Archive for the ‘Questions in Class’ 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



Books. Rosa Parks: My Story (edited)

August 31, 2013

rosaparksmystoryIn our next 2013-14 school year one of my Reading proposals (in state-run adult language learning) will be this autobiography by Rosa Parks, the US American Civil Rights activist. I hope you can relate this to the 15M movement and all the (pragmatic, meaning nonreligious) nonviolent struggle happening today in the world. I have created three webpages on for this book.

  1. The first one includes links to the other two and a listening activity, where you will hear Rosa Parks’s voice, and find a little thought about nonviolence and violence, among other things. I should include links to a few places and some videos, and I will. Check the homepage out.
  2. Then I have selected some excerpts so students get a feel of the English used in the book, and the stories told in it! But I have also written an introduction aimed at helping students notice things they might miss. Please, let me know what you think. As you know, I’m very much into dialog and critical thinking! 🙂 Check out the excerpts.
  3. The third webpage is a Glossary of Legal Terms in Context: English/Spanish. Check the Glossary out.  I have to say I have just brainstormed a bit for the other Glossary I would like to include (see page 1), which is one on social/nonviolent struggle, perhaps even beyond the historic events depicted in this book.

Anyway, here are the links. Hope it’s useful and enjoyable!


Permission for the YouTube Video

June 12, 2013

Dear students,

As you know I published some videos of yours and do not have your written permission. Here is the link to the Form, in case you can print it, fill it in/our, and bring it to the school. If you can’t I’ll try to make some copies to leave in Conserjería, or in the Department if janitors refuse to be in charge of that.

If I weren’t at our school, and you bring it, you can leave it at Conserjería (each of us teachers have a tray). Thanks so much! I really need: Silvia’s, Laura’s, Roberto’s (minimum) but also that of Roberto’s classmates, except Juancar!

Thanks, Teresa, for reminding me of this! I had TOTALLY forgot!!! eek!!! 🙂


Dear Intermedio 2’s!

June 12, 2013

Well, it’s over! Congratulations for coming to the exam, and surviving the experience! 🙂 Fortunately, it was not too hot!! I was dreading that!

Let’s hope you get the results you expect to get. I’m also hoping the people I believe are ready for a new course pass, of course! I have my own little professional opinion! 😀 (It’s most of you, of course!)

Anyway, the exam is like a mined field. How I hate it!

I’m sorry I couldn’t be talkative and friendly. We’re exhausted, and this week is going to be my worst.

PUBLICACIÓN NOTAS ESCRITO + REVISIÓN. Remember I’ll publish the marks of the Written Part (Reading, Listening and Writing) at 19:30 (or later on in the evening, depending on the oral exams I have to give before!!! So please wait in class or in silence in the corridor if I’m late, OK?) on June 18. (BUT I’ll probably type in those marks on the private area of the school’s website the night before. This is not announced because I’m not sure I will be able to do that and as you know I have no legal duty to do that at this point, OK?) If you had failed any of the parts you would have to come to Revisión at 20.00. I’ll be in our classroom.

Then the orals are on the 20th, 21st, and 24th. You don’t have to come if you have failed any of the other parts, because the new law says you have to take the four-part exam again in September.

Please, prepare your oral well even if you think you might not pass the Written part. You’re here to learn English to communicate in life, not just to study a certain set of days “to pass an exam”. (I know this sounds crazy, but it’s a typical misperception among Spanish language students!) Total exposure to listening to English + listen & repeat (textbook audios, podcasts) + practice timed speaking. And practice fixing your mistakes as you speak, or better still, not making them! 😉 Think about scenarios where you might have communication problems and prepare sentences to fix them, too.

Hugs to all, congratulations again, and hopefully… see you soon! For those of you I won’t be seeing again (like wonderful Alba, who can’t make it to the oral anyway, or Felipe, who is on his end-of-course school trip), best of luck in life, tons of loving and solidarity!


Some thoughts on learning (edited)

June 8, 2013

Learning should be like a journey, an event where exploration and discovery take place, this is, where limits dissolve and we move more freely and also beyond.

A learning year should never leave you untouched, as a person, as a Some One. It should allow you to be better, both as an individual and as a social being.

Exams turn out to be a thin slice of this cake. The least meaningful part. The red tape. ADDED LATER: Though, as you can see from my notes on and here, I use exams as excuses for some meaningful learning too! 🙂

Language learning is about communicating. Communicating is about learning about oneself and others, it’s about learning to live with oneself and with others, it’s about building realities (living, life) together. Whether we like it or not, whether we have such purpose or not, the fact is that through communication we build our society, the social mechanisms that have an impact on our lives. We should acknowledge such power and use it for the general good and also to improve the quality of our daily lives.

What do you think? What’s your experience? How do you relate to learning? How much learning do you think you do in life?


Shipping and Transport, an Intermedio 2 interactive presentation!

June 6, 2013

Thanks, Roberto, and thanks to the students in his group, for taking part!


Activities you might’ve missed! (Listening / Speaking, Reading)

May 21, 2013

Audio Listen & Repeat based on a Speaking activity – Spain on holidays (Today in Intermedio I said I hadn’t recorded this audio, but I did!! It’s the paper classroom copies I’m giving away)

Timed Scanning – Reading Comprehension Test – On London digs and transport


Language Misperceptions in Spain. The language problem in monolingual communities

May 18, 2013

by michelle (

Because for 40 years we were told that in Spain people should speak Spanish, and people who belonged to bilingual cultural backgrounds were persecuted and banned from speaking their other language (which terrified everybody all the same), there is a Spanish-nationalism tradition in monolingual communities in Spain that exhibits (and exposes) this fact: those people’s very-aggressive hostility to bilingual communities. Why should they feel like that? Why such self-justified bellicose outrage? And what if there is resent among people’s whose language was banned? (Obviously, those who feel that need to overcome it, after decades of language revitalization policies and the end of past persecution.) What’s the big deal their heart warms more when they speak the language that was once persecuted? (If you were forced to stop speaking your family’s language, how would you feel?) Why should their heart necessarily love more Spanish than their community’s language? (I don’t mean to justify intolerance on anyone’s side, of course. I’m a free thinker and as such, I’m critical of all nationalisms, because nationalism is not — in my view — about collective identities but about collective impositions.)

In monolingual communities we are confronting a problem and people consistently refuse to tackle it: we need to consider, at least in Madrid, the kind of monolingual people who are always accusing bilingual people of intolerance are not aware that they are perpetuating a tradition which we should have already long overcome — the Spanish democracy re-started in 1976 and the 1978 Constitution included the acknowledgement that Spain was a multilingual country, a country where different cultures coexisted with the Spanish culture.

The 1978 Spanish Constitution recognizes the linguistic diversity in Spain in Article 3.3 where it states: “The richness of the linguistic varieties in Spain is a cultural heritage that will receive special respect and protection”. Co-official languages in Spain: Aranese (in danger of extinction), Basque, Catalan/Valencian and Galician. Other languages in Spain

Since the 1990s I’ve been bringing up this issue in my lessons, especially when I had Advanced level English students. I’ve tried to make people think critically about the biased opinions monolingual people help spread, distorting in this way the educational process of language and cultural respect to diversity in Spain. To this day (2013), I’m still shocked at the strength of people’s misperceptions, at how they defend these biased opinions as if this was a fundamental ideological issue in their lives, yes, a question of patriotism… Why should someone living in Madrid, an Autonomous Community in Spain, have a say about whether a Catalan person should not prefer to speak Catalan in Catalonia, another Autonomous Community in Spain? Why should they feel they can actually say / they have a “right” (!) to say that Catalans have to speak Spanish in Catalonia, when we’ve had Autonomous Communities – protecting cultural diversity – since the 1970s and 80s? From a democratic or linguistic stand, there is no way language and cultural diversity can be seen as threatening or negative for any community or any part of a community.

2009 Languages of SpainBy-default-mentality people (“ordinary” people) in monolingual communities in Spain say things as false, unfair and openly impolite as this — and it makes me feel so ashamed and overwhelmed that I can’t even react properly in spite of my knowledge and my role as a language teacher: “Galicians don’t know how to speak / write Spanish” (!! against ALL evidence!), “Catalans / Basques have to speak Spanish whether they like it or not because we are in Spain” (!! Francoist mentality!). Just two grotesque examples (grotesque, if we consider it from an informed and democratic standpoint). The fact is that monolingual communities speak only one language, and bilingual communities speak two, and they do. Why should monolingual people be unable to understand that there exists bilingualism in Spain? And that speaking your mother language or languages is a human right? And that languages that have been banned (!!) have needed language revitalization policies – which we have fortunately had since democracy started? Shockingly enough, in Madrid the educational authorities are pursuing bilingualism – not Quality Foreign Language Education, bilingualism they call it — with… English!, a language which is not in people’s cultural background, except people like myself, children from culturally-mixed marriages at the time when Franco, the dictator who isolated Spain from being in touch with the world (with the social movements in the 1960s for instance) welcomed US American airbases in the country. Except minority cases like my own, English is and will be a Foreign Language in Madrid (which doesn’t mean people can’t learn it well and also in the public education system, where we have qualified teachers like myself!)

People in monolingual communities in Spain like the Autonomous Community of Madrid should stop making the ignorant “jokes” and comments on bilingual people we hear every day. This shames us all. This speaks of people’s ignorance and prejudice, it does not “defend” any legitimate Cause. When we tackle the language issue we should exert some minimum respect, and express our questions and comments as such, rationally and with empathy (tactfully at least), because in our past there has existed a terrifying language reality that has made a lot of people suffer and we should not pretend Nothing happened. We should not use our questions and ideas as weapons for showing despise for a different language community. We should question our own perceptions and feelings (in monolingual communities), too, admitting we also have a trauma, the trauma of believing there are languages which are more important than others and should be imposed, if necessary.


“to be worth” + -ing

May 7, 2013

For your List of Mistakes. This LoM material came up in Complaint Letters written by AVANZADO 2 students:

“to be worth” + -ing – IS it WORTH leanING?

“Consequently, we concluded it would BE WORTH boardING the plane first.” (Very formal, too risky to use because then you need to sound this formal in the rest of the letter. This is why I always recommend you use semiformal language.)

“So we thought it would BE WORTH gettING on the plane first” (This can be used also in semiformal letters, like semiformal complaints at the B2 level. And it’s also OK for informal conversations, of course.)

With “it” it is very common in informal language, when you know what “it” is referring to. “It” operates as a reminder of an action you have mentioned before (ellipsis).

“So we thought it would BE WORTH IT” meaning “So we thought it would be worth getting on the plane first.”


Can we say “So we thought it would be WORTH IT TO get* on the plane first”?

Answer: In theory you can’t, but… It is common to hear (people speaking)/read (newspapers) — although not in British English

“So we thought it would BE WORTH IT TO get…” — The “it + infinitive” is not the case of…
“So we thought it would BE WORTH TO get…” — I think this is not ever heard anywhere.

So why do we hear “worth it to” if it’s meant to be wrong? Here is my guess: in this case people tend to combine it with the infinitive because (although this is not a grammar rule) intuitively they tend to associate the infinitive to present and future events (including future in the past), and the gerund to past events (as in “Hello” = Nice to meet you; “Good bye” = Nice meeting you” or the verbs that change their meaning depending on whether they are used with infinitive or gerund, like “remember”: Pres/Fut = “Remember to get the bread”, Past = “I remember spending hours with my cousins when I was a child”). This means that even though their Grammar Mind knows you should say “So we thought it would be worth getting on the plane first” considering “getting on the plane” is here a future in the past, they might then use “So we thought it would be worth it to get”

Then, there are more meanings and uses of “worth”, so post your questions if you have any on that.

Native speakers, linguists and teachers can also post freely to discuss the matters I address here!!! Thanks! 🙂


About EOI & Cambridge language exams in Madrid (Autonomous Community)

April 27, 2013

The EOI Intermedio exam is equivalent to the Cambridge PET exam. They’re both testing a B1 (CEFR) level exam. Scenario in June: If you failed your exams at EOI after having followed the school learning year and after having used a B2 level textbook, the problem is obviously the EOI exam, so you might want to try taking the equivalent Cambridge exam if you NEED the certificate. Some people in class have taken it recently and passed it! 🙂
The EOI Avanzado exam is equivalent to the Cambridge FCE exam. They’re both testing a B2 (CEFR) level. Scenario in June: If you failed your exams at EOI after having followed the school learning year and after having used a C1!! level textbook, the problem is obviously the EOI exam, so you might want to try taking the equivalent Cambridge exam if you NEED the certificate. I mean, don’t quit!

Why am I saying this? Because since 2009 EOI legislation and rules are upsetting all the system, presumably because the political intention is to close down EOI schools, to profit private language teaching schools. Certificate Exams have been targeted, of course: the four tests used to be evaluated individually and you had to get a 60% of correct answers to pass each. If you did pass the four, you got your certificate. If you failed one, or two… you could take the test of that part again in September. Considering the complete tests in June last two days, this was a relief, and fair. Nowadays failing one part in June involves having to take the four parts again in September. However, the new regulations impose, against all informed criteria, a very negative thing: The percentage of correct answers you need to have in each individual part is the same, a 60%, not less (not a 30 or 40%, which would be understandable, to make sure the person had a mininum skill in each of the 4 skills), which means examinees are subject to a DOUBLE evaluation system which no educational body ever requires or imposes. Let me illustrate with a typical case: Say you have a total of 78/100, a 78%. Well, if you have a 14/25 in one of the four parts, instead of a 15/25 (the 60%), which is the pass mark, you will fail even if your total is between 60 and 99/100!! Consequently, you’ll have to take the complete exam in September!!! Does that 1 point out of 100 mean the person has not achieved the tested level? No way. We could even consider a 10 point margin. Some schools do not publish the marks people get in their Written Part (Reading, Listening, Writing Tests) just in case they can avoid these cases: the case where the person has one 14/25 or two, or one 13/25, and could get a good mark in the Speaking Test, provided, of course the total is above the 60%. Because flunking people in this case would pose an ethical problem, and in terms of respecting the law, this measure can be defended, for very obviously they wouldn’t be giving a certificate to someone who does not deserve it.

The question is, How can a student feel when after learning he or she can’t pass an exam which is even under his or her actual level considering Intermedio 2, Avanzado 2 students use higher level textbooks because a B2 can be achieved in 4 years and 6 is far too many? Why don’t the authorities improve this situation? It’d be enough to ask for a min. 30% in each one of the four parts and a 60% in the four together. Well, informed analyses point to the fact that free adult language education in Spain is bound to extinction. Spain is the only EC country offering this amazing service, so for the past 10 years, politicians have been meddling with the law to prepare things for future privatization. A clear event hinting as this is that EOI language teachers are not called EOI language teachers anymore in recent legislation, but just “language teachers”. The idea is that when EOI close, if the authorities manage it, they’ll transfer these civil servants in secondary schools.

EOI = Escuela Oficial de Idiomas, State-run Adult Language Education in Spain


*ECUS Educational Development
*International House Madrid
British Council Madrid
Cambridge Schools Centre Madrid
Centro de Idiomas Universidad Carlos III  sólo estudiantes
Centro Superior de Idiomas Modernos Universidad Complutense sólo estudiantes
CESMA Business School

2013 DATES for EXAMS given by the BRITISH COUNCIL in MADRID: For PET (B1), for FCE (B2), for CAE (C1). Remember other places above also give them, and that you can also take online exams.

NOTICE that TAKING those EXAMS COSTS between 200-300 euros, approx., and that nowadays, what used to be free language course at EOIs cost 300 euros.

REMEMBER SOMETHING IMPORTANT FOR ANY TEST TAKEN ANYWHERE: You cannot bring your phone or any other electronic devices to your desk in the exam. Your centre will tell you where to put them during the exam.

At the end of each paper (e.g. the Writing paper, the Reading paper, etc.), the invigilator will tell you to stop writing. You must stop immediately.


Language is powerful! (audio)

March 18, 2013

Listen to this at Talking People Podcast episode

Here is the transcript


Language is powerful! Metaphors we live by: Argument is war

March 17, 2013

Listen to this at Talking People Podcast episode

Feminists are people who have been able to question their own conceptual system, the language they use to express it and the way they relate to their own selves and other people. We have actually noticed how our minds liberated and expanded as we realized for instance the importance of language in conditioning our understanding. On top of that, many of us have read and listened to people doing all kinds of research, more theoretical research but essential for human knowledge. Still, the value of feminist work on language is astounding. Unfortunately, most people, unaware of how their own conceptual systems are built and how language works to construct culture — mostly tradition — being unable to develop any feminist curiosity or feminist intelligence, feel entitled to despise and criticize what they are totally ignorant of.

I’m excerpting some thinking by a non-feminist around language, which offers the same rich ground of thought and action feminists offer when we analyze language. I find these ideas really interesting and they bring about the resources of feminism and nonviolent struggle, too — sources we should all be exploring to learn to build a better world.

EFL students will also find value in these ideas for improving their oral work at speaking tests and their ability to hold rational discussions. (You can read my notes on Holding Rational Discussions on the Speaking – Discussions section on Defending a position just means explaining your reasons to say something. Not agreeing should not mean fighting and repeating the same things over and over again. Agreeing on something is not One Winning The Other Losing, but both finding some constructive joint future action. If you collaborate, if you work together in your interaction or conversation, you will all win, so to say! If you don’t, you might all lose, to keep using this kind of violent language that has made us so violent when holding discussions!

It was not violence, but collaboration that developed the best in humanity in PreThemstory!

Metaphors We Live By, by George Lakoff & Mark Johnson (The University of Chicago Press, 1980)

Concepts We Live By. Chapter 1. Pages 3, 4, 5 [With my underlinings and comments]

Metaphor is for most people a device of the poetic imagination … a matter of extraordinary rather than ordinary language. Moreover, metaphor is typically viewed as characteristic of language alone, a matter of words rather than thought or action. For this reason, most people think they can get along perfectly well without metaphor. We have found, on the contrary, that metaphor is pervasive in everyday life, not just in language but in thought and action. Our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature.

The concepts that govern our thought are not just matters of the intellect. They also govern our everyday functioning, down to the most mundane details. Our concepts structure what we perceive, how we get around in the world, and how we relate to other people. Our conceptual system thus plays a central role in defining our everyday realities. If we are right in suggesting that our conceptual system is largely metaphorical, then the way we think, what we experience, and what we do every day is very much a matter of metaphor.

But our conceptual system is not something we are normally aware of. In most of the little things we do every day, we simply think and act more or less automatically along certain lines. Just what these lines are is by no means obvious. One way to find out is by looking at language. Since communication is based on the same conceptual system that we use in thinking and acting, language is an important source of evidence for what the system is like.

Primarily on the basis of linguistic evidence, we have found that most of our ordinary conceptual system is metaphorical in nature. And we have found a way to begin to identify in detail just what the metaphors are that structure how we perceive, how we think, and what we do.

To give some idea of what it could mean for a concept to be metaphorical and for such a concept to structure an everyday activity, let us start with the concept ARGUMENT and the conceptual metaphor ARGUMENT IS WAR. This metaphor is reflected in our everyday language by a wide variety of expresssions:


[Notice how language has always used the masculine. Why was that? Women were banned from thinking and education. Traditionally, they’ve been considered unfit for rational thinking. Of course, this is not true. We should all be unfit now for exerting patriarchal reasoning and we should all be finding ways to think beyond the patriarchal frame of mind, so solidly based on violence and misogyny (considering women inferior in everything). We’re developing Empathetic Rationality, reasoning which includes love or solidarity, a concern for life, and this is kinder, wiser, and better for our living together!]

Your claims are indefensible.He attacked every weak point in my argument.His  criticisms were right on target.I demolished his argument.I’ve never won an argument with him.You disagree? OK, shoot!If you use that strategy, he’ll wipe you out.He shot down all of my arguments.

It is important to see that we do not just talk about arguments in terms of war. We can actually win or lose arguments. We see the person we are arguying with as an opponent. We attack his [sic] positions and defend our own. We gain and lose ground. We plan and use strategies. If we find a position indefensible, we can abandon it and take a new line of attack. Many of the things we DO in arguying are partially structured by the concept of war. Though there is no physical battle, there is a verbal battle, and the structure of an argument — attack, defend, counterattack, etc. — reflects this. It is in this sense that the ARGUMENT IS WAR metaphor is one that we live by in this culture; it structures the actions we perform in arguying.

Try to imagine a culture were arguments are not viewed in terms of war [but in terms of collaborating in joint thinking, or to learn, to know, to solve problems], where no one wins or loses [but everybody learns a bit more about itself, people and/or the world], where there is no sense of attacking or defending, gaining or losing ground [but a sense of contributing ideas for joint analyses, and contributing experience for joint reflection]. …

Chapter 3. Page 10

… in the midst of a heated argument, when we are intent on attacking our opponent’s position and defending our own, we may lose sight of the cooperative aspects of arguing. Someone who is arguing with you can be viewed as giving you his [sic] time, a valued commodity, in an effort at mutual understanding [or joint pursuing of more knowledge and wisdom, or at problem-solving]. But when we are preoccupied with the battle aspects, we often lose sight of the cooperativeaspects [& knowledge building, problem-solving].

Well, I hope that you mull over all of these ideas, because we should really improve our way of viewing and performing discussions! In the same way we should learn to stop connecting love to obligation, for the latter degrades and distorts love!


Installations 2

March 14, 2013

gardenÁngeles: my installation for Ángeles would be outdoors. A secret garden. I mean, I would have to find a small garden, wild in its development, with areas where some flower projects would have been started. There would be stones arranged in some ways here and there. At times, there would have to be a cat too, or a small fox, or a rabbit, and of insects, of course! And at times too, a girl or two engrossed in some kind of exploration!

largenest_patbrookesAlicia: for Alicia, I would construct a very big nest, VERY big. Because twigs sting I would spread some hierbabuena leaves (mint is not exactly what hierbabuena is! Hierbabuena smells sweet and people in Morocco use it in their amazing tea, which is NOT mint!). There would also be cotton, spread a bit like threaded white cotton sugar candy. In the nest there would be a collection of objects: a microscope, a pair of knitted gloves, a very well underlined book, and lots of small glass containers (bottles, jars, test tubes). All would be clean, including with no labels, I mean, Some would be empty. One of them could have some kind of sand, an another some kind of colourful grains of whichever sort! Then there would be an old metal cookie box, too.


So — “dissecated” is not an option!

March 12, 2013

stuffed animals dissectedThanks to Alicia (Avanzado 2 Martes), we all found out I was wrong when I used “dissecated” today in class, to name animals that are dead and stuffed and dried! 😀 Never trust a teacher! 😀 😀 The funny thing is, I didn’t doubt! I thought that was the word! Not like at other times when I know I don’t know a word and I make it up!!! 😀 😀 (See if you can get me in one of these!) 😀

Alicia heard the word and looked it up! And she told me during the break. She’s that nice! She’s that intelligent! And of course, I suggested she contribute that information in class!

In a network of looking up stuff, Alicia contacted Ana, and Ana found that “dissect” had two meanings, though in specialized language, for science. “Dissect” meant split open an adorable animal to see what it had inside, and also stuff an animal.

I could’ve shut up just then, but I didn’t! Instead, I got further confused! I saw a dissected frog in my mind, and simply changed the topic: “Oh, yes, “dissect” — I knew the word, promise! I dissected frogs when I was a kid!” — So yes, I was confirming I had no notion about “disecar”!! 😀

I think Alicia will appreciate the post I found, full of STUFFED ANIMALS, DISSECTED!!


On Social activism and Achievement

March 12, 2013

Today Rubén (Avanzado 2 Martes) asked me what had we achieved when I was volunteering as a pacifist in a project in a country at war. This question is complex and deserves and analysis I have no time or mind to make just now! And the answer is as complex!! It’s like a few galaxies put together!

So I’d like to hint at possible answers with an analogy: what does a teacher achieve in a school year? Do we measure their achievement in terms of number of students who pass their finals? The teaching-learning experience is like an amazing journey. Wouldn’t this kind of measurement be far too poor? The teacher-student relationship is a very particular and amazing kind of relationship, when it actually has chances of developing. Do you believe that people passing exams would mirror achievement?

Helping people pass an exam if a very small part in my work as a teacher. My work is precious, far more complex, and this does not mean I ignore “the problem” (exams), and it doesn’t mean either all I do is well done. So I cannot measure my achievement as a teacher just by thinking of how many students passed their finals. If you ask me, as a teacher, I mean, I have to say I don’t know how to measure it because teaching is a very complex activity. But I do have a guiding star — I always try to offer the best of what I’m capable of, and this does not exclude paying attention, interacting, listening, and making mistakes, for mistakes are opportunities for discovery and exploration — and therefore for unexpected learning! When the year comes to an end, as a teacher, I’m exhausted and heartbroken because all of those very rich connections you have enjoyed throughout the year end. But then, a new stage begins: the new learning that holidays bring about, and this time you’re not in charge! And next, a new exciting school year, full of people to meet, to work with!

As a social activist, the first area of my achievement is myself. I profit from all my work for society, because I dissent and give myself the chance to grow, to pursue ideals and learn to live inspired by them! And how can I measure the rest? Should I say, “In Guatemala, our work helped many people not be kidnapped by death squads, tortured and murdered, and these people in turn, worked their lives out to bring a betterment to their society.” As you can see it’s getting harder to nail down… I could also say, “In Guatemala I learned about how to work through nonviolence for the betterment of society in the face of Low Intensity Warfare.” Hard to nail down, right? I could say, “X is alive because we helped,” much more specific, but — is this a self-contained description of my (our) achievement? Is this it? No, it isn’t. There is so much more! But I simply cannot explain comprehensively!

Here there is / was my first attempt to think in terms of achievement, and as I can see, I totally failed anyway! (oh, and here is Asking Questions in Church, btw!)

In a nutshell, I am my only “achievement,” a human being in interaction with other human beings, and the struggle never ends! 🙂

AFTERTHOUGHT: Perhaps, the deep reason is that actions in social activism are not about “convincing people to follow a certain ideology”, but “helping us all to build a less violent and unfair world”!


Why do people feel modern art is crap?

March 12, 2013

Are people aware of the implications of their beliefs around modern art? Do people know that some of the beliefs we individually have come from what power-structures have taught us?

Never before in patriarchal societies have we had the freedom we have today in terms of expressing ourselves. [Not in all the planet, of course. Let’s say in “societies questioning patriarchal order” (“developing societies”). However, since we do, since art is at our hands, and free to express whichever subjectivity we wish to express, people despise it. They find no merit in this.] And this is what most people think of art: it’s crap, it’s corrupt, artists are cheating us! There’s nothing for meaningful thought processes like knowing when to divide things us in parts and reconnect them in different ways.

Art is about humans expressing something. It’s a human need. So what’s wrong if people are trying to explore things and express their own very particular viewpoint or experience? Haven’t people had enough of “universal truths” with all the History we’ve been through and with what market dictates today, and mainstream media?

The Art Market is not art. It’s a market. It’s a market that sells art, that makes money by selling artwork.

Would people today prefer to live in a world like the world that power-holders in Ancient Egypt presented for over 3,000 years (was that the time? I’m not good at maths!)? A world where only ONE SOLE DEPICTION of the human body was considered valuable, good for a society?

The diversity we find in art today shows the diversity we are enjoying. We are not sentenced to death if we write poems, or model figurines, or paint pictures people in power don’t want to have around. We are just excluded from market.

… 🙂

Do people need art? It seems that now that art is at hand, people do not need power holders to keep them away from art — they do it themselves. This is self-repression. Is this what our freedom will be about? Not needing power-holders to exclude us from areas of human knowledge because we will exclude ourselves, willingly?!

The more we ignore, the more easily we despise, or underestimate…

Give art a chance. You might discover relevant things about yourself and the world!


Who Needs Feminism?

March 8, 2013 WNF – Start Your Own Guide 9-22





The World of AS & LIKE (3)

March 3, 2013

Common wording with AS

  • as + prep phrases: as in movies, as on Mondays
  • (examples) such as / like westerns
  • as well as (and this too / and also this)
  • the same AS
  • as you know
  • as I said before (informal: like I said before, right?)
  • as needed / required (often, formal, semiformal)
  • as agreed / as we agreed (idem)
  • as suggested / as you suggested (idem)
  • As a matter of fact, / In fact, / Actually,
  • As far as I’m concerned / As for me (informal),
  • As for (+ topic) / About (topic) / (Semi/formal:) With regard to (topic) / In regard to (topic) 
  • As long as I live! As long as you (still) like it!
  • As soon as we get there! As soon as we finish!

The World of AS & LIKE (2)

March 3, 2013


Traditionally, we EFL teachers in Spain have explained when to use “as” or “like” in the following way:

  • “LIKE” when what follows is a noun phrase (including pronouns and –ing nouns, of course). Examples: I’m like you! I’m as you are!
  • “AS” when what follows is a clause, meaning a Subject + Verb. Examples: I do the same(not so much: I do like you). I behave exactly as you do! Me, exactly like you! Exactly as you said!

However, in today’s English – because languages are ALIVE, never forget this, meaning They are constantly changing — native speakers have started to use “like + S + V” in informal spoken or written English. Examples: I’m like you are! I behave exactly like you behave!

What should you do in exams? (written or spoken). Well, if the situation or context for your task allows the use of informal language, you can use either of the two, but if the language you produce requires a more formal register, stick to what you always learned/learnt!

So — more on this last point:

British and US American Englishes

You can keep to the theoretical guideline explained here under “Comparing”, if you take the “like” below as part of the verb, “look like” (not “look” + “like”).
(And yes, there is another meaning to “look like” for both US and UK Englishes:
The girl looks like her sister. The girl and her sister look alike.)


  • US: The girl looks like she’s going to cry
  • UK: The girl looks as if she’s going to cry / The girl looks like she’s going to cry

However, we can use “like” like this, instead of “as if,” with other verbs: it sounds, it feels, they talk…

  • He’s acting as if he is in charge / like he’s in charge (informal)
  • He’s acting as if he was/were in charge (more unreal) like he was in charge (informal)
  • It sounds as if you were really upset about it (guessing = more unreal/tentative) / It sounds like you are really upset about it (more real, informal)
  • It feels as if it’s going to snow / as if it were going to snow (less real) / It feels like it’s going to snow…

The World of AS & LIKE (1)

March 3, 2013

In class, I’ve been clarifying a few things about “as” and “like” in Intermedio 2. I’m posting them now in case they’re of use to more people!

AS for roles

  • I earn a living as a teacher
  • Uma Thurman as Sissy Hankshaw in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues!
  • She worked as a neuroscience researcher in Greece for two years
  • When I was very poor, I used to use a sock as a percolator! To filter my coffee!
  • As your best friend, I think you should quit relationships that do not treat you well.
  • It was amazing – they were using pens and lids and things like that as musical instruments!

How good are you at self-assessment? (Av 2)

February 28, 2013

Teachers know a lot about this. Having to spend the academic year assessing students’ work, they develop some knowledge of the problems around self-assessment. Not only that, most teachers are lifelong learners, and have to assess their own work all the time. So one thing we teachers know is this: students are really bad at self-assessment. Their self-assessment world is primitive, it tends to be a black-and-white world, a deadly pendulum — the move from “The teacher flunked me!” to “I’ve always been really bad at this.” They move from sentencing teachers to not ever being heard to sentencing themselves to life-long incapacity.

So here is some advice. Mull over it. It’s more helpful than it may seem at first sight — and not only for language learning.

flyawayStop brainwashing yourself with sentences like “I’ve always been bad at this.” The more you repeat something, the more deeply it roots in you, becoming Reality. Politicians know this, business people, and war mongers, so that’s why the sentences they repeat the most are generally lies. They know lies become Reality if repeated ad nauseam. When you tell yourself and others that you are not good at something you are meant to be learning to be good at, you are not being critical, you are not using critical thinking. You are making sure you will never be good at that. That’s all you’re doing — making sure you remain incapable of overcoming some problem you feel you should be able to overcome. That’s irrational and self-destructive. So spread your wings and fly away from the cage!

The difference between critical thinking and self-destructive attitudes is precisely this — critical thinking allows us to move on, to learn, to grow, to outgrown what we are not good at. Self-destructive attitudes sentence us to remain in the well of not being able to improve in some skill, to learn about something. So if your self-assessment is you’re hopeless at something, you’re making a mistake you should fix. Fixing this will take time, so you need to get to work now, and keep working till you overcome it. That’s all. Intellectual work is like climbing a mountain. There’s risk all the time. There’s effort. Practice makes us stronger. And then we grow! And the feeling is amazing. And then you need more learning because your life becomes increasingly interesting and gives you such happiness! Learning is also like traveling! And there’s more — having the chance of learning along with other classmates is an amazing chance — take advantage of it, don’t waste it! All of the people in a class are part of an organic body that is learning together, not only individually. (For me, every year, with each group, I feel like I make an amazing journey, full of discovery, events, adventure! I don’t see why you shouldn’t feel that, too!! 😀 )

Get GrowingStudents — including adult learners — should pay more attention to teacher’s advice on how to work on things to succeed in their learning by actually getting started! Professionals of learning know how to ease the path to learning, and people who don’t know much about learning tend to fill the path to learning with obstacles. Learning is not magic. It is part of a PROCESS. And this process is complex and takes time. What teachers try to transmit with their stories and “tips” on learning deserves some attention. So before discarding the options they offer, if you have a learning problem, a performance problem, pay attention to what your teacher says, give that a try, keep at it for some time, until you master the technique, until you understand in depth the value of the idea your teacher has put forward. Then you will be ready to discard it, or improve it. Doing this before you’ve even tried is not critical thinking.

The Masked Procrastinator!So, get to work. Stop telling yourself you can’t learn. Stop pretending you know it all about why you can’t learn. Avoid stagnating in that horrible place, in that place that breaks your wings to fly away from those pits. Be a critical thinker and work to overcome your mistakes, weaknesses, fears, complexes, the lot! We are not doomed. Human minds are amazing and there is no limit to all the learning they can actually do!


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!


PS Week 4Feb + Unit 5 – don’t forget to bring your textbook to class

February 23, 2013

Week 4 February

Both unit 5’s, for Avanzado and Intermedio, are great units, you will enjoy, and useful for your learning.

As next week is devoted to oral practice, just in case you start talking about your things instead of doing that, here is an idea: bring the textbook to class, and if you find yourself running the risk of not doing oral practice or using the lesson to work on your English, decide to work together a bit on the textbook, as usual, reading out aloud and then discussing your answers or the topics.

Let’s see if this week I can have the chance to listen to the greater number of people possible. This will give me enough information to comment on communicative, textual and language questions we could review in class.


Useful Ideas to Analyze Rape (edited)

February 16, 2013

Well, after this week’s pioneering attempt 😀 for us to analyze/analyse rape in an adult education classroom, I’d like to share a few ideas — for in feminism there has been in-depth analysis for quite a few decades now.  After reading these ideas, do you think it would be easier to come up with ideas on how each of us can contribute to striving to stop rape?

RAPE HAPPENS EXTENSIVELY IN PATRIARCHAL SOCIETIES and it is related to LIMITING WOMEN’S FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT — patriarchal societies accept as “natural” that women’s freedom of movement should be limited instead of tackling why they can’t and educate men to change that. The underlying ideology here also shows a belief that it is “natural” there exist men who rape (in “peace situations”, mostly because women provoke, when they comply with what patriarchal values establish as sexy or pretty; at war, because they need to “fight the enemy humilliating Him by raping His women”).

RAPE IS GENDER VIOLENCE, this is, a particular form of violence that “men” use against “women” and men they feel don’t “deserve” the honor of being a man. (Can there be other reasons why a man would get raped by… other men?, women?, a person?)

RAPE IS UNRELATED TO SEX (to having sex). It is a form of torture.

RAPING IS NOT A BIOLOGICAL NEED — It’s cultural. Women, for instance, do have sexual needs and they don’t rape. A lot of men also have sexual needs and they don’t rape. Rape has nothing to do with sexual needs.

WE NEED TO PROTEST THE MARKET SYSTEM THAT CONNECTS RAPE TO SEXUAL INTERCOURSE because rape is not about pleasure but about torture and power-over: this happens extensively in the underworld of prostitution, pornography, advertisements, movies and TV series, teens magazines (consider all the market addressing little and older girls), with their pop icons, etc.

WE SHOULD MAKE QUESTIONS ABOUT WHAT WE FEEL, HOW WE VIEW RAPE SURVIVORS because they are victims of one of the most horrible crimes in humanity and should be listened to, treated with respect, and supported. We should also stop this silence around rape, because it traps these victims in a world of isolation and loneliness.

WE SHOULD LEARN FROM FEMINIST ANALYSES AND STOP SUSPECTING ANALYSES BY WOMEN WHO USE THEIR MINDS TO TRANSFORM INJUSTICE IN OUR SOCIETIES. We should stop obeying the patriarchal dogma that Women are Evil/Dangerous/Incapable of human intelligence. Also, intellectual activity cannot develop healthily without freedom of thought, without an openess to listen, without dialog/dialogue. We can learn from women, not only when they are transmitting patriarchal ideas.


Thanks to the conversation we’re having in the comments posted here, I’m including another useful point:

WHEN YOU DISCUSS RAPE, be aware of this: are you bringing up topics that divert our attention from focusing on the proposoed analysis of why men rape women, of why it is widespread on this planet that men rape women — and not that ANY person rapes ANY person? Check if you have had enough of analyzing the most widespread gender problems, problems affecting most people and you can really move on to focusing on less widespread but connected problems.

Not in order to give them less importance, of course, but to be able to develop a rational analysis. For instance, it is terrible men rape men, too, but if we are speaking about an invisible widespread problem of men raping women, can we speak about this first? Then, we can analyse more things! It is very common when you bring this issue up that people react mentioning exceptions like: men raped by men, women raping men (??), women helping men to rape (but not men helping men to rape, which is one of the most widespread and terrifying realities women face in the world!)…


For Av2 Lunes: Thanks for a lovely lesson!

February 14, 2013

Today it was the 13th, but we celebrated One Billion Rising. I would like to thank Irene for her help in the presentation of our activities today (and fanatically congratulate her for her amazing English! It seems that when we speak about things we care for allowing caring for language we can reach for the moon!), and then all the people who constructed a very respectful (sensitive and intelligent?) conversation, not falling into the usual “patriarchal war of the sexes” (or Men’s war against women, to put it more truthfully). It was so interesting, that we kept at it, in togetherness! We shared ideas, experiences, and people were not judgemental, but collaborative… By the way, people, here is the link to the feminist linguist that offers her book for free too on her website. The book you can start with is 45 pages, De lengua, diferencia y contexto, and its here — watch the video, too! (It was about a huge imbecility the Royal Academy of Dead Language, or RAE, stated somewhere!)

So we will be reading the stories later on, after this craze of exam format exercises is over! We’ll need a darn good break! And those stories are a gift! Then, we will also list ideas to fight rape later on.

Then, for the second half of the lesson, I read out the handout by Men Can Stop Rape, people took notes and then we had small groups working together to explore ideas that could be useful to get us all involved in fighting against rape.

I had the chance to talk for a bit with the people in a group who (by chance) was men-only, and they told me that after considering the points of the MCSR handout they thought the key to all of them was listening to women, learning to walk in their shoes. That would breed empathy. And empathy is crucial for making us not do to others what we would not want anyone to do to us. I asked them if they thought it’d be interesting to do some joint and individual thinking around Manhood, Womanhood, and… let’s call it Personhood!! And they thought it would be good! So I might prepare a game or a kind of exercise as a warm-up or something!

carita_beatingheartTime flew and we had no left for a Plenary, but each group told me they would share later on whenever we got the chance.

Thanks to all, for coming and taking such an active part!


Two language questions by Avanzado 2 students

January 31, 2013

I would like to share with you two interesting questions: one posed by Ana & Pablo, in the Avanzado 2 Lunes group, and another posed today by Josemaría, in the other Av2 group.

  • The first question is, when do we use “taste(s)” as a noun, meaning instead of “likes & dislikes”?
  • The second is about the language in audio 4.10, why is “before I went” (a gerund is also possible, “before going”) in the past simple in this sentence, “This morning started badly because I needed to make a doctor’s appointment before I went to work, but the surgery was engaged for half an hour.”

I will edit this message in a few days, to include the answers. If you know the answers, you’re welcome to post here, or if you’re coming to class, to tell us in class!

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