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
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)
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!!)
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
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)
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)
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 18.07.2017
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!)
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
Tube stops sign at Tottenham Hale station, Victoria Line, London
We connect with people in many different ways. Without being aware of it, we feel affinity towards some and none at all with others. We can open up and share our thoughts without effort when the right person is around but, with others, it´s a lost cause, just impossible…
The English conversation groups are great to meet and mingle with new people, apart from being the best way I know to practice and improve our oral skills. One of my students asked me this week whether those are just an excuse for some people to find partners and, yes, I must admit they can be, as there is always the odd person who tries to find love at any given chance… But in general, this is not the case, and the majority of the folk attending these meetings are genuinely there to practice and to make new friends…
But this can happen anywhere, it shouldn´t be an excuse not to participate in the gatherings. We all have great fun at them and I will never tire of inviting my students to take part. None of them has come so far but, I´m not giving up!!…xxx….More next week
An English pub, Newcastle, December 2015
A combination of feelings last week, from saying goodbye to my students and, at the same time, seeing how much they enjoy our English classes, and how willing they seem to continue practicing in the summer months… I had them promising that they´ll keep in touch by email and through the whatsapp groups and I have no doubt that they will, they´re amazing!
We had laughs, moments of confusion, high pressure to answer questions quickly and correctly, complete concentration… We were very stressed at times and cracking up at some others… But looking at the big picture, it was mostly a lot of fun from which we all benefited…
Life is a rollercoaster, Ronan Keating sang, it´s true! One day you´re hyper, the next you´re deep down… Emotions and feelings overwhelm us, we need both, to be confortable and at ease and to be itching in order to not get stuck… We must accept everything as it comes, be calm and carry on….xxx….More next week
“Pick your own” shed, where you are given a basket to take to the strawberry field and once you´ve picked up some strawberries return to, in order to have them weighted and pay for them so you can take them home and eat them!
Newcastle, UK, December 2015
Obeying rules, nodding without wanting to, copying others´behaviors… We´re bored of abiding to the system, of doing what is supposed to be correct, of sticking to the book…
Challenge should be at the top of our “must do” everyday list. Always present, always in mind… Surprises and unexpected events do appear, it´s true, and we´re taken by them, but we shouldn´t be just there, waiting…
My students participate freely in the whatsapp groups, they´re excited with them! I remember the post I wrote on January 1st about New Year Resolutions and now, seeing how things are turning and how they are using English as a normal thing in their life, fills me with such joy…!
We´ll take it forward, set a limit high enough to never be able to reach it, learning can never be complete! We will carry on learning day in day out, there´s just so much for us to enjoy!!….xxx…More next week
My house in London, from 2002 to 2011
Points of view differ, what seems ok to me might not be so for you… Some people seem to find faults everywhere, even where there´s nothing wrong at all…
Respect is a powerful word, an extraordinary word to keep in mind at all times. We all seem to know the theory but putting it into practice is another story.
My students are wonderful, the advantage of spending so many hours with them is that they get to know you and are confident enough to ask you more direct questions. I was happily surprised when I asked a group to form a sentence with the word “unique” (a false friend in Spanish) and one of them replied: “our English classes are unique!!”
My dedication during a class is complete. If I see a student checking his/her mobile, I would direct the next question to him/her, as a way of showing that, for me, this is a lack of respect, and definitely not something you should do in class!
If we were to list the number of cases of respect and lack of it we witness everyday, would you say there is an imbalance between the first and the latter? Should we be more aware of the way we behave?….xxx… More next week.
NO FUSS ABOUT IT??? 08.06.17
Street sign of an English famshop, Kent, December 2015
My students don´t want our English classes to finish, they ask me about the summer break, many want to continue, they don’t want to stop with their English learning, I´m delighted!
Some have booked extra classes for the summer, others are already talking about September, they´re always grateful for the emails I send them with articles, the whatsapps with info to check, I love keeping in touch! And they do too!
The world keeps turning, events happening every day, news bombarding us with atrocities taking place in every part of the world, there´s no time to sit down and relax, we can never stop!
Knowledge is king, the more we learn the more powerful we feel, the more prepared we are to challenge whatever might come… We just have to stand up to it, roll up our sleeves and confront the world!…xxx…More next week
THE SWING OF THINGS 31.05.17
A swing on the land of an English farmshop
We drift, we move, we get stuck, we continue… And it´s nice when we finally get into the swing of things. When it certainly seems that we´ve found the path, the light at the end of the tunnel, the spark that finally lights the fire…
We live at a time of constant movement, of unpredicted changes, altering our day to day lives, disturbing our calm, diverting us from our routes but eventually, it all comes clearer and our eyes get ready for it…
It´s weird how some of my English classes go very smoothly, some others not so, how experience pays, and improvisation rules…
Students like spontaneity, they accept that we, as teachers don’t always have all the answers, we are human, but with their great attitude we thrive and so do they…xxx…More next week
(the title for this entry was inspired by one of my favorite songs by A-ha)
English learning at my office, in Cruces-Barakaldo
We talked this week, me and my students, about the importance of attending classes when learning a language, about keeping a routine, a structure, a way to force yourself to do it, in order to continue advancing with English learning.
On my first year in UK, I lived in a small town and was unable to attend English lessons due to my working timetable. I could see how my level of listening improved by being surrounded by english people at work and watching TV. Also, my reading skills got better, thanks to my interest in reading newspapers and magazines. But my speaking and writing didn´t improve at all. Once I moved to London and started to attend English classes twice a week my level progressed very quickly. I had tasks to complete, I was shown ideas by my teachers to enjoy the language in many different ways and all these motivated me to advance further.
A teacher can change your life. A teacher can direct you back to the right track. Many people can learn alone but for most of us, a teacher will walk hand in hand with us and show us everything our minds are willing to take…xxx…More next week
A pause on my journey after seeing this sign of an English farmshop in Kent, December 2015
Often misused, but this is a word that everyone loves… It brings a smile to my students when I ask them to speak about traveling. Learning about new lands, customs, people, places…
Hans Rosling talks about the changes in traveling patterns in our world in recent years on his Ted talk, about how easy it is nowadays to move around our globe and cover many plans, schedules, sightseeing visits and non-stop discovering…
Also, in another Ted talk, Thomas Hellum shows us the beauty of Norway when traveling by train or ship on his Slow TV programs, so soothing and entertaining at the same time…
I´ve always loved traveling, it was easy while living in London to get away for a weekend anywhere in Europe. Quickly arranged journeys, short trips to visit friends I had met in London, oh, the beauty of living in such a cosmopolitan city, of having the chance to meet people from every corner of the world…
Now is the time of year to get your TRIPS organized, for many they´re already sorted, I´m sure! The beautiful summer just invites us to get lost somewhere….xxx…More next week
Products for sale in an English farmshop, December 2015
We´re faced with temptations every day. Treats, brief joys, the tiniest satisfaction to which we easily succumb… It´s hard not to give in with all these little pleasures available, sometimes too easy to reach, sometimes making us take risks…
We live at a time of pretty-easy, of wanting-getting, of no waits, just shop around from home or work and get it delivered the next day, even buy a few pairs of shoes to try on at home and return the ones you don´t want without extra charge, so simple!!
Convenience is very convenient in many ways but everything up to a point! Keeping a conscious mind of everything that goes behind, for instance, who´s getting rich by me doing this? What happens to the local people in my town struggling with their little businesses? It might be worth thinking about all these too…xxx…More next week
Street sign found in many places in UK, this one is in Newcastle
Invisible energy surrounds us. Inertia, tendency, attraction, fear of disappointing others… We don´t see it but we feel it, and wonder why it´s happening to us…why things don´t progress, advance…why we can´t prevent actions from taking place despite trying as hard as we might…
The environment affects us in a way that we sometimes can´t control what we end up doing. We tend to make the same mistakes again and again…
Everything happens for a reason and we are here to learn non-stop, full stop!
We never stop learning, because when we think we have, a new challenge appears putting us to the test again.
Life is a journey on which we encounter barricades from time to time, blocking us from proceeding but, with patience, we find a new way to continue, in a stronger and better position…xxx…More next week
Street sign leading to Olympic Village, London
We might not think about it but our minds are constantly thinking. Figuring out what to say to someone at any given time, how to confront, reply, impress, adviSe…
Sometimes we think aloud, just like giving a speech, we start talking to ourselves, as if we were in front of that person, repeating and polishing the sentences and words again and again…
Rehearsing is a great exercise to improve your speaking skills in English, structuring a speech to deliver to an audience, controlling the time it will take you to say everything you want to say…
Just like a sports-person preparing for a competition, a musician or a singer perfecting a note or the vocal cords, a speaker must practice many, many times in order to gain the confidence to transmit the message.
I invite you to practice this: Rehearse a speech on a subject you want to tell the world about, you might find you have a hidden talent to show…xxx…More next week
LEAVING THE NEST 19.04.2017
A bare tree on an English public footpath
Changes terrify us, we waste a lot of time wondering whether to take the risk or stay in our confort zone, where we are very uncomfortable indeed…
I have seen people hesitating for too long about taking steps in their lives, afraid of changes, but changes can truly be great! Transit might be tough, the uncertainty of the destination daunting but, despite all of these, there´s always something to gain!
Moving back from England to Spain wasn´t easy. In spite of the eagerness I felt to return to my country, it took me a while to finally decide I wanted to stay here for good. People ask me how it was for my kids, and from my experience, I believe that the younger you are, the easier you find it to adjust to changes.
It was supposed to be a trial, a year renting the house in London and then going back if it didn´t work, and this is what I recommend to others: “try for a year, see what happens, if you come back, you´ll definitely be a changed person…”
Living away for some time makes you grow, you become more tolerant, you absorb a wider perspective of the world, it opens your wings so you can fly…xxx…More next week
GETTING HOOKED ON IT 16.04.2017
Hooks on “Pick Your Own” strawberries, on the land of an English farmshop
We like it! We do! We love it when we practice and understand English! We might complain, whinge, scream and shout but we get hooked on it!!
My students are on holidays but they´re active, they keep in touch with me, they send me homework by email, videos and songs via the whatsapp groups, some even ask: “Are we really not going to have English classes for 2 weeks??” I love it! I miss them too!
I´m reachable, you ought to be when you´re a teacher! I never give up on ways to keep them motivated, engaged in learning… Seeing their will to continue progressing makes me so happy…xxx…More next week
Music is awesome to learn English. We all like it! Whether it´s a band or a singer, a style or another, it enlightens our hearts like nothing else!
It was music that sparked off my interest to learn more and more English. I started to like a band when I was about 12 and I had an urge to understand their lyrics. By singing their songs, while being unaware of it, my pronunciation was getting better and better! It´s not only vocabulary you can learn with songs in English, also grammatical structures and collocations that will come in very handy when hesitating about, for instance, a preposition to go after a verb, adjective, etc…
Our subconscious is constantly working, we might not pay much attention when the radio is on, but it´s funny how we can recognize a song we have heard before.
It´s also weird that we seem to like some songs more than others. I never understood why I liked “Lamb to the slaughter” by A-ha so much, I thought it was the tune, but now I see how much sense the lyrics of this song make regarding a part of my life. A non-Spanish speaker friend of mine liked a song by Héroes del Silencio, without understanding a word, and the lyrics make so much sense for him too!! I´ve been listening to Sia the last few months and I can understand so well why!!
So, pay attention, listen to music, check the lyrics and ask yourself: “Why is this song so important in my life?”… Let me know what you discover!….xxx….More next week
READING ALOUD 01.04.17
We´re easily embarrassed, we Spanish, when it comes to speaking in English in public, we don´t want to look like fools… I´m finding it hard to convince my students to attend conversation groups, which it´s a pity, as these are a great opportunity to practice and progress. Some of them tell me that they try to speak with each other in English in their own time but not everyone is willing to…
Reading aloud is another technique to improve your speaking skills. I´ve seen many students quickly progress by doing this activity as often as possible. I read The Guardian newspaper online, I suggest you try reading aloud short articles as frequently as you can, it will only take you 2-3 minutes a day!!
I also read stories to my kids every night and ask them questions, for instance, their opinion about the characters so I get them to interact, you can try too! You´ll find many children´s books in English in your local library or bookshop, I´m sure! And the vocabulary and grammar are very easy so you can “play” with them…
Remember that your English learning will advance more smoothly if you enjoy it, so don’t think about it as something you have to spend a lot of time on, you´ll continue putting it off if you do!!…xxx…More next week
LISTENING TO 19.03.2017
Bear in mind: To listen to others and to be listened to. To be exposed to conscious and passive listening…because our brain keeps processing, analysing, contrasting with what we know, giving us the time to come up with a suitable answer, a brand-new idea, a terrific argument…
It´s funny how some students speak and don´t actually listen to the grammatical mistakes they´re making. Sometimes other students in the class notice and smile while the person who has made a mistake is wondering what´s going on… It could just be forgetting a “–S” at the end of the verb in the present tense when applied to the 3rd person of the singular, mistaking SHE for HE, very, very common, in higher levels too!… For the one who´s listening, these mistakes sound terrible!… And very frequently misleading!… Imagine you´re talking about your brother Martin and you continue talking about him saying She…I would think you´re telling me about someone else!!
I tell my students to practise reading aloud in their own time, recording themselves and listening to their own recording. This exercise is recommended by Cambridge University and it helps them to be aware of their mistakes.
My students enjoy listening to Vaughan radio (Bilbao 106.7), which is specially designed for Spanish students of English. I also like News in Levels, where you can choose, from 3 levels, the appropriate level to listen to a piece of news while you read it. In London I was recommended to Listen to BBC Radio 4, really interesting! I believe this radio station is still available online although I heard rumours that it might be privatised with the Brexit.
You can also access any radio station in the world with this link:
Enjoy your listening and let me know why you think Listening is so important in your life!!….xxx…More next week
Spring comes and it´s time for spring cleaning. Getting rid of the old stuff and making room for the new. All those things we´ve been keeping, wondering if we´ll ever use them again but… finally deciding it´s time for them to go…
Clearing up is a drag, you need to be in the mood to do it, but for some reason, it sometimes happens automatically, as if the time is right for it to be done now…
We get attached to a lot of things in our lives, filling up wardrobes and neurons, and we are reluctant to detach them from our day to day, it´s not easy… but we must do it, as clinging to them would maintain us where we were stuck…
I´m decluttering my life now, giving away everything I can spare, which is a lot!… Making room for the new, room for improvement, room for more….xxx…More next week
Everybody says that English grammar is much easier than Spanish but…the problem is the pronunciation… Yes, we´ve heard this a million times but it is a big truth. Students ask me whether it is that important if they mispronounce one or two letters and I have to say YES, as it is indeed what separates clarity from muddle and confusion.
One example: Yesterday one of my students struggled to pronounce 19, she kept saying “nighty”-(camisón, in Spanish). I told her that it was as if a foreign person was saying “decineve” , and after about 15 attempts, she got it right. That goes to show how long it can take to correct bad habits!
In Pamplona I had a group who complained every time I corrected their pronunciation mistakes, and I could see that it was impossible to progress with them. The method I work with now focuses on this problem and I can see how well it works.
Listening in English helps a lot to improve pronunciation, please try every day, radio, TV, TED videos, music… The more exposed your ears are to listening to the English language, the better your brain will adjust to the English pronunciation…xxx…More next week
THE IMPORTANCE OF RESTING 27.02.2017
Resting is necessary. Stopping for a bit to have a break, to reflect on what you´ve done so far, to analyze where you are now and how far you´ve reached and also, to look ahead and consider the next step.
In our lives we go through stressful patches at which we´re so occupied that we think everything will get out of control if we stop. But stopping is precisely what helps us continue on the right track.
Last week one of my students told me that our 2 hour class was like an oasis on his work schedule!… I had to laugh, because my students can´t exactly relax at my classes!! But they enjoy the “sort of” pause we have when they take turns with mini-presentations…a tiny chance to rest!!
Ideally, we´d all take a week holiday once a month if we were given the opportunity, we all like a rest after all! But even at the busiest times, a short break will help us move forward with a clearer mind…xxx…More next week
Reading in English regularly is essential to maintain your level. It doesn´t have to be set as a task, it can be a small advert on the internet, a short piece of news, a review of a new film, something you´re interested in…
Just by reading we recognize a lot of words we have studied in the past and without noticing, we are revising the vocabulary we know, so it comes back to our brains and we can use it again…
I´ve always liked reading. In London, reading was what made commuting by tube enjoyable. Whenever I forgot my book, I looked in the wagon for an abandoned newspaper, magazine, leaflet… as I found the journey so boring without something to read… I didn´t dare to read books on my first year in UK, I thought they would be too difficult but once I started I was amazed at how much I enjoyed reading a book written in the original language of the author…
Remember: something brief, but regularly, just 5 minutes every day, you´ll see a difference, I´m sure!….xxx… More next week
DO YOUR BEST! 15.02.2017
I love teaching! Every single one of my students manages to impress me in every class… It could be by giving odd excuses for not doing the homework, by making up stories just because they sound so much better when told in English (some of them are such good actors!), by getting into a heated discussion during a role-play that entertains everyone in the class… so often they´re so clever!!
Sometimes they´re picky with each other, which makes it challenging for me as, from my point of view, in every single one of my classes, every student tries to do their best. Being direct is the best way to tackle rivalry between students. I can see how all of them are willing to participate in every class and I´m always pleased to give everyone the chance to express themselves as much as possible during the sessions.
I believe we´d all do our best when given the right conditions, why shouldn´t we?…. xxx More next week.
Believing gives you power, strength… believing in yourself makes you unstoppable… Resistance wanders around us, holding us from what we want to achieve but if we believe in ourselves firmly, what we desire will come, sooner or later…
A sentence from my favorite songwriter (Paul Waaktaar from A-ha) remains in my head from my teens, “if you don´t believe in yourself, no one will believe in you”… And I know for a fact that this is true. We sometimes become our own enemies, building barriers around ourselves, invisible and impenetrable, not allowing many good things to reach us but, once we are aware of them, once we are prepared to face the challenge, the miracle happens…
Children play believe and they enjoy, they´re happy… can we as adults do too?…xxx More next week
It makes all the difference. You get the answers, whether it´s a YES or a NOT… Because indecisions wear you out…
You can try looking for solutions or try to find a solution, try searching for options or try to work out the best option…but if you don´t try, you´ll never know…
Some activities related to learning English can be daunting, I get whatsapps from some of my students saying that watching videos on TED is too tough…but I believe that from any activity you try, you get something in return, even if it´s just a 10% of the video that you managed to understand, that 10% is very important indeed!
Learning is a process, you don´t progress in a straight line, just like life, it takes its route, but you must keep on trying, as this is the only way to move forward…xxx…More next week
BE YOUR BOSS! 27.01.2017
So busy!! My timetable is filling up, it´s like playing chess to fit plans in but…I couldn´t be happier!! Being busy is the best! Occupying your mind, getting your brain to exercise, thinking quick, speaking slow…
It´s great to take charge of your own ship, deciding what you want to do with your life. Obviously up to a point, we all have duties to fulfill!…But keeping your share, even just a little bit of time every day…
Dedicating some energy to your hobbies, goals, dreams…all these things that get delayed time and time again…can be so rewarding!…and make you feel so proud of yourself!…I´m now working on a logo for this website, but what is it exactly that I want to get from it? Might need to delegate this one ;)…Any clues, anyone?….xxx More next week
THE PRESENT 06.01.2017
Wow! Big day for many here in Spain!…I remember the joy I had on this day during my childhood…how special it was! ….Well, I had no present today…nope! Not a single one… Am I sad? I don´t know, a combination of feelings really, but coming to think about it I´ve realized how many presents I´ve had in the last days, how many warm thoughts and gestures from many people I love around me and that makes me value The Real Present. The real gift that The Present is. We get anxious about the Future, depressed about the Past but if we focus on the Present, on the good and bad things around us, making a balance, we are gifted, every single day…
I was reading an interesting article on The Guardian this morning (article) about a student doctor who decided to spend a month in December in London, living as a homeless person. He talks about how society seems to be getting more dehumanised and how unworthy these people on the streets feel, but he also mentions the ones who, with their simple actions bring warmness to those unluckier…
And this is what I want to keep in mind, my dear friends, that The Present is the real gift….xxx More next week
NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS 01.01.2017
We all start the new year full of hopes and wishes of a happy new year full of new energy and success. Learning, improving, getting fluent at English is so often on the list of us Spanish New Year´s resolutions… And we usually start strong! But this eagerness must persist and we should really set our minds to it if we want to be successful. My wish for this year is to stay active, keep on learning… I learn English everyday, I communicate in English with every single one of my contacts who knows at least a little bit, friends, family…By whatsup, email… I invite you to do the same, use English in your everyday life, treat it as a normal thing, we are surrounded by this language in so many ways these days! News, videos on Facebook, ads on LinkedIn… Truth said, it´s practically imposible to avoid it!!
2017 will bring us lots of good things, I´m sure! So,let´s make the English language enrich our lives! And don´t give up if you try one method of learning English and it doesn´t work for you, everyone has their own way of learning, the key is to NEVER give up!xxx More next week
Presentations in class are a great chance for students to express themselves in their own words. Sometimes I have to give them a topic but I love it when they just start talking about something that´s in their minds at the time… The other week they were telling me about the constrains of building an extension of the roof in San Mamés, the difficulties of connecting 2 towns via a tunnel under the sea, self-driving electric cars… I love it! In Pamplona I used to ask my students to prepare a topic for homework and then I would record them and prepare a report on what needed correcting… their commitment to doing a good speech was amazing, we all enjoyed the rehearsed speeches so much! Always clapping at the end…We learned about ways to travel to Mars, why a plane works, how to produce craft beer… all of them so enlightening and entertaining!!
So, try rehearsing a speech about a theme you are interested in, get an audience to present it to, you´ll gain confidence and your level of English will undoubtely benefit…xxx More next week.
Games are great for learning English. I use them in all my classes. Students love “Story Cubes” (making up stories according to the aligned images on the sides of the dice set), modifying sentences (changing them quickly from positive, negative, question, past, present and future), translating phrases and words from Spanish to English… Competition is great, “players” enjoy so much being drilled! Sometimes they even come out sweating from the effort! But it´s so much fun that you almost forget you´re learning English…xxx More next week
BBC RADIO PROGRAMME ON ON BASQUELAND AND OUR FOOD 27.11.2016
Here´s a really good programme to listen to, from the BBC, about Basqueland, our food and our history. Mark Kurlansky is interviewed during the program, an American writer who has written many books about us: “The basque history of the world”, “Cod”, “Salt”…I´ve read these books myself and I eagerly recommend you reading them! They´re very well written and so interesting!!
Here´s the link to the radio programme: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0829dcq
Definitely worth listening!!!….xxx More next week
What a headache spelling in English can be for us Spanish!! We struggle with a, i, e… and many consonants too!…The fact that so many letters are not pronounced makes it just so tough! Someone mentioned in one of my classes this week the UK TV program University Challenge, and how the spelling challenge task couldn´t be copied into our Spanish system, well, it would just be so easy for us! Because spelling, even for native English speakers, is indeed very hard!
I recommend picking up words from a text that contain these letters we find harder to recognize when heard: a, i, e, v, y… Everyone has different problems but these 3 vowels in particular are a common issue to us Spanish…Write down a few words and practice spelling: remember i as the first person of the singular I, e for English, a for the alphabet song a,b,c…and always pay attention to v, completely different from b or v in Spanish…
Listen to yourself, you can record yourself and listen to check you´re doing it right. You´ll get better at it if you practice this routine regularly…xxx More next week
The best piece of advice on improving writing skills I´ve ever received was in London in 2002. My English Proficiency teacher told me that if I produced at least one piece of writing a week, I´d pass my exam without a problem. And she was right! Some of us are lazy when it comes to writing, but for me, as a teacher, it´s a delight to receive a few lines from my students. Somehow, it reminds me of my late teens-early twenties, when I had so many pen friends I kept in touch with. Friends who no longer lived nearby or non-Spanish speakers I had met during my holidays. I remember how happy I was receiving their letters. I still have them, they´re my little treasure!
So please, practice writing, just a few lines every week, get inspired by what happens in your life. Believe me, you´ll see your writing skills improve considerably…xxx More next week
BEING SHY 05.11.2017
It´s not easy for some of us to speak in public and when it comes to speaking in English in public, well, we can be so shy!!… I hated the idea of popping up to the pub after my English lessons in my early years in London… I was too conscious of the mistakes I was making and I didn´t want to make a fool of myself but… once I started going regularly, I realized that I wasn´t the only one making mistakes! My classmates and pub friends were Italian, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish… and every single one of them was making mistakes!!
As well as this, I noticed how much I was progressing by practicing every week (in a relaxing atmosphere, with friends!) and I know that this is definitely the best way to improve your speaking skills. Of course you can travel to an English speaking country, even live there for a while, but for the ones of us who stay here, conversation groups, coffee mornings, coffee breaks and any other kind of English speaking meetings are a great option for improving your English oral skills while having an enjoyable time…xxx More next week.
BACK TO BASICS 29.10.2016
It´s important to keep in mind that learning English does not always have to do with learning new grammar or vocabulary. This is important too, but revising basics is foremost. We Spanish have been learning English for years and acquiring bad habits (mostly mispronunciation) that we have been doing for years!! It takes time to correct these and for that we should pay attention and listen to ourselves… Learning grammar is ok, but it can be extremely boring… Reading novels is great if you have an intermediate level or above, but looking up words in the dictionary might also put you off… I recommend you watching TED videos, a first watch without subtitles and a second time reading the English subtitles while watching. Start with short videos (5-7 min max) and choose a topic you´re interested in.
Also, find a website related to something you like, a hobby for instance, and read the content as often as you can. If you love the topic, you´ll find yourself learning English with very little effort…. xxx More next week.
DECISIONS, DECISIONS… 21.10.2016
It´s funny how we are confronted with reality in our day to day lives. We think things are going to turn one way and then everything twists and we need to find another solution to our problems…
Flexibility is the key, human nature is designed to readjust once and again to changes and although these might frighten us, they help us grow and see life from a different perspective, no doubt enriching us and transforming us into better persons…
The comfort zone is ok for a while but the satisfaction you get from overcoming your fears is beyond any other feeling you could imagine… xxx More next week
OLD FRIENDS 15.10.2016
Wow!! So nice to hear again from my long lost friends in London!! It´s wonderful to see and hear from people you have known nothing about for more than 10 years!! And the friendship is still there! Time and distance might give us the idea that we no longer have these friends, but I can tell you, we couldn´t be more wrong!! We go through life leaving a trail, and all those around us stay in our hearts, just as we do in theirs…
Keep in touch, stay connected, try to get in touch with someone in your life (classmate, workmate, flatmate…) you haven´t heard from for the last 10 years, I can assure you it will brighten up your day… xxx More next week…
DIFFICULT WORDS 07.10.2016
We are often faced with difficult words to pronounce in English, some of them especially tough for us Spanish…”vegetables”, “beach”, “sheet”,…words that can bring up laughs if mispronounced…I´ve had these problems too, I had to learn this language just like you! I always tried to find a way to say these words using different words or just by avoiding them completely! But my advice is “don´t be afraid to make mistakes”, because it´s the only way forward. “Practice makes perfect” and the more you practice, the better you´ll get at speaking in English. Take advantage of every opportunity you might find to speak in English and practice your listening every day…you can learn so much just by listening to music and singing the lyrics from a song you love… xxx More next week
EXCITING TIMES 29.09.2016
What a change my life is experiencing in the last months! Every day I´m having to deal with lawyers, architects, engineers… (luckily no doctors, although “Ms.Flu” came to visit us this week…). It´s just wonderful to have a goal in your life, it helps you with not straying when things turn difficult. My new job is amazing! Hopefully the amount of work with pick up soon, but I must admit I still miss my students in Pamplona…
MORE HOBBIES 20.09.2016
I love cooking (and eating, I´m basque!!). My favorite celebrity chef in UK is Rick Stein. He´s hugely enthusiastic and transmits very well the experiences he lives while cooking during his journeys (you can find his videos on youtube, worth watching!). I also like Jose Pizarro, who I was lucky to meet during my time working as a chef in Harrods. In Spain, Arguiñano is my favourite communicator, very practical and direct. But away from celebrities (for the time being)…my favorite chef is by far Jose Luis García Mascaraque, MI MAESTRO. He now runs the restaurant-school VIVA TAPAS BAR in Valencia… xxx More next week
I love farms, I feel very privileged because I live in a cottage on a mountain near Bilbao. Here’s one of my favourite farmshops in UK: knitsleyfarmshop.co.uk
For those of you who don´t know what a farmshop is I would describe it as a combination of a farm, a shop, a restaurant and a classroom where workshops related to fruit, veg, plants and cookery take place… More next week… xxx
READY, STEADY… 12.09.2016
Nearly ready for action! xxx A punto de pasar a la accion!
2ND ENTRY 04.09.2016
Well it wasn´t that difficult after all…xxx Bueno, pues tampoco era tan difícil…
1ST ENTRY 23.07.2016
Finally I´ve started my blog! It hasn´t been easy, believe me! I can easily do things in English but when it comes to IT, I couldn´t be more useless…xxx Por fin he empezado mi blog! No ha sido fácil, en serio! Puedo hacer muchas cosas en Inglés pero cuando se trata de Informática, soy un desastre total…