Author Archives: Dan

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VALENTINES – THE HISTORY & VOCABULARY

Every February, we see an assortment of flowers, balloons chocolates and hearts decorating the shops near La Elipa in Madrid, asking us to buy something special for our loved ones for the ultimate declaration of love. Some now believe it is only for commercial gain however there is a religious tradition hidden behind the very large pink cards we send!

assortment
əˈsɔːtm(ə)nt/
noun
noun: assortment; plural noun: assortments
  1. a miscellaneous collection of things or people.
    “the room was filled with an assortment of clothes”
declaration
dɛkləˈreɪʃ(ə)n/
noun
  1. a formal or explicit statement or announcement.
    “a declaration of love”

Aptis Speaking Test

The Aptis by British Council is a relatively new exam but it is quickly gaining popularity among English language learners. This is due to it becoming more widely accepted both here in Spain and around the world, it being cheaper than other exams like Cambridge, and being able to get the results more quickly.

Knowing exactly what an exam entails is half the battle when preparing for it. Today we’re going to look at the Speaking exam. The entire exam is done on a computer, so for the speaking part, you have to record your answers within a given time limit. This means preparation is key. Knowing what to expect and being ready to show off your language skills will help achieve your goal.

Part One

In the first part, you have to answer questions about yourself. There are three questions and you must talk for thirty seconds for each question. Possible topics you could talk about include Family, Your Job, Hobbies and Interests, Future Plans, Films and Books, The Weather, Daily Routine etc. This means four or five clear sentences. If for example you are asked, “What’s the weather like today?” You might think it impossible to have your answer last a full thirty seconds. This is why it’s important to brainstorm things related to the weather. What do you like to do when it’s hot outside? What clothes are you wearing for the current season? Is it typical weather for this time of year? Is it unusually hot or cold? So a typical answer to “What’s the weather like today?” doesn’t have to be difficult to elaborate on. Instead of just replying “It’s cold but sunny” you can add “but this is normal for Madrid in winter. People usually wear hats, scarves, winter coats and boots to stay warm. A typical winter snack is roasted chestnuts which you can buy from street vendors.” Instead of talking solely about the weather, we can incorporate other related vocabulary like in this instance; clothes. But we could also talk about what people generally do in when the weather is hot/cold etc. The questions in part one of the Aptis lend themselves to elaboration. You should keep talking, adding relevant sentences until your time is up.

Part Two

In the second part of the Aptis speaking exam, you are given a picture which you have forty-five seconds to describe. You then have to answer to related questions with a limit of forty-five seconds for each.

A typical example of this could be the picture on the left.

  1. Describe the picture.
  2. Do you often have to work in a team in work or university?
  3. Why is teamwork important?

 

Describing a photo is a question that comes up in many exams. With this type of question, you should take as much time as possible to gather your thoughts. Then use all of the time given to talk about it.  Below are some useful phrases to describe the position of things within a picture.

When talking about what people are doing or wearing in a photo we must use the present continuous. Subject + is/are + verb in ING It is also important to speculate about what the subjects of the picture might be doing using expressions like:

It seems as if…

They might/may/could be …

It makes me think of …

I think …

Let’s try to answer the questions above. Remember you have 45 seconds for each answer which should be approximately 5 to 7 clear sentences.

  1. In this photo, I can see a group of people sitting around a table. In the background, there is a large window and the room is bright. There are posters on the wall behind them. They seem to be working on something together.  In the middle of the table, there is a model of something which they are pointing to and discussing. Maybe it’s a building. They might be doing a project together for a university class. Maybe they are engineering students and they are doing a project on town planning.
  2. When I was at university, I often had to give presentations with other students. We would be given a project to discuss and research and would have to present it together in front of the rest of our class. I enjoyed working with my classmates on these projects as it gave me a different perspective on the topic. However, I also got very nervous having to speak in front of so many people. I used to practise as much as I could beforehand to feel more relaxed about it.
  3. Teamwork is very important, not only in university but also in the working world. As I mentioned before, having more than one person working on a project allows for more input and different points of view to be considered. Being able to work in a team is beneficial as it reduces the workload for everyone involved and means projects can be finished more efficiently.

As you can see, each answer has clear, concise sentences. I hope this helps you in your preparation for Aptis or indeed any English exam in which you are asked to describe a picture. In the next part of this series, we will look at parts 3 and 4 of the Aptis speaking exam. Don’t forget to check back soon.

In our English academies in La Elipa and Garcia Noblejas, you can prepare for Aptis as well as the Cambridge First Certificate and Advanced.

False Friends in English and Spanish

Most of the time, we can look at a word in English and figure out what it means because it resembles a word in Spanish. This is because words in both languages share a common etymology and therefore a similar or identical meaning. These are called cognates and are extremely useful when learning English. It gives you a built-in vocabulary base which can be drawn on when learning new English words despite there being minor pronunciation and spelling differences. Common examples of this are education and educación or notification and notificación.  It’s usually safe to say if a word ends in /tion/ in English, it will have a pretty similar counterpart in Spanish ending in /ción/. The same is true for something like difference and diferencia. All in all, there are many cognates in English and Spanish which as English learners I’m sure many of you have come across. These can give you confidence in your knowledge and thus improve your English abilities overall.

The problem comes when we come across false cognates or as they’re more commonly know; false friends. Today we’re going to have a look at some common ones and others that may cause a little embarrassment.

First let’s take a look at ones which are the exact same word, but which have a significant difference in meaning.

 

Word English Pronunciation English Meaning Spanish Meaning
Actual

[ak-choo-uh l]

Real, True Current
Sensible [sen-suh-buh l] having, using, or showing good sense or sound judgment Sensitive
Pie [pahy] A baked dish of fruit, or meat and vegetables, typically with a top and base of pastry Foot
Diversion [dih-vur-zhuh n] The act of diverting or turning aside, as from a course or purpose Fun

These are just a few you need to be careful of. Next time, we’ll look at other false friends in English and Spanish. Learning these words will help you as well as taking classes in The Language Corner in La Elipa and Calle Gandhi to improve your English.

New Year’s Idioms

Have you made any New Year’s resolutions this year? Maybe you’re trying to turn over a new leaf and start exercising more, learn a new language, or save money by tightening your belt. Do you jump on the bandwagon every year and sound like a broken record talking about your resolutions? Do you ever have to go back to the drawing board because you’re not sticking to your goal? Whatever your resolution is this year, just remember practise makes perfect. Don’t give up unless of course you’re a smoker and you’re trying to kick the habit.

Do you understand all of the idioms above? Why not make improving your English at The Language Corner one of your main goals in 2018 and discover more like these. We have classes in La Elipa and Garcia Noblejas in the morning or afternoon. We have everything from General English to Exam Preparation and even German and French classes.

To turn over a new leaf: start to act or behave in a better or more responsible way

To tighten your belt: cut your expenditure; live more frugally

To jump on the bandwagon: to suddenly become involved in something because it is fashionable or likely to succeed

To sound like a broken record: to repeat the same thing over and over again

To go back to the drawing board: start again from the beginning especially if the first attempt has failed

Practise makes perfect: Only by practising or repeating an action or activity can you become skilled at it.

Kick the habit: slang for overcoming an addiction; like cigarettes

Happy New Year

Here at The Language Corner, we would like to wish all our students a happy 2018.

We’re back from the holidays with a bang! What better time to start learning or indeed improving your English than the start of a new year. Make it one of your resolutions and here at our academies we’ll make it easy for you with our fun, dynamic classes with native, qualified teachers.

Whether you want to prepare for the Cambridge Exams, TOEIC, or Aptis, or simply improve your spoken English, we have a class for you.

Drop by our language schools in La Elipa and García Noblejas or call 673 340 106 for more information.

Christmas Idioms and Expressions

‘Tis the season to be jolly or Bah! Humbug!? Do you enjoy the Christmas festivities or are you more of an Ebenezer Scrooge when it comes to the holiday season? Whichever you are, Christmas is a good time to pick up new expressions and idioms in English. Today we’re going to look at some related to Christmas.

It’s like turkeys voting for Christmas = used to describe a person who puts themselves in a bad situation despite knowing it will turn out badly for them.

I’ll be there with bells on = when you are enthusiastic or excited about an upcoming event or party.

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth = This is an expression we should all heed. It means even if you don’t like or want your present, don’t let the person who gave it to you know.

Christmas comes but once a year = used as an excuse for overindulgence, whether on food or on gifts, on the basis that it doesn’t happen often.

Don’t be a Scrooge! = Telling someone not to be negative, especially around Christmas.

Bah Humbug! =  what a Scrooge says whenever someone mentions something festive and joyous.

 

I hope you enjoyed these Christmas expressions and you try to use them over the holiday season.

Merry Christmas from all of your native teachers at The Language Corner and we wish you all a prosperous New Year. Se you in January!

Reading Resources

Last week, here at The Language Corner, we brought you some of our favourite Listening resources to help you improve your comprehension skills. This week we’ll be looking at Reading. We’ll look at some interesting and useful websites to help you not only practise but also improve your reading skills. These kind of websites and mobile apps are a great add-on to English classes in both our academies here in La Elipa and Calle Gandhi. Whether you spend 5 minutes or 20 minutes reading, every little helps when it comes to improving your overall language ability. Reading in English is by far the best way to pick up new vocabulary. You might occasionally have to reach for your dictionary, but after a while, you should get used to figuring out the meaning through the context, a valuable skill to perfect if you intend taking the First Certificate or Cambridge Advanced exam.

If you’re studying for Cambridge Exams like the FCE or CAE, these websites will definitely come in handy for increasing your vocabulary as well as exposing you to idiomatic expressions and phrasal verbs.

First on the list is Read Theory. This website has a vast library of short texts which accompanying questions which range from purely comprehensible to deducing the writer’s opinion and tone. To start, you do a short test which determines your reading level. Then after each quiz, the program decides if you should move up or down a level or simply remain where you are. The great thing about this site is when you give an incorrect response, you’ll get an explanation justifying the correct and incorrect answers. It’s especially useful for Cambridge exam practice

National Geographic also has a dedicated interactive reading website for English language learners. It’s divided into three levels so you can choose the one which best suits. After you’ve read the text there are some comprehension questions to answer.

Another great free resource is ESOL Courses which along with other skills you can practise reading for information, and also learn new vocabulary along the way.

Really Learn English has a great section of graded short stories. The offer a wealth of vocabulary with interactive quizzes to check you remember it so you can enjoy the story without worrying about having to have your dictionary on hand.

These are just some great websites you can use to brush up on your reading skills outside class. Do you know of or use any others? Let us know which one is your favourite! And don’t forget, sometimes when you learn a new word by reading it, you may not be sure of the pronunciation; this happens to native speakers too so don’t fret. Just ask your native teacher at The Language Corner the next time you have class in our academies in La Elipa and Garcia Noblejas and they’ll be delighted to help.

Listening Resources

In order to improve our English, it’s important to practise all the skills; Speaking, Reading, Writing and Listening. While Speaking, Reading, and Writing can be practised easily enough Listening, on the other hand, can be a bit trickier especially here in Madrid. Although Madrid is an international city with scores of nationalities to get to know, even if you do use English as a means of communication, it’s likely to be with other non-native speakers. This, of course, is great for your Speaking skills but have you ever tried to listen to a group of native speakers talking and felt completely lost? Even though last week you and your Brazilian and French housemates had a perfectly intelligible conversation last week! However good it is to practise your English with non-natives, and of course it is, in order to improve your comprehension level, it’s much more beneficial to listen to natives whether they are having natural conversations on the street or on television. There are tonnes of free resources online with which you can practise to your heart’s content.

English Central is a site where you can watch short subtitled videos divided into seven levels. You listen, fill in the gaps and then practise pronunciation.

English Club has a dictation site where you can listen to recordings at full or slowed down speed and then write what you hear.

Playphrase is an interesting site where you can type in an English phrase and listen to different renderings of it from a catalogue of hundreds of films. A fun way to waste hours online

Elllo is another great site that has audio and video clips divided by levels for English learners to practise. With vocabulary explanations as well as a comprehension quiz this page is a great resource.

Podcasts in English is another great resource where the creators have divided different podcasts by level.

VOA is a news website which has current events in English and also a dedicated learning English broadcast. It’s very useful for those preparing for the Cambridge exams.

ISL Collective is another great website where teachers have uploaded interactive quizzes to go with an array of videos. Great to practise with kids and adults alike.

try using these websites at least once a week to improve your listening skills outside of class. Download a podcast for your metro journey or spend half an hour taking an interactive quiz instead of mindlessly watching tv in the evening.

Christmas Offer

Christmas is coming up (yes, I know it’s stilll November, but it does start earlier every year) with its inevitable rise in expenses and engagements to accompany the good cheer and festive spirit. All the same, among all the parties, Christmas plays and shopping, it’s still worth trying to make time for the English lessons we’ve been working so hard at all term. To help with that, here at The Language Corner we’re launching a special offer: if you pay for your December and January lessons together, you will earn a mouth-watering 25% discount!

This way you’ll be able to keep up your progress with your native teacher in La Elipa and Ciudad Lineal, and you’ll be ready to hit the ground running come January. Also, if you or anyone in your family is thinking about sitting one of Cambridge’s English Certificates, either the Advanced (CAE) or the First Certificate (FCE), what better Christmas present can you give, than a couple of months’

worth of lessons with our highly-qualified native English teachers, to get them started on the path towards their goal?

As November draws to a close, please do come and see us at our schools in Ciudad Lineal and García Noblejas, (very close to the La Elipa and La Almudena Line 2 Metro stops) so you can try a free class, to see for yourself why our Christmas offer is such a good deal!

Cambridge Exams

The Cambridge exams like The First Certificate (FCE) and The Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) are world renowned and accepted by universities and employers alike. These exams measure your linguistic ability over four exams; Reading and Use of English, in which you are expected to be knowledgeable about varying grammar and lexical structures as well as reading comprehension. Writing, where you have to write two compositions, Listening, a four part testing your ability to pick out relevant information from a variety of conversations and monologues, and Speaking, a fifteen minute exam done with a partner.

Image result for cambridge

At The Language Corner, our experienced native teachers can help you succeed in passing either The First Certificate or The Certificate in Advanced English. With specific classes dedicated to the preparation of The Cambridge Exams, our native teachers will help you improve not only your exam technique, but also your Use of English, Speaking, Reading, Writing, and Listening. Using Cambridge certified material and exam style exercises, the Cambridge Exam preparation classes at The Language Corner in La Elipa and Garcia Noblejas will assist you in reaching your English language goals be they personal, to improve your job prospects or to further your academic studies.

Whether you need a Cambridge Certificate in English or not, the FCE and CAE preparation classes are ideal for any student wishing to improve all aspects of their English, including the dreaded Writing! So why not come to our English academies located in La Elipa and García Noblejas to try a free class with our native teachers and see how much you enjoy it?