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COMMON MISTAKES FOR SPANISH SPEAKERS

DO YOU THINK IN ENGLISH? OR SPANISH?

Many of our students here at the academy in Madrid still think about a new language by translating through their first. This leads to common mistakes often spotted by our native teachers. Here we have listed the top mistakes for you to learn quickly and sound more native today!

Using COMO – HOW for questions.

  • How is this?
  • How spell this?

Using WITH – INSTEAD OF TO

Married TO someone as opposed to married WITH

John has been married with to Caroline for 5 years.

They have five years together.

This is also not correct as we have to specificy what they have together, 

They have been together for five years.

TENER V SER – AGE 

In English we don´t have our years, but we are them, this often causes confusion for beginners who like to say I have 10 years old instead of I am 10 years old. 

James and John have ten years.

If this sentence seems correct to you, you´d be among the hundreds of Spanish speakers who also incorrectly use HAVE instead of TO BE when discussing ages. This is a fairly common mistake as of course in Spanish we use ´tener´.

AGREEMENT

I am agree

This sentence should be I agree with no use of am as agree is a verb itself!

WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? INCLUDE THE SUBJECT!

It is very important to refer to the SUBJECT. In Spanish this can be omitted, so even advanced students are tempted to start their sentences with ´is very easy to´, but this leaves us feeling rather baffled; but what is easy? IT of course! IT is easy!

NEW WORD?

baffle
ˈbaf(ə)l/
verb
past tense: baffled; past participle: baffled
  1. 1.
    totally bewilder or perplex.
    “an unexplained occurrence that baffled everyone”
    synonyms: perplexpuzzlebewildermystifybemuseconfuseconfoundnonplusdisconcertthrow, set someone thinking; More

Aptis Exam Explained

 

Here at The Language Corner in La ELipa and García Noblejas we have been getting many requests for information about Aptis, the latest exam by The British Council. In both our English academies we offer preparation classes for both Aptis General and Aptis Advanced. But before you sign up to English classes in our academy, let’s explain exactly what the Aptis entails.

Firstly, it’s worth noting that the entire Aptis exam is done on a computer. It takes a total of 2hours and 32 minutes with all the skills being tested. It’s a scaled exam so there is no pass or fail mark but your results are given as a CEFR level for A0-C for the Aptis General and B1-C2 for the Aptis Advanced.

The Aptis, as well as being a cheaper and quicker alternative to the Cambridge exams such as The First Certificate and Advanced it is also becoming more widely recognised here in Spain. The Aptis General is valid if you are a student and need to demonstrate you have a B1 or B2 level and the Aptis Advanced is accepted by the Comunidad de Madrid as proof of linguistic competence for teachers.

As with most English language exams, Aptis is split into sections covering Reading, Writing, Speaking Listening and Grammar & Vocabulary. Let’s have a look at each section and how to best approach it.

Speaking

Part 1

The first part of the Speaking consists of 3 simple questions which you have 30 seconds to respond to.  They are usually related to your life, your hobbies, family or holidays. Each question will usually require you to use a certain tense so be mindful of that when you are answering.

As the test is done on a computer, a good way to practise this particular part is to record yourself answering some basic questions on your phone while using a timer. This will not only help you with time management but also with your pronunciation and intonation.

Being the first part of the test means the questions are simple but it doesn’t mean your answers have to be. I don’t mean that you should try to over-complicate things but it is a good idea to use these short questions to show off some vocabulary you know related to the topic. An example could be to learn an idiom that describes a person such as “He/she is a blast!” (the person is a lot of fun) This way you can use it to describe a friend, family member or someone you work with.

Here are some typical questions from Aptis:

  1. Please tell me about your family.
  2. Where did you go on your last holiday?
  3. What’s the weather like today?

Each answer should be between 4 and 6 sentences long. Speak clearly and at a pace you’re comfortable with and you should have no problem answering the questions from part 1.

Part 2

In the second part of the Speaking Test, you will be asked to describe a picture and then answer two further questions about it. This time you have 45 seconds to respond.

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?

 

 

 

To see example answers to these questions and tips on how to describe pictures, check out our previous entry on Aptis Speaking.

 

Part 3

In this part of the exam, you will be shown two pictures and asked to compare them. This is quite similar to the FCE or CAE and finding examples from those exams will help immensely. Again, there are 3 questions which each have a 45 second limit for answering.

  1. Compare the two pictures.
  2. Why might people choose each type of holiday?
  3. Which of these types of holidays are better for you?

Part 4

The last part of the Speaking test for Aptis, you are once again given a photo with three questions. This time, however, you’ll have one minute to prepare your ideas and two minutes to cover all three questions.

  1. Describe an old person you admire and why.
  2. How do you know them?
  3. What characteristics do they have that you like?

Check out our previous post for ideas and tips on how to answer these parts of the Aptis

Don’t forget you can prepare for the Aptis exam in Madrid in our English academies in Madrid in both La Elipa and Garcia Noblejas. All of our native teachers at our language academies are familiar with not only the Aptis but also all of the Cambridge exams. So if you are looking to prepare for the FCE in Madrid or the CAE in Madrid, make sure you stop by our English academies in Madrid in La Elipa and La Almudena. Looking forward to meeting you!

Aptis Speaking Parts 3 & 4

Today at The language corner we’re going to look at the second part of the Aptis Speaking test, with tips and sample answers to give you an idea of what is needed in this relatively new exam by The British Council.  Of course, here in our English academies, you can prepare for the Aptis as well as The Cambridge exams with our native teachers.

Part 3

In this part of the exam, you will be shown two pictures and asked to compare them. This is quite similar to the FCE or CAE and finding examples from those exams will help immensely. Again, there are 3 questions which each have a 45 second limit for answering.

 

  1. Compare the two pictures. (45sec)
  2. Why might people choose each type of holiday?  (45sec)
  3. Which of these types of holidays are better for you?  (45sec)

As we saw in our previous post when describing photos we usually use modals of deduction to say what we suppose is happening in the pictures. Let’s have a go at answering these ones 🙂

  1. In the first picture on the left, a couple can be seen relaxing in deck chairs at the beach. I imagine they are a couple as they are holding hands and the woman seems to be gazing at her partner. There is a bag hanging off one deckchair and a hat hanging off the other. It looks idyllic if I’m honest.  In the second picture, we can see a group, with backpacks on hiking through the mountains. They appear to be following a trail and are properly prepared for the terrain. It reminds me of going trekking with my friends in the mountains outside my city.
  2. I reckon people choose beach holidays to get away from the hustle bustle of the city and to completely switch off. Not only do they get to relax on what seems like a paradise island but they also don’t have to worry about the stresses of their daily life. On the other hand, this type of trip can seem utterly boring to some people which is why they might prefer to do something more active. They also want to escape the fast-paced way of things in the city by getting fresh air in a pristine landscape but obviously lying on the beach for days would just bore them to tears.
  3. Both types of holiday have their benefits. Relaxing on a beautiful beach for a week might do somebody who has a high-stress job or day to day life the world of good as they can just switch off and forget about everything for the time being. However, the hiking holiday is obviously more active and in that way, it’s physically better for you. I suppose it all depends on whether you want to do something active or would benefit just as much from simply taking a break from your daily routine.

Part 4

The last part of the Speaking test for Aptis, you are once again given a photo with three questions. This time, however, you’ll have one minute to prepare your ideas and two minutes to cover all three questions.

 

  1. Tell me about the first thing you bought online.
  2. How did you feel about the purchasing?
  3. Would you recommend online shopping?

For this question, since you have a minute to prepare it’s a good idea to jot down the points you want to mention without writing full sentences. Be careful not to describe the photo given as this is not the task in this question. The questions are more abstract (e.g a feeling). Make sure you answer all three questions and stay on topic. Doing otherwise will lose you valuable points. You are free to glance at your notes while you speak so it’s really important to practise brainstorming and making the most of this.

Here is an example of how you can brainstorm some ideas in one minute. Notice that as well as answering the questions I’ve also included short structures to include in my answer. This final part of the Aptis speaking exam is aimed at the higher levels so it’s important to incorporate advanced structures into your answer. Think about inversions (not only but also, only if/when), passives, conditionals etc. It’s also good to use any related vocabulary you can think of. Having said that, we also recommend you stick to what you know in the exam. Practise these structures before the exam so you are confident using them. Don’t try to wing it in the exam by throwing in structures you half know and are likely to get wrong. Accuracy is of vital importance in any speaking exam and the Aptis is no different.

Let’s have a go at answering this one:

If I recall correctly, the first thing I bought online was a necklace from eBay. It was being auctioned on the site and I thought it was really beautiful. I remember feeling excited by the bidding process. I would place a bid and wait to see if someone outbid me for the item. In the end, mine was the highest bid and I won the auction. I also remember feeling quite nervous however because of the payment method. Only by giving the website my credit card details could I proceed. I was also worried it wouldn’t arrive even after paying for it. I decided I’d have to take the chance and thankfully my necklace arrived shortly after.

I would definitely recommend shopping online nowadays. There are so many shops and you can buy virtually anything delivered to your doorstep. It’s really handy for people who work a lot or simply don’t enjoy going shopping on the high street, especially around the holidays or sales when bricks and mortar shops are packed. Not only is shopping online faster and more efficient but it’s also cheaper than the high street stores a lot of the time.

As you can see, I used the notes from the spider diagram to shape my answer but also added more information as I thought of it. I hope this helps. Don’t forget you can prepare for the Aptis exam in Madrid in our English academies in Madrid in both La Elipa and Garcia Noblejas. All of our native teachers at our language academies are familiar with not only the Aptis but also all of the Cambridge exams. So if you are looking to prepare for the FCE in Madrid or the CAE in Madrid, make sure you stop by our English academies in Madrid in La Elipa and La Almudena. Looking forward to meeting you!

 

british, la elipa, madrid

10 Very British Foods!

  1. Sunday Roast & Yorkshire Pudding
    Sundays in England are mostly spent with your family. Relatives gather around the table for a ´late lunch´around 2pm arguing over the last roast potato because there can never be too many roast potatoes! Every plate in my household has at least six. A roast beef joint or leg of lamb has usually been prepared for hours in the oven and the meat of choice, is accompanied by a delicious green sauce called Mint Sauce. Chicken is now also a popular choice for many families as red meat has become less popular in Britain. The Yorkshire Pudding is the pride and joy at these dinners and can now be bought frozen from the supermarket for those who are not so brave!
  2. Eton Mess
    As delightful as it sounds, this desert literally is a mess of cream and fruit! This traditional desert dates back to 1893 as a dish served at Eton College, a famous upper class college for boys in the South of England. Ask your teacher if they love this summer pudding or maybe they have a different favourite? If they are native, they must have eaten this every summer in England!
  3. Pie and Mash
    A staple plate in most households, ´Pie and Mash´ is a family favourite, especially with fussy children! Unlike the upper class merengue desert above, Pie and Mash started as a more working-class dish served in Central London. Originally they contained eels or fish!
  4. Bangers and Mash
    Similar to the Pie and Mash above, Bangers is a very colloquial British term for sausages! Using very thick, pork sausages covered in enough gravy to sink a boat! If you want to try this in Madrid, The James Joyce near Retiro offers a pretty ´bang on´version. (bang on = collaquial slang for éxact´)
  5. Full English Breakfast
    What is a visit to England without a good ´fry up´? Usually eaten in a small cafe affectionately called ´greasy spoons´ by locals due to the oil and fat used in the cooking process.
  6. Sticky Toffee Pudding
    This is definitely my mothers favourite, although you will certainly never find it in my lunch box at the academy! This is often served at weddings, parties or celebrations as a desert option.
  7. Afternoon Tea
    If you have been to England, you must have tried the Afternoon Tea. Made famous by Royalty as a snack between lunch and dinner, tiny ¨finger sandwiches¨ and cakes are the centre of the table with pots of tea in fine china crockery. Nowadays, this has grown in popularity for celebrations as opposed to a daily snack. We can tell our profesores are nativos because they can be found munching on cucumber sandwiches in between lessons!
  8. Fish & Chips
    Traditionally served in a paper packet in a seaside town, this Friday Favourite is enjoyed amongst many families in Britain, but what is better, mayonnaise or ketchup?  Here at La Elipa we vote mayonnaise with our chips, but our teachers in our sister academy at La Almudena on Calle Gandhi vote Ketchup!
  9. Beef Wellington
    This dish is traditionally made of beef, mushrooms and pâté, cooked in a pastry crust with a gravy encompassing a Madeira wine. A staple at the local pub, I haven´t seen any in La Elipa or around Ventas, but let us know if you find a version near our language academy for us to try!
  10. Spotted Dick
    Although not as common, most households have heard of this very British dish, even if they do not consume it often. Made from a flat sheet of pastry and dried fruit, it is rolled up before cooking which gives it the round appearance. If only we had a kitchen at The Language Corner…

Want to know more? We at The Language Corner would love to hear about your experiences  with British cuisine. Maybe you have a favourite we can add to the list!

Aptis Speaking Test Part 1 & 2

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.