CONFIDENCE

An English brand name of confidence, London. August 2017


My students find it hard to believe that I too, had problems with my English speaking exams… Well, it was indeed my speaking exam at Cambridge Proficiency that lowered my final score. The problem? It wasn´t that I hadn´t a great command of English, or my pronunciation, nope! It was actually my lack of confidence at the time of the exam. I was terrified of the fact that I was going to be tested, in just a matter of 15 minutes, for hours and hours of study and practice…

Following the advice of someone close to me at the time was one of the biggest mistakes I´ve ever made. “Just have a shoot of vodka before you go in…”, I was recommended, “you´ll relax”. And yes, I guess I did, but not in the right way… My English was very good but instead of answering the questions asked I talked about something else…

I passed my driving test (in UK) at the third attempt, and I did so because, just after 2 minutes of starting I was convinced that I had already failed so, I proceeded as best as I knew, and this was acknowledged by my examiner.

If you´re prepared for your exam, you need not worry about the examiner, he/she will be doing their job, and will be able to infer if you are really demonstrating you have the level equivalent to the corresponding certificate… xxx… More next week

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FLUENCY

The river Thames flowing along London. August 2017



The way to get fluent in English is by speaking as often as you can. In every possible situation and context. When you live in an English speaking country, this is very easy. Not so for the ones of us who live in Spain… However, it is possible and there are many ways to acquire this fluency.

We don´t always have the chance to mingle with English native speakers here, but we can listen to videos in the English language every day. We can reproduce, copy, retell what we hear, again and again… Record ourselves repeating a sentence we have heard in order to polish our accent, pronunciation, rhythm, intonation… And listen to our recordings to check how well we are doing. I invite you to try, don´t be ashamed to listen to your own voice recording, you´ll get hooked on this exercise as soon as you see yourself progressing!

You´ll find interesting videos on youtube, websites like TED.com, newsinlevels.com and many more, take a pick! Test yourself repeating the same sentence again and again, let me know how long it takes you to reach perfection!!… xxx… More next week

 

(The photograph used on this entry was kindly donated by my dear friends Txaro and Jose)

 

 

 

 

 

TIME

Clock tower in Hyde Park, London. August 2017

 

We all have it, it´s there for all of us, available to enjoy and also, to waste. A luxury when pleasant, an agony when in pain…

Time is here to make us brighter, wiser, experienced, more clever… We go through life choosing what best to do with our time, deciding how to manage it to our benefit, arranging schedules, tasks to be done, subjects to learn, activities to enjoy…

The end of summer is a time of sadness, a time to start planning the next academic year, to get ready for the long winter months but, still, a time of warm and long days to enjoy sunsets and spend time outdoors…

Time is given to us equally, it´s granted to all of us in the same quantity, we all have 24 hours in a day, if only everything else in life was!!…xxx…More next week

 

(the picture used on this entry was kindly donated by my dear friend Txaro, thanks so much!!)

WILLPOWER

Before and after at an English farmshop



“Willpower is the world´s strength”, my mum used to say, “you must go on and reach for all”, she also told me when I was 15… Had it not been for her, I wouldn´t have finished my first year at high school…
Phrases like these keep us going, little pushes for all of us. We read quotes everywhere, LinkedIn, Facebook, publications, walls…from wise people who have suffered and gone through tough lives, people who remind us that life is worth living, regardless of how many bad patches we go through… Off the top of my head: Oprah, J.K.Rowling…
A brand new day will come and, depending on our mood, we´ll look at it with hope or with sadness… It´s our choice, completely up to us! We´re in charge of our feelings and emotions, we have the power to allow them to bring us down or the power to scrape them completely from our minds (I tend to sing aloud to do this, just as my dad used to do) so they fade away…
So please, give power to your willpower! Remember that it moves us forward and defines our paths… xxx… More next week

DREAMS AND NIGHTMARES

Changes on an English street over the years. Walbottle, Newcastle upon Tyne

 

It´s simple to interpret dreams, they give us clarity in many ways. If we stop and analyze them, they´ll give us a perspective of a given problem so we can start getting ready to face it.

Living in a dream is a different story. Given the choice, reality very often seems discouraging, dragging us down and pushing us away towards a dreamed world…

I dreamt last night that I was in danger, still felt it moments, and minutes, after waking up…

Uncertainty about the future stumbles us, we panic, worry, unsettle, feel unease… But we shouldn´t, as this is something that wears us out, and it doesn´t help us think clearly…

We must live our lives as they come, step by step, we´ll never be ready at all times to confront every issue, sometimes we will, sometimes we won´t, but no doubt life will give us a further chance, until we overcome it and the next chapter starts… xxx… More next week

 

 

MISUNDERSTANDINGS

 

A sculpture in Regents Park, London. August 2017

 

We get lost in translation sometimes. There´s a difference between what appears to be acceptable in someone´s place and not at all in another´s. We clash and break a beautiful courtesy that was originally running very smoothly…
The closer we get to others the more likely misunderstandings will come up. Holiday time can be stressful, it´s meant to be the most relaxing time of the year, but because we spend more time with people we don´t usually have around so often, we clash when someone else tries to be too helpful, too invading into our space…
There´s a fine line between trying to be helpful and challenging your position in a given situation. I believe this has happened to many of us, it´s not fun and very often, creates a very uncomfortable atmosphere…
Solution??- Directness, clarity, civilized behavior, being cool about it, shutting up and waiting until they stop talking, or leave them in charge and see how it turns out… Frequently, it´s only a matter of time until people realize they´re imposing their will and not getting anything out of it…xxx…More next week

(the photo used on this entry was kindly donated by my dear friends Txaro & Jose)

HOPES

A music festival poster in Camden Town, London, August 2017

 

We plan things one way and they turn out completely different. We organize, schedule, program, arrange events, gatherings, parties, holidays and these, very often, need to be altered along the way.

Life is full of surprises. Some of us are really good at getting organized, born with the necessary skills to forecast every possible scenario that could take place, some others are always taken by surprise, unable to foresee even 1 hour ahead…

Our hopes are there to keep us focussed, on guard, centered on our goals. There will be straying moments, in some cases our fault, in others completely unintentional, but one way or another, it will be our hopes that lead us all the way to make our dreams come true.

I keep a piece of paper on the wall with a few lines describing my goal. I hope little by little, day by day, I´m getting closer to it, let´s hope!… xxx… More next week

(the picture used on this entry was kindly donated by my dear friends Txaro and Jose)

PRETENDING

An old carriage turned table.
Noia, Northwest Spain, July 2017

 

Is it right to pretend and not show your real feelings? To hide what you´re actually thinking at this moment? In order to achieve a natural way of expressing ourselves in English, we must pretend, exaggerate, act and sound very different indeed from when we´re speaking in Spanish. If we don´t, we´ll force our listeners to make a huge effort to understand us, and in many cases they won´t.

It takes some practice to achieve this, it doesn´t come overnight. We must rehearse, and get used to sounding odd to our own ears. I´ve seen it in my students, the transition from speaking English with a strong Spanish accent to a more natural, rhythmic way of pronouncing…

It can be achieved, believe me, it´s a game. Don´t we all like games? Pretend you´re someone you´re not, build that character, your own self in an English version. It´s fun, try!!…xxx…More next week

 

TAKING THE RISK

Killyfole Lough, County Fermanagh, Ireland.  July 2017

 

It´s funny how we sometimes behave. I have friends from the conversation groups who frequently attend the regular meetings but when a new group is formed would not go unless I accompany them…

Why so shy? What´s the danger? Afraid of dissappointing if your discourse is not entertaining enough? Too conscious of the grammar mistakes you could make? Please, relax! We´ve all gone through it, it´s no big deal!

I also see students sending me writings in preparation for September official exams and playing safe, too simple, too easy… But we must take risks! We must know that in order to improve we´ll trip, fall, trip again…

Taking the risk is always worth it, don´t hesitate! As they say, with time, you only regret what you didn´t do…xxx…More next week

(the photograph used on this entry was kindly donated by my dear friend and colleague teacher Grainne Maguire. Thanks Grainne!)

 

EXPECTATIONS

Fireplace in an English pub, Newcastle, Christmas Eve 2015

 

The world around us molds us into the persons we become. We learn things, study one course or another and look back thinking if we´ll ever use all that knowledge in our lives…

Nowadays society expects us to be perfect, perfect house, perfect partner, perfect job… For youngsters not having a university degree is unthinkable. On a telephone class, one of my students told me about how some members of his family felt obliged to study History at uni, for the sake of having a degree. He explained to me how they struggled with it and how happy they are now developing careers in jobs which have nothing to do with their studies. Was it pointless to waste 5 years at uni? Yes and no.

I read an interesting interview with Naomi Watts about how circumstances in life shape us, how her need to adjust to many different schools as a child turned her into a great actress… It´s all part of the plan, some of us stay in our “cosy prisons”, some others strike, break the mold, the rules… and don´t give a damn about what others expect from us…xxx…More next week