28 Nov 2014

Exam Practice A2 level (I)


The exams are coming closer and I wanted to give you some exam practice to get ready!

These exams are all taken from the Key English Test from Cambridge, which roughly corresponds to a level A2:



Good luck! :)

Exam Practice B1 level (I)


The exams are coming closer and I wanted to give you some exam practice to get ready!

These exams are all taken from the Preliminary English Test from Cambridge, which roughly corresponds to a level B1:



Good luck! :)

Exam practice C1 level (I)


The exams are coming closer and I wanted to give you some exam practice to get ready!

These exams are all taken from the Cambridge Advanced Certificate in English, which roughly corresponds to a level C1:




Good luck! :)

Exam practice B2 level (I)

Level B2

The exams are coming closer and I wanted to give you some exam practice to get ready!

These exams are all taken from the First Certificate in English Exam from Cambridge, which roughly corresponds to a level B2:




Good luck! :)

26 Nov 2014

I want a non-native teacher! (or a qualified native one!)

Native or non-native
A few days ago I came across a newspaper article defending why a Spanish can be a better English teacher than a 'native'. This can be a highly controversial topic, but it's one that badly needs clarification, and, in my opinion, an urgent re-evaluation of 'non-native' teachers.

There has always been the idea that ‘native speakers’ of English are the best teachers of English. Indeed, in hiring practices ‘native speakers’ are very often given preference, and some language schools even take the liberty to charge more if their teachers are ‘native’.

This disadvantage in the job market, besides the social pressure of having to imitate a ‘native’ model, has had a truly harmful effect on ‘non-native’ language teachers, many of whom have lost confidence in their lessons, especially as regards the teaching of pronunciation. As Canagarajah puts it, "their predominant concern is in effect “How can I lose my accent?” rather than “How can I be a successful teacher?” (1999: 84-85).

The reality today is that 80% of teachers of English in the world are not native. Be that as it may, the difference should not really reside in the dichotomy ‘native’/‘non-native’, but rather in the opposition ‘qualified’/’non-qualified’. In other words, qualified teachers, be they ‘native’ or ‘non-native’, are superior to ‘native speakers’ who have not undergone training (Pavón Vázquez, 2010).

By all mens, 'native' teachers have the advantage of having a flawless command of the language. Still, there is now growing agreement that ‘non-native’ teachers have a number of advantages worth mentioning:
  • Only ‘non-native’ teachers can serve as imitable models of the successful learner of English.
  • Their previous status of learners of the language allows them to provide students with more information about the English language.
  • They are endowed with the priviledge of bilingualism, which allows them to have a better understanding of the learning situation.
  • They can teach learning strategies more effectively.
  • They can anticipate areas of potential problems.
  • They can benefit from sharing the students’ mother-tongue and culture.
  • They are trained in methodological issues.
Paradoxically, all these advantages stem from the fact that they have undergone a process of learning that ‘native speakers’ have not. These advantages, combined with the fact that the vast majority of them present an adequate level of language competence to perform their task, can certainly place ‘non-native’ teachers in a superior position over ‘native speakers'.

So the next time an academy sells their lessons saying that their teachers are native, ask if they are qualified, since that is what really matters.

24 Nov 2014

Learn how to be more descriptive!

Hi there!

I'm sure you've all heard your teachers asking you to use more complex vocabulary, and avoid using words like nice, good, say, ask, etc. Indeed, as we advance in our language learning, we have to be more specific and avoid 'empty words' like the ones I mentioned before.

How can we do that? A very good idea is to compile a list of synonym words and include some linguistic variation when we talk/write. Here I post an example: 

My suggestion is that, for every word, you choose two or three synonyms that you've never used before. Circle/underline them and make an effort to use them in the next few weeks. That way you'll enrich your vocabulary little by little!

Let me know how it goes! :)

21 Nov 2014

The Christmas Truce - The story behind Sainsbury's Christmas Ad

Hi everyone!

Christmas is coming closer; the days are ticking away...! We can tell from the sweets and cakes already sold at the supermarket, and especially from the adverts shown on television. Last week the commercial for the National Lottery came out - every year we are nervously waiting for it! Our high expectations were certainly met and the advert left nobody impassible.

I believe you would agree that the National Lottery advert is probably the most important Christmas advert in Spain, but would you guess which has been considered the best Christmas advert in the world?

It's the Christmas commercial from the British chain supermarket Sainsbury's:

The video is certainly touching, but what is even more touching is to know that it is entirely based on a true story...

By December 1914 World War I had already gone on for around 5 months, and claimed nearly one million lives. However, the weapons fell silent on Christmas Eve... A Captain from the Allies made contact with two German officers at dawn, starting a truce in which soldiers started to leave their trenches and met in hundreds exchanging greetings and gifts.

The true story behind the ad:

All the details of what really happened we cannot know for sure, but there was certainly a truce along the front line. Even at the toughest of times, in the heat of war and in the most dreadful occasions, there can be great humanity...


20 Nov 2014

Films in original version at

Hello there!

These days we've been talking about films and you've asked me for websites to watch films (or series) in original version. There are lots and lots of sites you can visit, but today I'm going to recommend

There you have all the films and tv series you can think of in original version. The website is very updated: sometimes you can even watch films that haven't been released in Spain!

Most of the films are original version with Spanish subtitles, but you can navigate through the different options for each film/episode if you want other languages or subtitles.

Now, is it better to watch the film with or without subtitles? And should the subtitles be in English or Spanish? Well, first of all, forget the idea that watching films with subtitles is "bad", because it is not. Quite on the contrary, it is very good practice because you associate spelling and pronunciation which, as you know, does not always coincide in English. Therefore, the ideal thing would be to watch films in English with English subtitles until your level is high enough to eliminate subtitles completely.

Finally, very important: choose something that you like. This way, you will focus on what is happening and forget that the film/episode is in English! This favours unconscious learning, which is the one that lasts longer in our memories.

So... what film are you going to watch this weekend? :)

19 Nov 2014

Improve your conversations in English!

Hi everyone!
Oral interaction

Today we're going to focus on speaking and, more specifically, on interaction!

As you know, a language is, above all, a vehicle to communicate with other people. That means that we need to know phrases to express our opinion and ask for theirs, agree or disagree with what they say, ask them to repeat, show interest, etc.

Knowing how to interact is an essential part of our speaking skills in a foreign language. Responding to what other people say and being able to engage them in conversation is of paramount importance. However, explicit training on this issue is sometimes overlooked (pasado por alto) in our language classrooms...

For this reason I have done a compilation of useful phrases that you can use at different levels. Start using them in your conversations in class and you'll see how little by little your communication becomes a lot more natural and fluent!

If you find this useful, please feel to share on your social networks!

Basic Levels 1 and 2

Intermediate Level

Advanced Levels 1 and 2



17 Nov 2014

"Bed and breakfast", "fish and chips" and other binomial expressions

A binomial is a combination of two words, normally linked by a conjunction (and or or). Their order is almost always fixed, that is, they are irreversible.

English is extremely fond of binomials, and when I say "extremely", I do mean "extremely"!  If you want to check for yourselves, have a look at this list of binomials, with their corresponding meanings. You'll be surprised!

Do these ones ring a bell??

Some other common ones include:

If you want to know a few more, check the video below: "10 common binomial expressions in English". She speaks rather slowly, but her explanations and examples are very accurate!

Finally, for more advanced learners, here I post a handout with some more complex ones. See if you can complete the exercises! (The answers are at the end, as usual!)

Now, the best way to remember binomials, as every other item of vocabulary, is to place them in context. Choose your favourite ones and post a few examples in the comments below!

Stereotypes; Lonely Planet Guide

Hi everyone!

The entry today is about "stereotypes". I'm sure all of you have heard the word before, and have a vague idea of what they are, but could you think of a definition??

Now, that is a bit more difficult...

In general, stereotypes are characteristics or qualities assigned to groups of people that share nationality, race, gender, to name but a few. However, these characteristics or qualities tend to be oversimplifications, and they are overgeneralized. In other words, those features are applied to all the individuals in the group disregarding their personal differences.

Now, have a look at this postcard. What do you think of it? Do you agree with the stereotypes associated to the different European nationalities?

There are stereotypes all around us. Below you have a funny (but very insightful) video about what the United States and Europe think of each other. I'm sure you'll feel identified more than once!

How wrong stereotypes can be is usually clearer when we talk about our own culture. Below I post a video about how Madrid is described in the Lonely Planet guide. Do you agree with the image given of the Spanish capital city? 

The best way to overcome stereotypes is to check for yourself! That is, meet people from different parts of the world, travel as much as you can, and read! That way you'll have a more accurate vision of the different nationalities!

14 Nov 2014

Race the tube!

Has anyone heard of this new craze for runners?? Race the tube! It consists in beating the tube by running!!

It all started in London last July 2014, when James Heptonstall thought that going on foot could sometimes be quicker than being stuck on public transport! The route he chose was from Mansion House to Cannon Street, two important tube stations in London, 380 metres apart on foot.

As you will see on the video, the challenge consisted in getting off at Mansion House and run to the next tube station, Cannon Street, to catch the very same train! Do you think he succeeded? Check it out!

The Telegraph and many other newspapers covered the story. The video was uploaded on YouTube and received more than 5 million visits! This kickstarted the movement in many other cities!

Race the Tube in Madrid

Race the Tube in Barcelona

Race the Tube in Lyon

Race the Tube in Milan

Race the Tube in Brussels

Race the Tube in Hong Kong

Race the Tube in Stockholm

And how does our protagonist feel? Well, here you have the complete interview with the Race the Tube creator!


13 Nov 2014

Pronunciation dictionary for proper names - thanks to Roberto Romera

Hi everyone,

Today I leave you with this extremely useful website for pronunciation:

As you know, you can check the pronunciation of a word in a normal dictionary, but many of them aren't included, for example proper names. Well, in this website you can check the pronunciation any word.

Here I include an example: "Renée Zelweger"

I'm sure you will use this website a lot, for example in your presentations, where you include names that don't appear in the dictionary.

Thanks for sharing, Roberto!

12 Nov 2014

Problems with commas? Not me!

Hi there!

Today I'm going to post a video that you're absolutely going to love!! And I'm sure it will help you a lot with your commas!

I'll summarize it for you and then you can watch it at the end of the entry :)

So... there are three characters!

Comma rules

The tiny conjunctions are small, and they connect clauses, words and phrases. Because they are so small, they often need the help of a comma, but not always. They are easy to remember with the word FANBOYS!

comma rules

The mighty subordinants are the heavy-weight champions of sentences! They connect two unequal things, dependent and independent clauses:

Commonly used subordinants are:

comma rules

They are very strong, so if the sentences are equally distributed on both arms, they don't need help. In other words, if the subordinate is in the middle of the sentence, commas are not needed.

comma rules

Bartheleme loves to sing even though he never sings in front of others.

However, if the subordinate is at the beginning, we need a comma to help!

comma rules

Even though Bartheleme loves to sing, he never sing in front of others

Tiny conjunctions are not so strong, so they can ask for help when they connect sentences:

comma rules

comma rules

However, the comma is not needed when they connect two phrases (molecular biology or interpretive dance):

comma rules

Watch the video now (activate the subtitles if you need to) and learn the whole story!

If you want to know more about commas, don't miss these previous entries:


10 Nov 2014

There is life outside wordreference!

This is not the first time I've written about dictionaries other than bilingual ones (using monolingual and collocations dictionaries). Today I'm going to focus specifically on collocations dictionaries, since they have an enormous potential, especially in levels B2 and C1.

A collocations dictionary is a dictionary that tells you which words work together (collocate). For example, do we say aware of something or aware about something?
Collocations dictionary

Do you spend money on or in something?

Collocations dictionary

Which verbs can I use with favour?
Collocations dictionary

More than that, it can help us to improve our writing by providing us with plenty of synonyms. How can I say that something has a lot of potential?

Collocations dictionary

Rather than buying one, I recommend you to use the Oxford Collocations Dictionary Online, available at Enter the website and practise a little bit. Can you improve the following sentences?


Learn your A B C !


One of the first things you learn in a new language is the alphabet! Many words are new, and your teacher will spell them to you. You will also have to spell you name, and many more things!

The best way to learn the alphabet is to find a catchy song and learn it! Here you have a very good video with famous people singing the alphabet! I hope it helps you!


7 Nov 2014

Do you want a laugh?? :)

We know that English humour is not particularly famous for being funny... but we must admit that they do have a gift for playing with language!

These word plays are so common that they even have a name - puns! They play either with a word that has two meanings, or with pronunciation (that's why you have to say them aloud to get the pun!)

Here I leave you with a few. Some are a bit easier, others are a bit more difficult... but they are all hilarious!

(If there is any that you don't get, please leave a comment and ask!)

English humour

English humour

English humour

English humour

English humour

English humour

English humour

English humour

What a laugh!!

As you can see, puns are also very helpful to know different meanings of the same word, or to see how two completely different words can have a very similar pronunciation!

If you want to see more puns like this, visit The 50 Funniest Puns In the History of Funny Puns!


6 Nov 2014

Politics: anti-corruption raids in Spain

Hi everybody!

Today's entry is a summary of one of my lessons and, as you can see, the topic is politics. I'm going to share some of the materials I used in class for you to practise reading, listening and also learn some vocabulary related to politics!

Without a doubt, politics is becoming a hotly debated topic in the streets today because of the countless cases of corruption that are coming to light. What characteristics do you think every politician should have? Would you include some of the ideas below? (please, look up the new words in a dictionary).

Every time there is a "domestic" scandal, it is well-advised to investigate a little bit and see how the international press is covering it. Is the image of Spain abroad changing? For the better or for the worse? Have a look at the following three newspaper articles and see for yourselves:
After reading the articles, take some time to think about the following questions:
  1. What are the main points put forward?
  2. How is Spain depicted?
  3. Is there any reference to the Spanish citizens' attitude towards these events?
  4. How do you feel about the articles?
Finally, we're going to end with a short video from Euronews. Watch it the first time to see how much you understand. Then do the listening activity below (the answers are at the end of the document, as usual!)

After these activities I hope you now have some more ideas and vocabulary to talk about this so up-to-date topic!

5 Nov 2014

A tip to study phrasal verbs

Hi everyone,

On Tuesday we worked with phrasal verbs. You always complain that they are very difficult to memorize and to remember, and... it's true...! However, there are some tips that can help you to learn them better and more efficiently!

Below I post a mind-map that can improve your learning of phrasal verbs, especially if you have visual/photographic memory. Also, you can revise a lot of phrasal verbs with just one look!

Phrasal verbs

I know these phrasal verbs are rather easy, but what I want you to see is a possible organisation for the new phrasal verbs you learn.

Remember that the way you organise your vocabulary is as important as the time you spend studying it!

Guy Fawkes - V for Vendetta

Hello everyone!

Today, 5th November, is a very important day in the United Kingdom. It is Guy Fawkes Night, also known as Guy Fawkes Day, Bonfire Night and Firework Night! It commemorates the failure of the gunpowder plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament.

Children still sing this traditional rhyme which summarizes what happened:

Guy Fawkes

The whole rhyme goes as follows:

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot.
We see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!

By god's mercy he was catch'd
With a darkened lantern and burning match.
So, holler boys, holler boys, Let the bells ring.
Holler boys, holler boys, God save the king.
And what shall we do with him?
Burn him!

So what's the story? Well, here you have a very concise summary of how it all happened!
Guy Fawkes

The film "V for Vendetta" was certainly inspired by this story. Watch the video below and pay attention to seconds 24'' to 38''. Does it ring a bell?? :) I strongly recommend you to watch the film (in original version), not just because of its relationship with Guy Fawkes, but also because of the magnificent word plays they use.
Guy Fawkes

Click if you want to read a bit more about the history of Guy Fawkes. You also have an exercise to check how much you understood!

Finally, here you have a video of the fireworks after the celebration of Guy Fawkes!


3 Nov 2014

Stop sounding like a book!

Hi there!

Today I'm going to post some useful expressions that will help you sound a lot more natural in English!

They're mainly short comments to continue the conversation and respond to what the other person said. Things like ya te digo; ¡ni de broma!; me lo dices o me lo cuentas; lo que tú digas, etc.

Useful, right? Check them out!

Had you heard any of these expressions before? Check their meaning in a dictionary or at Then practise with this online exercise from the Yes! Magazine. After that, why don't you write a short dialogue with as many expressions as you can?

Enjoy!! :)