nasal cavity, and they all play a role either actively or passively to articulate different sounds. This is a diagram of the different parts:

Links to practise English sounds and get familiarize with phonetics:
  1. New English File Pronunciation by Oxford University Press
  2. Pronunciation Tips from bbclearningenglish.com
  3. Word stress in English by EnglishClub.com
  4. English vs. Spanish pronunciation: some tips
  5. The phonetic chart
  6. Teaching English - Phonemic Chart