18 Dec 2014

A useful tip to convert between miles and kilometres!

Hi there! 

Today I'm going to give you a very useful tip to convert between kilometres and miles! It is specially useful for those who like languages but also have a certain mind for Maths! But even if you don't like Maths, read through the end and see how easy it is!

Have you ever heard of the Fibonacci Sequence? I'm sure you have! For those who don't know, the sequence is as follows:

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144...

How does it work? Well, each number results from adding up the two neighbouring numbers:

Now, one interesting aspect of these numbers is that their ratios (divisiones) all approach being what is called the golden ratio: 1,618. So, for example,

  • 3 divided by 2 is 1,5;
  • 5 divided by 3 is 1,666;
  • 8 divided by 5 is 1,6;
  • 13 divided by 8 is 1,625;
  • 21 divided by 13 is 1,615, etc.

And... what does this have to do with kilometres and miles? Well, curiously enough, the ratio of km to miles is 1,609 to 1. Since 1,609 is so close to the golden ratio, you can use the Fibonacci numbers to convert between kilometres and miles!!

  • 5 km is quite close to 3 miles
  • 8 km is almost exactly 5 miles
  • 13 km is 8 miles
  • 21 km is 13 miles, etc.!

Now you won't have any problem with distances when you travel to the United Kingdom! :)

15 Dec 2014

Learn the rules for silent letters!

Good morning everyone!

Last week I published an entry introducing silent letters. Remember that they are letters that are written, but not pronounced. Today, and as promised, I post a few rules that will help you spot them!

At the end of the entry you can find some practice to see how much you can remember!
  • B is not pronounced after <m> at the end of a word: lamb, climb, plumber, thumb, tomb, limb, dumb, bomb.
  • B is not pronounced before <t>, usually at the end of the word: debt, doubt, subtle, doubtful.
  • C is not pronounced in some cases where it is combined with <s> and <sc>: scene, scissors, scent, science, scenery, sci-fi, sceptermuscle.
But be careful because normally this combination is pronounced <sk>, as in scorpion, scar, scope.
  • D is not pronounced in the following common words: handkerchief, Wednesday, handsome.
  • D is not pronounced in the combination <dg>: pledge, grudge, hedge, dodge.
  • E is not pronounced at the end of words, and usually elongates / lengthens the sound of the vowel (check the entry on the magic E)!: hope, drive, gave, write, site, grave, bite, hide.
  • E can be silent in the middle of words: baseball, somewhere, someone, somebody, somehow, grateful, graceful, useful, useless.
  • G is often not pronounced when it comes before <n>: foreign, sign, feign, design, align

Exceptions: magnet, cognitive.

  • GH is not pronounced when it comes after a vowel: thought, drought, through, thorough, borough, daughter, light, might, sigh, right, fight, weigh, weight

Exceptions: GH is sometimes pronounced /f/: rough, tough, laugh, enough, cough, clough, draught.

  • H is not pronounced at the beginning of 4 words of French origin: hour, honest, honor, heir, and words deriving from them: hourly, honorable.
  • H is sometimes not pronounced in the combination <ch>. In the majority of cases, this combination has the sound in chocolate, but in some cases the <h> is silent and it is pronounced /k/: school, character, chaos, orchestra, choir, ache, stomach, anchor,, mechanic, architect, chemist's, monarchy, melancholy.
  • K is not pronounced when it comes before <n> at the beginning of a word: knife, knee, know, knock, knowledge, knead.
  • L is not pronounced in some very important words after the vowels <a>, <o>, <u>: calm, half, talk, walk, would, should, could, calf, salmon, yolk, chalk.
Exceptions: halo, bulk, sulk, hold, sold
  • N is not pronounced when it comes after <m> at the end of a word: autumn, hun, column.
  • P is not pronounced at the beginning of many words using the prefixes psych- and pneu-: psychiatrist, pneumonia, pneumatic, psychotherapy, psychotic, psychologist.
  • P is also silent in receipt.
  • S is not pronounced before <l> in the following words: island, isle, aisle, précis, depris.
  • T is not pronounced in these everyday words: castle, Christmas, fasten, listen, often, whistle, thistle, bustle, hasten, soften.
  • U is not pronounced when it comes between a <g> and a vowel: guess, guidance, guitar, guest, guild, guard.
  • W is not pronounced at the beginning of a word when it is before the letter <r>: wrap, write, wrong, wring, wreck, wrestle, wrap, wrist.
  • W is not pronounced in the following words: who, whose, whom, whole, whoever.

Now that you know all these rules, why don't you try and read these short fragments?? Underline the silent letters and then try to write your own paragraph!

Texts taken from

12 Dec 2014

Stop phubbing! But... what is that??

Has it ever happened to you that you're with somebody who just can't stop looking at his/her mobile?? How annoying can that be? Well, apparently you're not the only one who gets annoyed!!

In English a new word has even been invented to describe this phenomenon, and it's "PHUBBING":

This kind of situations has become "trending topic" in the last years, and it's just that people don't seem capable of disconnecting from the virtual world!! An entire website (extremely funny, by the way!!) has opened: They include data, figures, interesting facts and even a letter you can send to your friends to make them stop phubbing!!

Some of the facts they publish are certainly thought-provoking... See for yourself!

According to this, what will communication be like in a few years? Are you scared of what can happen?

Many people prefer to take it humorously and denounce the situation making videos as funny as this one, by "The Britishes"!:

Funny, huh? :P

Now, if you want to take it a bit more seriously, below I include probably the most watched YouTube video on this topic. It's very straightforward, but composed beautifully in the form of a poem. Its rhythm, careful choice of words and the story behind certainly manages to touch the viewer.

"Look Up", by Gary Turk (click for full text):

Well, after all this I do hope we manage to change our attitude towards smartphones and learn how to enjoy life minute by minute! :)

10 Dec 2014

"If" or "whether": what's the difference?

Whether or ifHi there!

Today I post a grammar lesson on the difference between if and whether. These two words normally pose problems for English students, since the translation into Spanish is the same in both cases (si). Here I'll post an explanation on when to use each. Hope it helps!

In very general terms, we use if in conditional sentences and whether to show that two alternatives are possible. In the cases where both are possible, whether is understood as more formal.

That said, let us look at both conjunctions in some deeper detail:

If and whether are interchangeable in the following contexts:

She asked if / whether I'd be attending the party.
Do you know if / whether dinner will be ready soon?
I don't know if / whether she's coming or not.
I'd really like to know whether / if he's lying or telling the truth.

Use ONLY whether in the following contexts:

Let the principal know whether you'll attend the meeting
(there are two alternatives: you'll attend the meeting or you won't. You have to inform the principal in either case).

Let the principal know if you'll attend the meeting
(this sentence is grammatically correct, but the meaning is different. In this example, the principal is only be told if you'll attend the meeting. Therefore, if you'll attend the meeting is a condition, it doesn't present two alternatives).
My final decision depends on whether you agree (on if)
I would like to talk to you about whether you'll continue working here (about if)
I've been thinking whether to quit my job (if to quit)
She can't make up her mind whether to marry him (if to marry him).
Please, tell me whether or not you agree (if or not)

(Note that or not can be placed at the end of the sentence. In that case, if is possible: Please, tell me if you agree or not).
Whether she liked the present, I don't know.
Whether he comes or not is nor my concern.
I don't care whether you study or waste your time.

(If we use if in these contexts it would be understood as a condition)
You have to answer my question, whether I can count on you (that is my question).

Use ONLY if in the following contexts:


If I had the chance I would travel all around the world.
If it hadn't been for my family, I wouldn't have got so far.


Now check how much you can remember with the following exercises!


8 Dec 2014

Silent letters: why do they exist and where can I find them?


Today we are going to focus on silent letters, those so common letters that are written but not pronounced, as in the <t> in castle, or the <l> in walk.

You may think they are not all that important if they're not pronounced, but actually they make a huge difference to the meaning of words and can even change their pronunciation (sit vs. site)!

But why do silent letters exist??

Well, you'd be surprised to know that English used to be 100% phonemic, that is, a few centuries ago words sounded exactly as they were written, as in Spanish! However, this began to change around the 15th century because of the influence of Latin and French.

Pronunciation started to evolve and continued doing so for centuries, but the old spelling was preserved by the printing press. Some authors defended that spelling should represent the sound of words, but the writers that came afterwards saw the futility of making spelling phonetic, since they realized that the pronunciation of words constantly evolved. Therefore, the basis for spelling was not pronunciation, but rather custom of usage.

This way, nowadays English is only 40% phonemic, and around 60% of words contain silent letters! See how important they are!

Where can I find them?

It would be impossible to list all the words that contain silent letters, but below I post a picture of the most common ones. You can also check the rules for silent letters to know how to spot them:

If you want to go a bit further, go to Silent Letter Words for another complete list of silent letters. You can listen to the words by clicking on them!

5 Dec 2014 learn English from film extracts

Hi again!
English with films
Today I'm going to show you a fantastic website to learn English with film extracts: It is brand new and it has tremendous functionalities! Without a doubt, one of the best websites for English learning I've seen in a long time!

You can select extracts from different films, and check the new vocabulary instantly from the subtitles. You can also add the new words to your own library / glossary!

Let me show you better!

1. Enter the website

2. Choose a video from the "Content" page:

2. Click on a word or a group of words to translate it/them:

3. Click on "+" to add a word to your library (= glossary):

4. Learn new words and expression on the "Learning" page:

5. You can practise with other users at the "Community" page:

Check all this on this video tutorial:

I'm sure you'll love it!!

3 Dec 2014

There is no failure, only feedback!

In all types of learning, and language learning is no difference, our attitude towards mistakes is crucial. There are people for whom a mistake is a push forward (un empujón hacia delante), but for others their whole world seem to crumble (venirse abajo)...!

Truth is that mistakes simply show that we are learning, that we are advancing, that we are in the middle of a process that will eventually lead to our mastery of the language. This is the attitude that we must have, and perceive mistakes as a step further in our learning, and one that will give us the push to keep going.
There is a story about Thomas Edison that goes something like this: When someone commented to Edison that he had failed 1,999 times before he eventually managed to invent the light bulb, he replied: 'Nonsense, it was a 2,000 step process!'
If you look around, you'll see hundreds of examples of people who failed before achieving their goal. That failure was simply part of their learning, and the one that made them strong enough to keep going.

Below you have a few examples of such failures:

So... what is your attitude going to be the next time you make a mistake?? :))

1 Dec 2014

When do I use capital letters?

The rules for using capital letters are different between languages, so here you have the rules for English!

Would you like to practise a little bit? Try this exercise on capital letters. If you want something a bit more difficult, try this exercise to revise the rules for capitalization!