Posts Tagged ‘AVANZADO 2’


Unit 6 – what we’ll do in class in next two weeks

April 3, 2013

Intermedio 2:

pages 86 & 87 (pages 3 and 4 in the unit) (as pages 1 & 2 deal with remarkable men instead of with remarkable people, I suggest you also read one of the stories on remarkable girls that we got from the pack of stories in I Am an Emotional Creature. Btw, history about men is history about Mankind, but now that we now more about the importance of language in our conceptual system progressist / sensitive people are using Humankind when wanting to refer to the whole group, not only men),
pages 90 and 91 (pages 7 & 8 in the unit) – more to come!

Avanzado 2:

pages 84 and 85 (Travel – first two in unit), pages 90 and 91 (Pets – 7 and 8 in unit, I recommend you do the Reading in the previous two pages to get vocabulary)


A story on childhood memories and Greece and stuff

April 3, 2013

This one for Avanzado 2 students and anyone wanting to enjoy the story!


April is here! Two months left!

April 2, 2013

Dear students coming to our little state-run language school,

springIt’s April, and it’s May, and then June!!!, Exam Month for me (ugh! eek!) and when you will probably pass your final exam. (If you don’t, you’ll always have September, so move towards June with high hopes and a wise attitude: it’ll be your moment for Celebrating Knowledge!)

So — do as much as you can of unit 6 this month. Don’t do it all, select what is most useful. And considering the level is higher than the one you are required to have in your exams, skip whatever is harder. Ask me, in any case.

Remember to do your Writings too. One a month. I’m OK with two, but exceptionally. I get really dangerous if you make the same mistakes I corrected in previous work, so be careful: my new pair of Dr Martens have iron tips! For any extra writings, you need to talk to me.

Yes, we will work with the textbook, but this month I would like to listen to a monolog and a dialog or two interactions/dialogs in every lesson. This, done at Plenary, with my feedback which would be expanded to review language items, would take a minimum of half an hour. And if we have more performances than that, then that could become an hour! Then you would all be doing speaking exercises most of the days, and the rest would be for the textbook. Try to skip the listenings you think / see we’ll probably do in class. Ask me!

I’m still dealing with the requests of feedback and recordings, so please, bear with me.

I’ll be publishing more of your work: audios with transcripts and writings.


A 5-min monolog on Mainstream Medicine & Alternative Treatments

April 2, 2013

for learners taking tests at the B2 and C1 levels – Upper Intermediate and Advanced. With final comments on how to work on your speaking tasks at home.


New episode to help Intermediate/Advanced students in conversations!

April 1, 2013

Just recorded a little episode (listen & repeat) which will be particularly useful to English learners who may have to take part in (timed or real) conversations with any of these communicative aims: Organizing Events, Helping People, and Pros & Cons on Options. I have to say I kind of improvised the collection of sentences. Any English learner out there, if you want me to record whatever, you can post your own collection! 🙂

dowhatyouwantThis episode is found on the Talking People website, too. If you ENTER and then click USEFUL LANGUAGE and then USEFUL LANGUAGE FOR CONVERSATIONS, there you’ll be!

If you have any ideas on how I can tidy up the site, they’ll be welcome, too. The site wasn’t thought out but built as my own work as an EFL teacher developed, this is, all inspired in students’ needs! Hopefully, when I move south I’ll have more free time!


BACK!!!! (bye bye spring hols! ♥)

March 31, 2013

Hiya, dear all! Just back from being locked up in nature due to non-stop rain! I couldn’t even go for a quick stroll!!!

ghoststoriesmarujamalloshirleymanginiBUT — I’ve been reading a bit: ghost stories by women writers (I’ll bring a few copies of this one for the end-of-course goodbye raffle! because they are GREAT and the weeny presentations of the authors are like pebbles shining in crystal clear river waters! 😀 !) and about the Spanish painter and revolutionary (!) Maruja Mallo and the Avant Garde in Spain (you’ve got to get a copy of her bio by this US American woman. In Spanish it’s published by Circe but it costs about 30 euros!! It’s originally in English, yes! BUT IT COSTS 70 EUROS!!!). Then I’ve done a bit of translating for social activism: on Feminist Curiosity (bits of the intro) by Cynthia Enloe (it’ll get published on Mujer Palabra, in Activismo – Pacifismo feminista). Finally, I’ve been doing some writing (a poem on friendship lost, which turned out to be feminist as an accident, 😀 , well, when you develop a feminist intelligence it’s like when you understand something: you cannot stop using that understanding!) and a new feminist postcard (you can color it: 1 pdf page: cartel_colorear. I’ll do it in English soon-ish) which I think will help humanity to overcome all the hurt patriarchal values have done to human intelligence!).

Yes! Yes! And done a bit of work for you! I’ve written 1,000 words on Mainstream or Alternative Medicine so that Avanzado 2 people can listen to an example of a monolog on that (I need to record the audio now).  Then, I’ve prepared two special speaking activities. (Btw, remember to bring the handout with Three Proposals.) Here’s one: Next Tuesday, when we’re back to school (eek!!!!!!!!) I’ll order 50 copies of this one-page handout for a Timed Speaking Activitiy in the Avanzado 2 groups! I’ll give it to people in our first lesson together and you’ll do the looking up stuff before the lesson when you’ll actually “improvise the interaction.”

I hope you’ll enjoy it, and I also FUCKING HOPE YOU WILL FOLLOW MY INSTRUCTIONS!!! 😀

TIMEDSPEAKINGACTIVITYFORAVANZADO2  (FIXED LINK) – traveling to Greece ♥, Iceland ♥♥ or Cyprus

Hope you all enjoy your Sunday and hope it’s not a Rainday! Next Monday I’ll try to send my feedback on the recordings I did not manage to finish working on last week!


Happy spring holidays!

March 22, 2013

Dear all (to my students – the happy hols is for all, though! :D),

  • Remember we’ll be starting unit 6 when we’re back in class, and that we’ll be doing just part of the unit, for lack of time. So if you haven’t finished unit 5, try to do so. Remember using your audios should be your priority, because it helps you with oral communication and with your grammar and pronunciation! When we’re back, I hope we can listen to a few people holding timed conversations or timed monologues every day.
  • Remember to post your Installation, too (Avanzado 2) And Intermedios remember to listen to your classmates.
  • Here is some literature you can print and read, and there are audios for some of them.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday! Yaba daba doo!!!


About dashes, hyphenation and capitalization

March 22, 2013

Here are the notes I wrote in 2011, related to what we were talking about today in Avanzado 2!

Rubén, yummy cramberry cake! 😀 Scroll down a bit and read about the Installation I wrote on you! See if you like it.


Installations by Avanzado 2 students

March 20, 2013


 Avanzado 2 student can post here the installation they imagine about themselves. It’s a beautiful exercise showing some beautiful things about art and human beings. So come on! Don’t be shy! And if you think you are not creative, give it a try, too. A human mind can learn all kinds of things — just think of how very well we’ve learned the gender-system lesson of what a man and a woman are, in spite of the irrefutable fact that we’ve all got human minds (as if genitals were our prison!). Then we could publish them all on the website! IMAGINATION TO POWER! 😀 TIPS: To post your “comment” click on the title of this post. Remember it’s better to write your message first in your computer and then just copy and paste. If you have any trouble posting your comment here, send it to my email and I’ll post it for you.


Installations 3

March 20, 2013

I have to say that some adorable students in the Avanzado 2 Lunes group shared their own ideas about their own installations, and that I’d love to publish those!! If you send them to me, I can post them, or better still, publish anybody’s (come on, peeps, imagination to power!) on the site.

Felicia – my installation for Felicia would require three walls, one white with a long and wide window pane. In the middle of the space there would be a large ebony table with a leather bound agenda and a pen, and also a bowl of fruit! On one of the two side walls there would be creepers and plants growing kind of wild! On the other, a bit away from the wall, and lined along the wall, as temporarily, a biombo (shade).

ebonytable SONY DSC

Rubén – my installation for Rubén would be kind of abstract. To access his installation, we would have to walk up some metal steps, which would lead to a glass-floor catwalk (so to say). The glass would be tinted sky blue. Looking down we would see the floor covered in sands of different types. I would have drawn with my fingers a series of lines and squares and circles and stuff so that it would look like a circuit of some sort!


The Story of Stuff

March 19, 2013

This is a must watch for Avanzado 2 students. 20 minutes. It’ll help you with Useful Language and ideas to tackle a diversity of topics, from Consumerism to Climate change!

I downloaded it and have it in a DVD, and my plan is for us to watch it in class any day soon! But it’d be a blast if some students who watched it decided to present it in class, and prepared a kind of listening activity or discussion activity for After Watching! Just let me know.

You can also use the materials other students created for their OP on Story of Stuff! Have a look here!


The Story of Bottled Water

March 19, 2013

Here is the video Avanzado 2 students can watch to tell us about it next day (or after the spring holidays) in class!

(Please, don’t use subtitles in ANY language! The point is you get used to listening and understanding! The Onion Approach — watching it a few times — is much better for your English. And you will actually notice your progress on the spot!)

We can have a group telling us about it all, and then Q&A and discussing stuff!


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.


How Art Made the World! (updated)

March 14, 2013

March 13: Laura and Juanma told us about finding the documentary on YouTube! The complete episode 1! So people, use it to learn more, and see if you can prepare a re-telling of what you learned. Also, if you missed these lessons, print the worksheet below and do it while you watch it a couple of times. Next week we’ll correct the second page. Today we only had time for correcting the first, after watching it a second time.

March 4, 2013: This week we’ll be have pairs and groups of three doing their oral interaction at Plenary, but in our second lesson this week, in its second half (the break will be a bit earlier, I presume), we’ll be watching the first episode of this amazing BBC documentary on Art.

How_Art_Made_the_World (2 Word pages)

The documentary is about how we humans depict the human body. This episode starts in prehistory with the venuses /vínusis/ — and it’s a pre-HIStory, yes — you’ll see why you never visualize women artists, which does not make any sense, really! Then it highlights the fact that Egyptians depicted the human body in the same way for … how many years?! And attempts to explain why. The most impressive part is when we get to Ancient Greece! So don’t miss the lesson! We’ll watch it once this week and again next week, for discussions in small groups and at plenary.

Here is a video where you can listen to Sara, an Avanzado 2 student I once had. She volunteered to do an Oral Presentation on the fourth, I think, episode, which is about how Politics has used Images to make people do and believe things! Enjoy!


Installations 1

March 12, 2013

weaving-silkToday in Avanzado 2 people were trying to imagine what kind of installation they would put together if they wanted to tell people about themselves, as a self-portrait. Because I was bored and had no one to talk to, 😀 I wondered how I would portray students! Que tengo mucho peligro! 😀

María — I thought I’d portray María as a tapestry. It would have to be a silk tapestry, full of bright colors but also with less defined areas and with areas of very subtle hues. When people looked at it, they would take in how skillfully weaved it was! All the care in world put into its making!

treeinbubbleJosemaría R. — On second thoughts, I have to say I was not right in picking an olive tree. Although olive trees are beautiful, they are not the kind of beautiful Josemaría is! 😀  So I would have to work more on the idea of a tree. I’d place the tree in a way in which we would be aware that it’s got roots. Just imagine a whole tree without the ground. Yes, in the air! Oh, got it! It would be in a container full of water!

aparadordevitrinaAna — for her installation, I would pick one of those pieces of furniture which is key in the dining/sitting room, and which is like a chest of drawers but has its top half with glass, so you can see through. The wood would be really solid and beautiful. The design would be simple and beautiful. And behind the glass we would be able to see some precious objects of Ana’s! It wouldn’t be cluttered. Just a few. Perhaps some free space too. And what about the drawers…? Ah!? Ana, tell us!
I would place this piece of furniture in a well-lighted space and I’d probably add a couple of huge plant pots, but I’m not sure about this! (By the way, here’s the exhibition Ana told us about!)

home-designOscar — my installation for Oscar would require three long (and wide) window panes arranged as half of an hexagon, like in this Hopper picture. But we would see them from the inside and as our background. Then there would be a big beautiful light brown wooden table. It would be placed as if tracing a vertical line towards the windows. Oscar’s seat would be with its back to the windows, the chair would be drawn out as if he had just left. On the table we would see a newspaper. Aold_typewriternd some delicious natural orange juice shining in the morning light. On the left, at the longest side of the table, yes, there would be a typewriter. And next to the table, closer to the spectator, there would be a waste paperback, full of balled pieces of paper. The space should have a lot of warm morning light!

By the way, doesn’t this remind you of the game, “If X were music,… / If X were a period in History, … / If X were an object, …/ If X were a smell, …, what would he/she be?


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!


Beer from Belgium is awesome, British “awesome”!

March 10, 2013

So you are out there, people! I mean, also, my adorable students! OK, then. I’ve been checking the mons. the people sent me today. Yes, because next week I’ll be getting Writings, and I want to focus on feedback on the interactions as well. As a teacher, I have to pretend I’m capable of ordering the universe!

So — The only one  I got today and I haven’t been able to work on is Ana’s (hiya!), but right now I’m kind of tipsy! So I’ll have to wait till after dinner, or possibly till tomorrow eve! Belgian beer is the BEST in the world. But it does make you tipsy — drunk, really! And even hallucinate if you drink it like we drink “cañas” (small glasses of beer we have while having “tapas” and chatting away like maniacs!)!

Because Belgian beer is alien to this planet.

Hurray for Belgian beer!


Finished monologs! + Lesson Plans

March 10, 2013

I finally finished sending out recordings and feedback on your monologs (intermedio 2 and avanzado 2). To my knowledge, now I just have to work on the requested interactions.

Next week: bring textbook. We’ll check your work on unit 5 and every day listen to 2-6 people!


Help! Transcripts of your work!

March 6, 2013

Dear students,

Your speaking tasks are great, and one can see how you improve your fluency and accuracy as you use the Onion Approach! (doing the same task once and again, considering my feedback and to file a final version) SO — congratulations!!

As I have quite a few recording to publish on Talking People, I would like to ask you to give me a hand:

Can you send me the transcript? In this way, I would just typeover in block letters any corrections the task might need!

If you can’t I’ll have to do it myself, so, I mean, I would still publish your work.

Just as a reminder, this is the section where your work would be:



“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?


Inviting Av2 (B2 – Upper Intermediate) students to do Oral Presentations

March 4, 2013

Some years ago, Raúl gave an OP on his Learning to Listen experience. I hope he inspires you!

Raúl mentions “garden paths” but that is not the name of the kind of mistake. My wrong, so sorry about that! What happened to him, what he misheard, that kind of mistake is called “mondegreens” in linguistics. Here is a worksheet I wrote a few years ago explaining Mistakes by Native Speakers, to cheer students up! Anyway, in some group this year I mentioned a very famous mondegreen, based on one of Dylan’s songs, “Dead ants are my friends, they’re blowing in the wind” 😀

lexical_mistakesbynatives (1 Word page)

Oh, you can base our OP on your adorable textbook, on the language you learn from it, I mean!


Publishing your work on

March 3, 2013

Hopefully in this upcoming week I’ll be working on the talking people website, to publish: the minisagas people sent me, some of the Writings people sent in for publication, and some of the speaking performances. All of these, would appear linked on the Thanks! (Credits) section which I would start up for this 2012-13 Course, my last in public education in Madrid!

So if you have a contribution for this space (whichever, on TP we’re very open to all kinds of things), make sure you send it in this week. On Friday I’ll be celebrating March 8 at the demo! But after collecting your pieces this week and thinking about how to proceed, this is, on Sat and Sunday I’ll be doing that. Unless there’s loads and I need a couple of weekends! 🙂

Apart from that, remember to do your Writings. And that tomorrow we’re starting the Interactions (oral pair work).


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…

US or UK Englishes? Being consistent in Writing exercises

March 3, 2013

Generally speaking, US English spelling tends to register the word in its oldest spelling form especially when the pronunciation of the Word matches better that spelling, for instance: tigre (instead of UK tigre) or color (instead of UK colour). This is similar to what happens with Spanish in America and in Spain. Both for these places for English and Spanish, places where the language is youngest tend to use older forms in syntax and spelling.

The spelling differences are not always systematic (occurring in all of the cases). Also, (además), it is not uncommon that in both varieties of English you find people who use any of the forms, for instance, in the USA people could be using film, too, when talking about the kind of movie you see in art-house. Another common case is the specialization of one of the terms in the variety where the term is not that common: for instance, “biscuits” in the USA are unsweetened dinner or breakfast pastries. Terms traditionally assigned to one of the two varieties are often used in both!

Then we have variants which are more common internationally, but “internationally” means different things. Here in Spain, the international English choices are more influenced by British English in some cases, whereas in a more global international English, choices are often more influenced by US American English.

As an EFL, consider context, and feel free to choose: in writings, for instance, you could use US American English or British English standards. You may have to choose this or that word (city centre vs downtown, for instance). In spelling, check this, for instance:

Spelling Differences US American EnglishUS English British EnglishUK English
-or vs. -our Color, neighbor, favor, favorite, honor, Colour, neighbour, favour, favourite, honour
-er vs. -re Tiger, center*, theater Tigre, centre*, theatre
-ze vs. -se Analyze, criticize, memorize (learn by heart) Analyse, criticise, memorise
-og vs. -ogue Monolog, dialog, catalog Monologue, dialogue, catalogue
-ll vs. -l Travel-traveling-traveled Travel-travelling-travelled
-m vs. -mme Program Programme
-ck or -k vs. –que(non-systematic) Check
Regular vs irregular verb forms Learn-learned
-ce vs. –se (verbs/noun form pairs) To practice
some practice
To practise
some practice
-se vs. –ce (nouns) License (license plate)

This word is not “centro” referring to: the city/town centre in UK English, which is downtown in US English.

The list below was put together using the very precious resource of Hints and Things (


Useful Language around Discussions!

March 1, 2013

In case it’s useful!

Language for Discussions, by michelle (2011)

Who facilitates? – ¿Quién modera? – A facilitator is the person who by a low-profile intervention eases the path for the discussion to reach a good end. A facilitator can: give speaking turns, present the discussion, re-word opinions to clarify points or reduce tension, summarize what has been said to clarify points and/or help the discussion move on…
Do you need a time-keeper? – Necesitáis que alguien controle los tiempos?

  • A heated debate – The other day there was a heated debate in class. Really interesting!
  • A controversial topic – I would like to address this controversial topic because…
  • A biased opinion (prejudiced) – I believe that’s a biased opinion. The generalization is based just on one case!
  • An opinionated person (dogmatic, intolerant, narrow-minded… ?)
  • To try to agree on some point / measure – OK, then, but we’re running out of time and we should try to agree on something now. What should we do, then? Ask people to bring a euro each or try to fundraise in some other way?
  • To reach an agreement – They haven’t been able to reach an agreement yet.
  • To reach a dead end – OK, we’ve reached a dead end. Why don’t we take a break and meet again in half an hour?
  • To reach a consensus – We need to reach a consensus in this, so — you do not share P’s analysis but would you be OK with his/her answer to the problem provided we kept in mind what you say?
  • To exchange views – I love discussions. You learn a lot when you listen to people exchanging views!
  • A position / A stand point – So what’s your point? / standpoint / position?
  • To make a point – I would like to make a point.
  • To hold a discussion – Why don’t we hold a discussion on the pros and cons of social networks?
  • To end a discussion
  • To take a break
  • To move on to the next/following point
  • To go back to a point: Going back to the reasons why we use the Internet, I’d like to mention…
  • To do a recap(itulation)

A Language Function which is common in this kind of event (towards the end) is:

Making a proposal/suggestion…

  • to move on in terms of analysis: OK. Can we move on now (to the next point in our agenda)?
  • to move on in terms of time: We’re running out of time. Could we tackle the issue of who to invite?
  • to ease tensions: OK, there, people. Why don’t we take a break now? We could go out for a nice cup of coffee!
  • to solve the problem discussed: To avoid reaching a standstill, why don’t we try to find small things each of us could do to solve the problem?

Find others. (Review the Communicative Strategies 1 – 3 episodes on the TP Podcast)

More Useful Language (read them aloud! repeat them as many times as you can!)

  • I’ve got mixed feelings about this topic. On the one hand, I feel that… On the other, I can’t understand why…
  • Shall I start? / Go ahead, please. / I’d like to start by saying that …
  • My stand in this topic is: I’m for/against /… What’s your point?
  • That’s interesting. / What interesting insight.
  • I forgot what I was going to say. / Where was I?
  • OK, sorry, I didn’t mean it that way. What I wanted to say was/is…
  • Let me explain this. / Allow me to explain further. / I don’t know how to explain this. Let me think… / Let me try again. It’s complicated. / That’s a tricky question.
  • I’m confused. /I think that is confusing. / I don’t quite understand your point. / I don’t get your point. Can you give an example? / Can you expand further? / Can you develop that?
  • Allow me to clarify. What I actually wanted to say / what I meant was…
  • Hold on (a minute). / Wait a sec(ond). / Please, let me finish / Hold on — Let me say something / Let me reply to that./ Allow me to reply to that, if you will.
  • Can we find some common ground? / Can we agree on that? / We’re running out of time.
  • I cannot possibly agree with that. I’m sorry. / Well, I wish we could. Why don’t we take a break? / How about coming back to this later on?
  • Why is that (so)? / Can you explain that?
  • Please, don’t get upset. It’s just my view. I can’t help it! 😉

Learning to notice “Useful Language” – technology & awards

March 1, 2013

When you read texts in English, use that to collect Useful Language, too, remembering to pronounce out loud the sentences or chunks of language you jot down!

Below, I have underlined some Useful Language for topics like awards, or technology, in a news article found on the PoA Awards website (formal English):

Prince of Asturias Awards: Technical & Scientific Research 2009

Oviedo, 17th June 2009. At its meeting in Oviedo, the Jury for the 2009 Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research, made up of (members of Jury), chaired by (chairperson) and with (secretary) acting as secretary, has unanimously decided to bestow the 2009 Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research on the U.S. researchers, Martin Cooper and Raymond Samuel Tomlinson, respectively considered the fathers of the mobile phone and e-mail.

These two discoveries are among the greatest technological innovations of our time, revolutionizing the way that thousands of millions of people communicate worldwide and contributing decisively to the advancement of knowledge. In particular, they are key elements for achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals that will enable every citizen on the planet to exercise their right to communicate.

Their impact on society is reflected by the more than 4,000 million mobile subscribers and the 1,500 million users of e-mail and other Internet services. All this constitutes an important aid to the Developing Countries, for which it supposes a source of equality and opportunities, bringing nearer basic services such as health and education.

With this Award, the Jury also wishes to recognize the effort and work of all those people who have contributed to fostering and developing the mobile phone and e-mail services, forms of communication that give rise to a connected world, free from geographical or temporal barriers.


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!


Dear Green Light, Red Light Group!

February 26, 2013

Today, the Avanzado 2 Martes group felt like a community!

yummyinmytummyÁngeles baked a cake for us all! I couldn’t believe my eyes! And then — it smelled just like a cake I used to have in my childhood! That’s a lovely experience, too, right? — experiencing a childhood smell! And well, we shared it at the end of the lesson, which included lots of (gastronomic) pleasure for us all, and Ana, Manuel and Alberto taking pictures of the group! Ángeles, I hope I can make enough money when I set up my little language school, to be able to have you as a guest teacher! You could conduct a cooking workshop in English!! My partner is enjoying the cake now! He says thanks!

Josemaría came back from Portugal. Hopefully, he’ll tell us a bit about this amazing country and its very civilized people! (And it was I who got the pressie! 😀 )

Oh, and Rubén wondered why should anyone want to quit being a civil servant, right? For me, being a teacher in public education was my life ambition and when I got the position in 2006 it was Happiness for me! Now I could work forever in my dream job! Yes!, although my life tries to follow the anarchist ideal of freedom and solidarity, I actually concluded that the best job for me was public education, because this system was paid by us all when we pay our taxes (people should pay their taxes and demand the rich paid more, because it’s them the problem! Why the hell do they need to amass such fortunes!! They are responsible for the crisis! Such demented egotism!! We’re a species on a planet, forgoodnesssake! Use your intelligence!!), and it included academic freedom, and it was free and for all, for every person who wanted to learn! But policies (against public education) continue to burden teachers with pointless / destructive issues: cutbacks in their academic freedom — it seems the authorities are following the model in the USA in non-university education — to turn them into tools voicing textbooks, increasing pointless paperwork and not allowing teachers anymore to do all the work they did in their own homes, making them do that in the schools, were we don’t have our materials and equipment, and certainly not enough hours!, and subjecting adult learners and teachers to a series of pointless exams (nowhere to be seen in quality adult education), following the worst possible interpretation of what evaluation is. (We used to be free to evaluate during the course, this is, to give feedback on skills, and we used to organize OPs for that, for instance, and nice activities like that.) Or perhaps the reason is simply that I’m tired of trying to give my best as a teacher and this costing me even more time and effort.

And well, we spent the lesson with people practicing the monologs on The Elderly, and The Beauty Myth, and then coming to the Exam Area to get my feedback. People were really good. I bet that if you found more time for your English, you would manage to reach a C1 or Advanced level in General English!

Next day it’ll be more on monologs and also practicing the interaction on The Economic Crisis and Volunteering, for next week performances.

Remember you need to send me an email with “av 2 martes mon” on the subject line, so I can send you the recording. And then, when you record it again at home, for a final improved version, remember to send it to me with “doublechecking” in the content box, so we make sure you can use it in May to gain confidence for your final Speaking Test. Create a folder called “monologs” so you can keep your final monologs! You could do something like that with your final Writings, too, so you have a selection of well-written samples of different kinds of texts.


Lesson Plans (all our work) – this week & next week

February 25, 2013

Speaking Tasks. This week it’ll be intensive speaking practice in class, and coming to Exam Area for a monologue, in pairs. More work, in case you finish this: Try to practice the interactions too. Also, there’s the speaking tasks in unit 5 for Avanzado 2 and if you are in Intermedio 2, you have the March speaking tasks (units 1-5, book a date if you didn’t). More?: if you worked on cloze tests, you could use those to put together a monologue on the topic: Smart Phones, Burning Calories (Intermedio 2), Climate Change (Avanzado 2) + use the news extracts (2009, with my transcript, remember?) to learn to tell about those pieces of news!

I’ve finished checking the Intermedio and Avanzado writings I was given in class. So this week I’ll start with those which were sent to me by email.

Oral recordings: today I started recording people. I’m giving them feedback on the spot, but if they send me an email (Group, Day, mon) I can forward their recording. And if I squeeze some time, I’ll try to do that with some more feedback. The thing is, you should all try to create a SPEAKING TASK file, where you could keep a FINAL version of your speaking activities (mons.), to listen to them again in May. If you send me this FINAL version, write this on the subject line: Group, Day, + mon – doublechecking.

New Podcast episodes for… we could use some of your speaking tasks as podcast episodes, if I get the time to create a podcast episode with each. Of course, I won’t do that without people’s permission.

About me checking some translations unrelated to this course: A couple of students kindly requested I give them feedback on a translation each did. I’ll try to do this next week. Bear with me — even though people think that checking a translation is something we can do in a few minutes, this is not so. It takes some more time! But I’ll do my best, as I said when the request was put forward! For me, this is the same case as when people send me their CVs/resumes, and grant applications. I do it, as you know — happy to put my English into extra support uses — because I care about your learning, but I wonder if I should do it, really. Anyway, so far this year this kind of favors are still under 10 people, so well… But considering it would be good to publish people’s work on the podcast I’m afraid I should start saying I can’t, because I can’t squeeze more time out of my very squeezed time!! 😀

Next week you can request time for practicing the Interactions or dialogues in class, but even if we start unit 6 (or Your questions on unit 5), you should come to Exam Area to do the Interaction with a classmate that is close to your list number.

Deadline for your Sample Exam Writing – Task 1 (from Educamadrid): 2nd week of March.

YOUR MARKS – for people who did not take the tests last week. Please, remember to give me the marks of your Reading and Listening Educamadrid tests


Listenings. 2 BBC podcasts

February 25, 2013

60-second ideas to improve the world. Have a go at listening to this wonderful podcast by the BBC. Notice that each episode can just be downloaded for a number of days.

If you listen to any, feel free to come to class and tell us about it! (re-telling speaking exercise!)

For Avanzado 2 (B2, C1 level students): I just discovered this amazing podcast, “Forum – A World of Ideas,” where you have a panel of guests discussing a topic. They are a great of example of what it is to hold rational discussions, and conversations where people share their insight, knowledge and impressions!

Notice that each episode can just be downloaded for a number of days. If you listen to any, feel free to come to class and tell us about it! (re-telling speaking exercise!)


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.


Speaking about The Internet

February 21, 2013

Stephen Fry


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!)


Whoa! What a day today!

February 19, 2013

Life is a rollercoaster! 😀 One minute you’re sad and blue, the next you’re rising, like a wave, and having an orgasm in class! 😀

Today students remembered to bring their paper copies! 😀 So all my work preparing for Exam Format Practice Month seemed to be useful in some way! 😛 And the people who forgot were really sorry, I could feel it across the room! Anyway, results were also great. This means, this final test practice has hopefully shown you that it is possible to pass the Certificate tests, that , and also, most importantly, that if you learn to speak English, passing your finals will be but a logical consequence! So now let’s see how the other two groups do tomorrow! 🙂

I NEED EVERYBODY’S RESULTS OF THE READING AND LISTENING TESTS, OK? Please, if you’re following my course and you didn’t do this when the rest did, do them at home and come to me so I can jot them down. I need those results for two reasons: 1. as your teacher I collect information about group levels and individual levels, and this makes it easier for me to assist you all, 2. the February statistics the School issues (for all teachers): I have to type in the total number of people who passed, of those who failed and of those who did not take the exam. For me, it would feel really bad to have been working for two weeks with you all in class to train in Exam Format and then to have “No Presentadxs” corresponding to people who actually follow this course.

Now for the Speaking Test, English peacelings! Come on!!! And please, remember: practice SPEAKING (saying your mon. once and again till you can “improvise” it), DON’T WRITE THEM DOWN, that’d be READING! Nothing good for learning to speak! And as you speak, practice/practise listening to yourself, so you are quick to fix the mistakes you may make!


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!


What happened today, Monday?

February 18, 2013

In spite of the fact that I explained our plans in the Exam Format Pack and in the February agenda, today, in both Intermedio and Avanzado groups, far too many people had not printed the Sample Exam from the Educamadrid site. So it was kind of frustrating for the people who had, and certainly for myself. Please, read the Bulletin Board, read the whiteboard, or read the blog. Why am I doing all this work if it’s as if I hadn’t done it?

If you can’t find the information, PLEASE LOOK ON YOUR RIGHT here: THERE ARE TWO PAGES: INTERMEDIO 2, AND AVANZADO 2, with links to everything.

Constructively, patiently, we decided to move to next Wednesday the plan we had for today.

Again, please, print the Sample exam, do the timed Reading Test at home, check it, and work out your mistakes. Then come to class with all your paper copies. I’ll jot down your Reading Test results, and your questions about this, we’ll do the Listening (we agreed on a time, so that people usually coming late can also make it to this test). And then we’ll move on to questions and/or speaking practice.


Weeks 3 & 4 February: moving on in Exam Format Practice Month

February 18, 2013

The agenda of weeks 1, 2 and 3 that is on the Bulletin Board in class is also here.

The new items are that today and tomorrow I’m explaining how we will proceed with the Speaking and Writing tests on the Educamadrid site.

Week 3 – Update

AT THE END OF THIS WEEK, you should have consolidated a knowledge of the kinds of Reading & Listening tasks (and Writing tasks, for the groups getting feedback in class about Politeness et al.) and you should have reduced your fears, developed your confidence in terms of Exam Format. Hopefully, you will have been using the underlining technique, notetaking including skeleton of meaning, some phonemic transcription, skimming and scanning, proofreading your work…


Get your copies of the sample tasks on the Educamadrid site. You will have time in class to prepare them with your classmates: practice/practise speaking about those topics freely, brainstorm on language, and then practice timed speaking at home. Meanwhile I’ll be calling out people’s names to come to Exam Area. YOU SHOULD NOT WRITE DOWN YOUR MONOLOGUES OR DIALOGUES. You should practice SPEAKING on the same topic over and over again, till you feel confident, using your detailed outline and your jottings from brainstorming on language.

Then, after you have done it again in Exam Area, when I call your name (I’ll use your list numbers), you can record your sample monologues, so that you can listen to them again throughout the rest of this course.

So now you have two areas of Speaking activities to work on in class and at home: the ones based on units 1-5, so that you use the language learned/learnt from using your textbook audios and other exercises; and the timed tasks covering all of the sample cards you have (work on one a week, for instance).


Once I’ve given you back your Practice Writing (Intermedio 2’s), work on your List of Mistakes, and start working on Task 1 of the Sample Writing test on Educamadrid. You should be handing it in in the second week in March. Once you get it back, work on your LoM and then do Task 2.

As unit 5 depends on your work at home, remember that you can also hand in your Writing corresponding to unit 5, but only once you have learned to do that kind of writing from your textbook. Considering dates, both Task 2 of the Sample Writing Test and Writing 5 will probably have their deadline just after the spring holidays, perhaps just before them! We’ll see.

Week 4 – Finishing Exam Format Practice Month

We’ll continue doing orals in class, I’ll comment on people’s mistakes, so we can learn to put grammar into use. And we’ll pay special attention to pronunciation, too.


Uses of “you” that sound rude, impolite

February 18, 2013

  • Don’t say “I don’t understand YOU,” !! It’s enough to say, “I don’t understand” or “I don’t understand the last part”
  • Don’t say “I can’t hear YOU.” It’s enough to say, “I can’t hear (properly/very well).”

In proposals to professionals, when you are not a professional of that field (e.g., when you are a learner addressing your teacher),

  • Don’t write things like “Here are some ideas which YOU could improve” (!). It’s better to word it like this, for example: “Here are some ideas that MIGHT/COULD help US improve our work in class.”
  • Don’t say “I hope YOU think over my recommendations,” it almost sound like a threat! 😀 Say, “I hope my recommendations are useful!”
  • Don’t say “I hope that all these things can help YOU to improve the lessons”! Say something like “I hope my proposal can help US in class” (it’s adult students who need to do something about not volunteering in speaking activities), or “I hope my proposal is helpful”.
  • Compare these two sentences:
    1. I am writing to suggest some new things that you can do to make lessons more attractive and interesting
    2. I am writing to suggest activities that could make lessons more participatory.
    2′ (higher level of English) I am writing to suggest activities that might (polite) encourage learners to speak in public.

    • Which do you think is a better kind of wording, less risky (to avoid sounding impolite)?

Some advice for tasks where an adult learner should suggest ways in which to improve a language lesson: Don’t make the YOU=teacher responsible for what is not their responsibility. Try to use more indirect statements, not involving anyone, or involving your group, the group of learners who need to improve their behavior/behaviour in class, in terms of speaking. (Adult learners in Madrid should try to acknowledge the responsibility they have in not practicing/practising speaking in public in class. EFL teachers actually do zillions of things to encourage them to do so. Still, adult learners keep making teachers responsible for their lack of practice, and this is ill-focused, meaning this will never allow those people to tackle their problem successfully and overcome it!)

(more to come)


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…)

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!


We can stop rape! Spread the word!

February 13, 2013


On Feb 13 & 14 we’ll be part of a global day of action against violence against women, organized by V-Day and V-Girls. In class (at a state-run adult language education, an EOI in Spanish), we won’t be physically dancing, but we will be playing the amazing music of our minds together thinking hard to solve the rape problem — we’ll be brainstorming to put together a list of things each of us, and we as people who care, can do to prevent rape. We will also celebrate the chance of being able to listen to girls’ voices: we’ll read stories voicing girls’ realities (we have 13 classroom copies to share).

Every student is welcome to present V-Day, One Billion Rising (the action) or any of these very useful materials! (We also welcome paper copies, as we can’t afford to make many copies.)

Please, don’t look the other way. You can lead by example. Together, we can change the world, to make it a kinder, juster place! Hurray for solidarity!! We’ll stop evictions and we’ll stop rape!


Avanzado Jueves! On the C1 recording…

February 8, 2013

Last Thursday (omg, was it yesterday?!) the machine failed us again and we didn’t manage to do the B2 recordings as I had planned. Instead, unluckily (we shouldn’t have, considering what we talked about), we did the C1 listening (Friendship) that I had planned for you to do after the two B2 pieces. I only played it twice, and didn’t expect anyone to get more than 3 answers right, out of 5, due to the level of mental processing (elaboration) we have to reach at the C1 level. Anyway, people couldn’t understand why their answers were wrong. (I should’ve reminded them that they had only listened to it twice, and that even if they felt they understood everything, these kinds of listenings are tricky even for careless native listeners.)

carita_beatingheartSo I’ve recorded the complete answer by the psychologist to the questions they had on their copies, plus the correct answer. And I’m asking you all, Thursday’s, to please listen to it with your paper in front of you and see if you finally understand why we’re right. Both if you do and if you don’t, I’m interested.

noassbiting(But please, mercy! Put things forward critically, not in the Complaint Mode, or believing the people who designed this are totally wrong, because we teachers are exhausted from the demented working conditions the authorities are imposing on us, and if you complain instead of just reason out why you disagree, I might bite your ass!!)


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!!)


Self-publishig! + On talent and hard work!

February 8, 2013

Come on, people! Write away! 😀

Self-publishing with Amazon


About the quote: this includes language learning. Talented language users have always worked hard at learning. This doesn’t mean having a hard time. But it does mean working hard.

PS for Avanzado 2 Martes (today): let me pose this question: Do you think native speakers would get a 5/5 in today’s listening?


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