Category Archives: English tips

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.

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.

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?

Present Perfect

 

Listen to the verses of Queen’s classic song We Are the Champions. What sort of actions are they referring to?

They all refer to actions and states that occurred at an indefinite time in the past. To describe these concepts we use the Present Perfect tense.

We construct this tense by using the present simple form of the auxiliary verb to have together with the past participle form of the verb that describes our action.

I + [to have] + [to pay] ===> I have paid my dues, time after time

I + [to have] + [to do] ===> I have done my sentence

But [Ì’ve] committed no crime

And bad mistakes: I’ve made a few.

I’ve had my share of sand kicked in my face

But I’ve come through

Remember that you cannot use the Present Perfect if you want to be specific about when this action happened – we have the Past Simple for that:

“Have you had lunch yet?” Present Perfect – we’re talking about an unspecified time in the past.

“Yes, I ate a sandwich at 2 o’clock” Past Simple – we’re talking about the exact time that the sandwich was eaten.

 

We also use the Present Perfect to refer to states that began in the past, and continue to be true today:

“I have lived in Madrid for three years”.

“I haven’t slept for days… I’m exhausted!”

The song We Are The Champions is reproduced for educational purposes only, and is the property of Queen and Sony/ATV

LINKING WORDS practice

Today we are looking at different types of conjunctions, or linking words.  We use these words to connect ideas.  Today we will focus on 4 types of connecting words and their functions.

 

Look at these 4 sentences and put them into the correct category:

CONTRAST      REASON AND RESULT     TIME     CONDITION

  1.  I went to the shop,  because I wanted to buy some coffee.
  2.  I won´t speak to him  unless he apologizes first.
  3.  Hilary Clinton won the popular vote, however she lost the election.
  4. While vacationing in Fiji, they adopted a pet iguana!

Image result for connectors english

  1. reason and result
  2. condition
  3. contrast
  4. time

NOW put the following conjunctions into the 4 categories:

however           such…that           while              depite           even though            as long as

           although          until           so…that           unless         so          in case           as

  1. Reason and Result

2. Condition

3. Time

4. Contrast

 

Image result for connectors english

  1. Reason and Result : such…that, so, so…that, as
  2. Condition: as long as, unless, in case
  3. Contrast: however, although , despite, even though
  4. Time: until, while               
  5.  

PRACTICE:

Fill in the gaps with an appropriate conjunction. (more than one answer may be possible!)

  1.  Wear your hat _______  it´s sunny.  (in case/until)
  2. My Spanish has been improving ________ I´ve been studying! (however/ because)
  3. ____________ studying my Spanish, it´s not improving! (Even though/ Despite)
  4. We won´t know anything more  ____ the results are back. (so/until)
  5. I´d love to come to your party, _________ I´ve already made plans. (however, despite)
  6. She´s _____ a nasty person ______ no one likes her.  (so…that/such…that)

Image result for connectors english

  1. in case
  2. because
  3. despite
  4. until
  5. however
  6. such…that

 

LIKE or AS???

What is the difference between these two sentences?

1. As your teacher, I advise you to always do your homework!
2. Like your teacher, I advise you to always do your homework!

 

Resultado de imagen de like or as

The prepositions as and like have different meanings.

As + noun means ‘in the role of’

like + noun means ‘similar to’ or ‘in the same way as’.

 

As your teacher, I advise you to always do your homework!

The speaker is the listener´s teacher.

 

Like your teacher, I advise you to always do your homework!

The speaker is not the teacher, but wants to act in the same way as a teacher.

 

Now practice writing sentences on your own, using like and as.  Please send them to me in the comments for review!

 

Link

WHEN I first came to Madrid, I spoke little Castellano. Very little. Sure, I had picked up some vocabulary here and there- mostly via pop culture. You know, the hasta la vistas and so forth. Having lived in California, I was bound to hear some south-of-the-border chatter. It´s impossible not to. For those of you learning a second language: I hear your moans, I feel your pains, I can taste your anxiety! For those of you who have so much to say, and not the words to say it. For those of you brave enough to submit yourself to the utter embarrassment that comes with not only learning a second language, but actually using it. This is for you. You are not alone.
It was  Christmas, 2015. I was in the fancy supermarket (it´s Christmas, after all)  doing some last-minute food shopping. Like you do here in Spain, I wanted to order some ham from the deli counter. The woman, of whom I had the deepest sympathies for, looked rather disheveled. The remnants of a busy day were surrounding her. Bacon trimmings, plastic wrap gone awry, russian salad drops, squished pickled onions, chorizo chaos, and of course…ham. It being Christmas, I went for the bad boy- the top shelf. After about 30 seconds of fumbling my way through the numbers, I pointed to the serrano I wanted and smiled, portraying what I´m sure was a rather grotesque display of delight and need. I was just trying to communicate. A look of understanding flickered through her eyes, and we were on our way. Success! Oh the thrills of communicating! It can be so exhilarating-not having made a fool of yourself AND getting what you want. Glorious.
But wait. Now she is holding out a slice over the counter. What am I supposed to do with this? I did what I thought was best, and I snatched it up and gobbled it down- showing my approval in a series of over-the-top facial expressions that could (and maybe should) have been taken for something rather serious. I thanked her immensely for this display of comraderie, practically bowing at the counter. I felt so special. Well done me. That glorious feeling lasted only but a minute, for her thunderous look soon clouded over my picnic of pride and ham. She was not happy with me. But why? Confused and slightly wounded, I Charlie-Browned out of there, ham in hand.
I asked my Spanish friend later what I had done wrong. Apparently the sample was not a sample at all, but for me to check the thickness of the slice.
Why would such a minor incident have had so much of an effect on me? Because it happens all the time. The highs and lows of learning a language are extreme. From exhilaration (giving correct directions to a stranger on the streetcorner) to sheer embarrassment. The other day on the train a man asked:
¨Eres Español?¨
¨Sí! Un poco.¨
Oh dear, I´ve done it again…

While the extents and extremes of embarrassment are cultural- they are still universal. No matter how intense. We all feel a bit stupid when learning a new language. But fear not!

We can do this…together. Ham and all.

Uncomfortable? No worries. As English teachers here at The Language Corner, we know all about the difficulties of learning a second language (we´ve done it ourselves!) Studies show that confidence can greatly affect your progress in language-learning. We strive to lower the affective filter*, allowing you to fully capitalize on your potential. Exam preparation, entertaining classes for children, adult conversation classes- whatever you are looking for- our staff are native and knowledgeable. We love to tell a joke and explain why it´s funny. In such a big city like Madrid, @TheLangCorner is your place for a little TLC.

* The Affective Filter is the term Stephen Krashen has used to refer to the complex of negative emotional and motivational factors that may interfere with the reception and processing of comprehensible input. Such factors include: anxiety, self-consciousness, boredom, annoyance, alienation, and so forth. www.focalskills.info/about-fs/low-affective-filter.html

It’s Summer!!!

treebeachsea

 

It’s summer and we know what you’re thinking…beach, sea, a nice spot under a tree…but remember

WE

are still open in July and August. Don’t miss the opportunity to keep practising your English. We will be open Monday to Thursday, mornings and evenings in both the academy in La Elipa and en San Blas/Pueblo Nuevo.

We are offering our usual general English, Cambridge exam preperation and conversation classes as well as French and German, all with native speaker teachers.

We are also running intensive First and Advanced Cambridge exam preperation classes. See details of our SPECIAL OFFER here.

And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and on our blog. Sea, tree, we…did you see the connection???

Wishing everyone a great summer!!!!