Archive for the ‘Functional Translation’ Category


C1 Resource Pack!!

January 10, 2017

I just published / I’ve just published my notes to help advanced students learn to learn to become independent and resourcesful lifelong learners!

Check it all out on!

Direct link


Beginning of the learning year – some tips for learning English

September 3, 2013

A two-page document I’ve written for my students



Screenplay to work on your English!

June 13, 2013

best_exotic_marigold_hotel_ver2At last!!! Finished preparing the screenplay of the movie called The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel!

It’s taken me two months because I did it whenever I had some free time!

I’ve prepared this screenplay for me to use in class next year with Upper Intermediate and Advanced students. Teachers are welcome to use it, of course. And if you are a lifelong learner, you might want to use at home to work on your English.

the-best-exotic-marigold-hotel-bk13 (44 pdf pages – the two last are ideas for activities!)


Speaking Activity – Spain on holidays – Audio

April 24, 2013

We recorded the Listen & Repeat of useful language at the Intermedio 2 group, so you can practice sentences about planning a holiday in Madrid, Spain for English-speaking people.


Speaking Activity (visiting Madrid, Spain)

April 22, 2013

In class, we’ll only have classroom copies (15! to share in pairs), so you can print it if you want to have your own copy! Thanks! And sorry about that. Cuts are getting inbelievable!

speaking-activity-Spain (2 pages)

Remember that English-speaking friends can come from different countries! Canada / Canadians (French Canadians / English-speaking Canadians), US Americans, Hawaians, people from Trinidad & Tobago /tobeigo/, Australians (Aussies) and New Zealanders (Kiwis), Irish people, British people (Scottish, from Wales, English), Indian people, South Africans…

If you think it’d be useful, I can record a Listen & Repeat episode.


Example Brainstorming for Language (Unit 7, C1) – Productive Skills

April 14, 2013

When learning a language, you should collect useful language based on the language items you are learning. I did this with the language items in the Grammar Bank of Unit 7 (New English File Advanced – the textbook being used by Avanzado 2 students) to show you what I mean. The “brainstorming” part comes in when you pick the sentence which will remind you of the structure. So, yes, it’s not a true brainstorming exercise — words just do what they can! 🙂 Most of the times, it’s useless to jot down words in isolation equalled to a single word in your own language. Useless and misleading and unreal. You should write down the word in English you want to learn, and then look for sentences where it is used and you understand its use (underline the word so it stands out). You should not depend on dictionaries for this, for in real life (and in exams) you cannot use them, and you have to have developed enough skills to work things out in spite of unknown words, at least for many of the times.

When students have to do a writing assignment or when they have a few minutes to think about what they are going to say on a given topic what I recommend they do is that they brainstorm for language: what tenses can I use?, what kind of clauses? (if– clauses, because, although, time clauses: before + –ing, while past cont. then past simple, relative clauses without the relative pronoun…), infinitive / gerund / participle structures, what about modals? A little Saxon Genitive here, other possessives, –ing/-ed adjectives, comparatives, superlatives, “It” subjects, indirect questions preceded by “I don’t know”, “I can’t remember”… Of course, then you have expressions, vocabulary, to make your range rich, but you should also consider morphosyntaxis = grammar.

Two Intermedio 2 students who did this very well in an oral performance are Laura and Isabel, so check out their work! And adapt it to your level! More oral performances by students + videos by Avanzado 2 students with teacher’s written feedback. More videos by Avanzado 2 students: Pedimos el C1

So here’s the example of Brainstorming for Language at a C1 or Advanced level with the items learned in a unit. Once you know how to pronounce it well, you could record it saying each sentence twice, so that you automatize production and achieve fluency and accuracy!

Unit7_Brainstormingforlanguageitems_c1 (1 Word page)


Talking about the crisis

April 9, 2013

EFL students should not say

The main responsible for the crisis is the government

The responsible is…

Also the responsible are business people / multinationals / the wealthy (“the wealthy” is correct, yes)

This is WRONG in English

What can we say?

Post freely! We’ll appreciate! 🙂 And you could also be helping us improve this section on Talking People. Thanks!

Apart from this I have a question:  There’s widespread corruption among politicians, apparently. Well, that should be fixed, and we should fight to get that fixed. And get the money back. Then the political system needs relevant improvements. Consequently, we should put pressure so that this happens. But if we discard Politics as our way of organizing societies, which are the options? Should we go back to the military organizing our society (dictatorships)? Or further back to having religious leaders organizing society (they still have too much a say considering we are meant to respect women’s human rights. Anyway)?


Spanish speakers and the use of ‘will’ – or the question on expressing the future

April 4, 2013

“Spanish speakers and the use of ‘will’ – or the question on expressing the future” by michelle ford[1] (, 2013 – copyleft, just quote this line: authorship and website project)

This article is meant to be one in a series intended to explain why Spanish-speakers, particularly Spanish people, may sound impolite in English, particularly in Britain or Ireland – my explanation being it’s a language (& culture) problem. For EFL Spanish-speaking learners this article will help them improve their use of English and overcome this communication problem.

One thing is certain: English speakers, especially British speakers, have a way of approaching the notion of future action that is completely different to the Spanish-speaking way of approaching the future! For one thing, English speakers do not have future tenses (except the “Future Simple” or “Will” future), just different ways – based on verbal and prepositional phrases – to indicate – mark my words here – the degree of likelihood of occurrence of a future event. In other words, whether we can expect an event to happen and to which point. This entails a kind of commitment, too – when expressing plans or intentions, English speakers indicate a commitment to that happening. And that is actually why English speakers have this sophisticated system of expressing things about future events.

For the Spanish-speaking mind, none of this applies. In Spanish grammar, there exists a complete set of future tenses, but Spanish speakers do not feel committed to the future happening or not for their choice of tense! The use of a tense doesn’t mean anything in terms of how likely it is for the action to happen – at least as if compared to the case in English. The use of futures in Spanish is similar to the use of prepositions in Spanish: we have a great deal of prepositions, but manage with a few, which means, we’re not particularly concerned with accuracy. And this is something that relates to culture: if English-speakers rely on language uses and structures to mean a great number of things, Spanish-speakers rely on paralinguistic features (stress, rhythm, pitch, intonation) and body language including facial expressions. To illustrate this, in Spanish we can use the imperative with social relationships (the woman working in the neighborhood/neighbourhood bakery) and be perfectly polite, even affectionate.

So let us now consider what happens when Spanish speakers confront the task of having to express a future event. Even if their teachers explain how the “system” works for the futures (see my notes for Elementary/Pre-Intermediate students at, it will take them time to assimilate the information, time and practice! – which is understandable, because the frame of mind in terms of understanding “the future” is completely different in both languages. Until they reach the stage of deep understanding, they will tend to use “will” for expressing any kind of future. This puts them in awkward situations:

British host family: “Would you like to visit the British Library tomorrow?”

Spanish reply: “Yes, I will go.”

This is puzzling to hear for a number of different reasons. First, the way to reply to Invitations/Offerings (this is the language function that we need to consider) is not correct. For “Would you like…?” questions we can use “I’d love to,” “I’m terribly sorry. I can’t,” “Yes, please,” “No, thank you,” but not “Yes, I will.”

Then – what does this “Yes, I will go” mean? Is it indicating a spontaneous decision? The context is not quite right, so that’s not what would be understood in a first impression.  Is it indicating a promise? “Yes, I promise to go.” It doesn’t sound right either! It’s kind of extremely dramatic! For the Spanish-speaking mind this is the future tense, just indicating a future, but for the English-speaking mind this, if sorted out it must be a future, is a future for predictions, and replying with a prediction on your involvement in the action when you are invited or offered something sounds awkward, or impolite.

Spanish student in Britain, to British host family: “What will you do tomorrow?”

This can be puzzling to hear, because it could be interpreted as connoting things the Spanish speaker doesn’t really want to mean! The unmarked question for adults about their future actions is always with “going to” because we know that adults have plans and intentions. If we use “will” this could feel like we think those adults are incapable of having plans or intentions! These are OK sentences:

To a child: “What will you be when you grow up?” (here, “will” is not exactly about a future very much ahead, as Spanish speakers tend to interpret when they manage considering proximity in time, but as a future we know is just wishful thinking! (Actually I think adults should never ask this question to children!)

To a teenager in her/his last year of secondary education: “What are you going to do when you finish your studies here?” If you ask them, “What will you do when you finish here?” it’s because you know the person has no plans and intentions and you just want to know about her/his predictions!

To an adult: “What are you doing tomorrow?” or “What are you going to do tomorrow,” never “What will you do tomorrow?” if we’re thinking of ordinary life situations.

My mother to me when I told her I was going to travel the world when I was in my twenties: “Where will you sleep?” etc. This meant she knew I did not travel like tourists do, but like wanderers do!!

Well, I’ll stop here. Please post your comments, especially if you disagree with any of this, or you wish to add to it in some way, and feel free to post your questions, too!

[1] I am an EFL teacher in Spain, in public/state-run adult language education, and although I’m a Spanish/US American English speaker, as a I live in Europe, I have to include British English in my curricula.


“I want” or “I’d like”?

March 5, 2013

If you have to ask your teacher for your recording with feedback, you cannot say “I want my recording” because it sounds brutal!! If you need to do this, you are doing a REQUEST, this is, you are asking someone to do something for you, so you cannot use “I want” — you need to use “I’d like” or “Please, send me…” or “Could I have…?” or “Would you please send me …?” If you use “I want” it sounds exactly the same AS “Give me my recording!!”

You can use “I want” when you are not “wanting someone to do something for you,” as in, “I want to travel the world.” Of course, here, you can also use “I’d like” — it sounds a bit more like a wish, but also simply like a polite statement — but if you use “I want” it’s OK because you are not imposing anything on anyone!

So the key word and idea is IS IT A REQUEST? Or are you just informing about your preferences.

What about “want/like” with “you”?

What do you think?


Brainstorming on Language: ability

February 28, 2013

When you are asked to speak about a certain topic, you should try to brainstorm on which language items you can use to make your language range richer!

Here are some examples:

If you are asked to speak about your own experience with food, some of the language items you could use could be those meaning, expressing ability:

  • to be good/bad/… at …-ing: I’m not very good at cooking, but
  • can / can’t or cannot – I can make salad, and I can heat stuff in the microwave! I can fry an egg and boil rice, or spaghetti. But I can’t make potato omelette! 😦
  • know how to / don’t know how to – (you can then use the synonyms of “can/can’t”, just to show you also know them!) I know how to use the oven, so I can roast chicken, but I don’t know how to make quiche!

Well, these are just a few silly examples. But do you see my point? This IS brainstorming on language.

This technique is also useful when you are asked to write!


Clauses. Purpose (finalidad) – one or two subjects, and about the “so” confusion

February 22, 2013

CEFR B2 level and above. Think about these examples and how they work (function) in language (what they mean). Then, look for an example you can easily remember, and do some Oral Drilling with that structure.

We have various ways in which we can express purpose:

  • The Purpose Infinitive: “Why are you learning English? To travel the world!” “I am writing to suggest ways in which we can improve our fluency while speaking.” With this very common way to indicate purpose we need to have the same subject (“I”) for the two verbs (“learn”, “travel”).
  • So that” (not “So” = result!,* although it is true native speakers may be heard omitting the “that” in “so that”!) “We developed this project so that students could learn/were able to learn how to interact constructively.” This structure allows us to have two different subjects: If instead of two different subjects (“we”, “students”) for the two different tenses (“developed”, “could learn how to/were able to”) we had a same subject (“we”), we could also say: “We developed this project to learn / so as to learn how to interact constructively.”
  • So as to“: this is just like the Purpose Infinitive. “I’m learning English so as to (be able to) travel the world.” Here, again, we need the same subject in both sentences (I learn, I’ll travel).
  • Formal writing: in order to. “We are conducting this survey in order to assess the issue of happiness at work / at the workplace.”

* So = result. Example: It’s raining, so don’t forget to take your umbrella!

There are two other structures indicating purpose you could do some oral drilling on!

  • For + Object + Full Infinitive: This technique is good for us to improve our fluency.
  • For + –ing verb: This tecnique is good for improving fluency.

Compare with:

  • So that + Subject + Verb: She gave us these notes so that we could (possibility) improve our fluency / so that we were able to (ability) improve our fluency.

Speaking about Elderly People

February 21, 2013

At the CEFR B2 level people may be asked to speak about The elderly / Elderly people.

Old people’s homes can be nursing homes or retirement homes. From wikipedia: “A nursing home provides a type of residential care. Residents include the elderly and younger adults with physical or mental disabilities”, “A retirement home is a multi-residence housing facility intended for senior citizens” (another way to call elderly people).  Now — retirement communities and retirement villages are further options (see below). Then — younger generations can take care of their elderly, too. Finally, some elderly people want to live in their own houses while they manage, and even when they don’t! There are personal care aides /aids/. Some more useful vocabulary: retirement benefit / (old-age) pension; pensioner(s).

About opening sentences connecting the issue of elderly people and the economic crisis, here is an example: “Due to the rising rates of unemployment and the consequent economic crisis, the elderly in Spain are actually providing food, shelter, or money for their younger relatives — children and even grandchildren!”

  • Article: Pro’s and Con’s of Living in a Retirement Village (Australian English: spelling like in the UK). Two interesting points they make: Security. Elderly people are particularly vulnerable to home invasion and if they do not feel safe in their home or neighbourhood, it can cause a great deal of stress. Social life. Retirement communities are full of like-minded people who generally want the same things out of life that you do. This can make for a busy social life, if that’s what you want!
  • Brochure, 2 pdf pages, great read /riid/ to pick up vocabulary and practice “timed scanning”) in Canadian English (UK spelling, too).
  • Video, 1 min., British English. Social care worker working with the elderly, 3 min.
  • Video Personal and Home Care Aides Job Description, 2min, US American English

grannywantedOnce I was given this topic in a Writing exam. We were asked to write about pros and cons of having elderly people in an elderly people’s home or in their children’s home. Examinees wrote an argumentative essay. I thought of something different: I wrote a news story about an elderly woman who had gone into hiding because her children wanted to take her to their home, or take her to an old people’s home, and she refused to accept any of those two options. She wanted to be left alone! I had lots of fun writing the piece, and examiners checking it too! 🙂 The headline was: GRANNY WANTED, and I quoted her like journalists do! (a good journalist would never disclose its sources!)


LoM: when to use “could” & “would be able to”

February 19, 2013

If you need to make a proposal, you will be using “could”: “In the past days, I’ve been thinking about activities we could do in class to improve our oral skill.” Here, we cannot use “would be able to do” because this wording indicates ability, not a proposal.

However, you could say (proposal): “We could prepare (proposal) Oral Presentations in small groups. In this way, we would be able to overcome (ability) our fear of speaking in public, because we would do it as a team.”

It’s true it can be tricky to work this out. Just keep in mind you need to consider the other elements in the sentence, the supporting elements, so to say, like “In this way.”

What would you say?:

Case 1: a) “You could choose a few student to perform a speaking task every week” or b) “You would be able to choose a few students to…”

Case 2: a) “If we were willing to speak in public, you would be able to choose a few students to prepare monologs” or b) “If we were willing to speak in public, you could choose a few students to prepare monologs.”

Think about it!


In spite of people knowing this, there are numerous questions about its use!

February 18, 2013

Here is a collection of Useful Language that might help you understand how to use: in spite of, in spite of the fact that, even though, although, despite… Consider these sentences and find your own examples. Post or comment in class.

Square brackets indicate the addition of a clause (subordinada).

  • These days online dating has grown in popularity [in spite of people are still doubtful doubting whether it is a safe way to meet or flirt with others.]  (C1 level)
    • “in spite of” + –ing verb making the sentence “people (not “online dating”) doubting” a kind of noun.
  • These days online dating has become more popular [in spite of the fact that* people are still doubting whether it is safe.]
    • *the fact that allows us to include a regular subject and personal verb (tense; here the present cont.)
  • [Although people are still wondering about its safety/how safe it is,] online dating is growing in popularity.
  • Notice the change here: which idea is in the main sentence and in the clause?: [Despite growing popularity,] people are still wondering how safe it is to socialize in this way.
    • *in spite of = despite

How to remember what admits what!

  • Despite – -ing verbs (verbs operating as nouns) and nouns: Despite knowing this, Despite being late, Despite the traffic jam, Despite the consensus…
  • In spite of – same as above: In spite of knowing this, In spite of being late, In spite of the traffic jam, In spite of the consensus…
  • In spite of the fact (that) – allows us to include a regular subject with its verb in a specific tense. This is necessary when the subject in the main sentence (These days ONLINE DATING has become more popular) is different from the subject in the clause (in spite of the fact that PEOPLE are doubting…)

“Making” someone “do” something (not “forcing”)

February 11, 2013

A common (language and ideological) mistake in Intermedio 2’s Writings — which I hope all of you can jot down in your List of Mistakes + Oral Drilling — is this:

– to force students to do their homework (and similar sentences).

In terms of LANGUAGE, the structure is:

– to MAKE learners* DO their homework

* adults who take courses just because they want to do so (in non-compulsory education) are learners — “students” is not a mistake, it’s OK, but you could use/learn “learners” too.

The IDEOLOGICAL mistake is:

– Teachers cannot MAKE an adult DO anything, so learners should stop using this idea. Teachers cannot make learners do their homework because learners are responsible for their own behavio(u)r, that’s why we call them adults. 😀 If learners do not do what they need to do when they enrol/enroll in /on a course they freely choose, the logical explanation is not that teachers fail to do their job properly. The fact that teachers are understanding and relate to learners respectfully (not “telling them off” as if they were little children!) should not lead people to assume teachers are not competent! – this is not logical reasoning / this does not make sense. Sadly, when learners “do their homework” is generally speaking when the course is expensive.


Speaking Tasks for B2 level students!

February 8, 2013

Femen_anorexic_models_3I have finally finished a two-page list of Speaking Tasks. It’s useful for people using the mentioned textbook, but it might be useful for more people, to get some sort of idea of topics dealt with at this level.


For my Intermedio 2 students: these topics are B2 topics, and your exam will be a B1 exam, so this is kind of esquizo!!! Anyway, you will be picking one to do in March at Plenary. There are three types. Have a look. Please, spread the word, so students never checking this out and never looking at the Bulleting Board in class get the news! If you people don’t do this activity in March, I’ll quit. With this, I feel more like your mother!! EEK!!! (I’m a teacher in adult language education!!)


News: FTranslation

January 15, 2013

As you will see, I’ve started a new category called Functional Translation (not literal translation), both for NI2 and NA2 (In NA2 Tuesdays, we’re doing bits at the very beginning of the lesson). It’s all based on your Grammar Bank exercises. Its aim is to check you have understood how to use it. The answers are posted as a Comment, and you need to enter the post / click on the title of the post to read the comments. You can post your questions, if you like, or make those questions in class. If you use one of those posts, and Like it, dig it, OK? Because I’d hate to be working like mad for nobody!

Keep in mind there’s not only one way to say things, so if your particular sentence is not among the answers, just ask. Or just post it with its corresponding number, to ask or to share your knowledge with us all.

As you can see, it’s not only that I’m trying to help you FIND TIME for your English (Nobody can learn a language just by going twice to class. language learning is highly time-consuming! I also know that!!). This method gives me tons of work, too. But our choices are this: just do what we can and mostly when we are together, or learn English to truly reach your level! See what I mean? You won’t be a fluent speaker or a competent listener if you don’t work at it!


Functional Translation: unit 1 (Avanzado 2)

January 14, 2013

Check the answers in the first comment posted here.

Based on New English File – Advanced, CEFR C1

Unit 1: Discourse markers (1): Linkers – Have – Pronouns

  1. Llegábamos muy tarde, así que cogimos un taxi.
  2. Cogimos un taxi para poder llegar a tiempo.
  3. El vuelo tenía retraso por la niebla.
  4. Han retrasado su vuelo por la tormenta.
  5. Hemos tenido un año muy malo. Con todo, todo el mundo aporta su granito y seguimos saliendo adelante.
  6. Aunque llegamos demasiado tarde, conseguimos ver a M.
  7. Aunque consigamos llegar, M. no a a estar! Seguro que se ha ido / marchado hace más de una hora!
  8. Para cuando lleguemos M. se habrá marchado.
  9. Bueno, tengo que irme.
  10. Compara “Tengo que hacer una llamada, disculpa” con “De lunes a viernes, tengo que madrugar” o “Madrugo de lunes a viernes”.
  11. ¿Tenemos que hacer este ejercicio?
  12. Antes de comprarme estas últimas gafas me hice la prueba de visión.
  13. ¿Y qué te has regalado (auto regalado)?
  14. Mira qué bolso he hecho (yo sola/o). Estoy muy orgullosa/o de mí misma/o.
  15. Mira qué bolso me he hecho.
  16. ¿Cómo se hace eso?
  17. Nunca se sabe…
  18. Le detuvieron.
  19. Nos dijeron que estabas fuera.
  20. No nos hablamos.
  21. Solía haber un cine aquí.
  22. Está cerca.
  23. Es probable que no esté de acuerdo / Probablemente, no estará de acuerdo (3 ways)
  24. En vez de eso, pásame la grapadora.
  25. Vamos a coger un taxi. Si no, no llegaremos nunca.

Functional Translation – Future verbal phrases in unit 3 (Int 2)

January 14, 2013

Functional (not literal!) Translation: FUTURE  – Answers to this exercise posted on the first comment. You need to “enter” the comment (click on its title) to see the comments.

Need to review this issue? (you learned it in previous years, that’s why it’s not in your textbook this year) Read my notes & examples

  1. -¿Qué vamos a hacer hoy (en clase, a la profesora)?
  2. -Vamos a trabajar en grupos pequeños. Tendréis que corregiros los ejercicios por corregir.
  3. –Alguien llama a la puerta…
  4. –¡¡Abro yo!!!
  5. – ¿Qué vas a hacer luego?
  6. – No sé. Me iré a estudiar…
  7. Hoy a las seis voy al dentista / tengo cita con el dentista…
  8. (Tu host family en Londres te acaba de decir que mañana te llevarán a la British Library y luego a… y tú les dices: ) Genial, entonces mañana vamos a la B.L y luego a…

In unit 3…

  1. El mes que viene pondrán en libertad ese preso. (pasiva; anuncio de planes programados)
  2. ¡Les van a detener! (pasiva; viendo a unas personas manifestándose y encadenándose a una valla y a la policía como yendo para allá).
  3. Esta semana empezaremos la unidad 4 (lo he planeado, programado)
  4. A estas horas el año que viene estaré viviendo y trabajando en Málaga (clue: This time next year)
  5. Para cuando llegue yo al cine, ya estaréis viendo la peli / la peli ya habrá empezado.
  6. A finales de junio habréis terminado vuestros exámenes.
  7. Si sigo ahorrando así, al final del año habré ahorrado X euros.
  8. El x del tiempo dice que bajarán las temperaturas (“tendremos las temperaturas más bajas”, como dice la gente extranjera anglófona cuando habla español) esta semana.
  9. Si seguimos contaminando el planeta así, para el 2025 se habrán derretido los polos (ESTA INFO ES FALSA. No tengo ni idea del tema!)
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