So you have reached a university-level of English and undoubtedly you’ve spent the better part of 2 decades studying grammar and spelling to get here.  Well, I have some good news and bad news for you. The good is that there really isn’t that much more grammar you need to learn in order to grasp 98% of what is being said or written in English.  The bad is that there is an enormous amount of vocabulary which you have barely scraped the surface of.  Contrary to the belief of some, English, or any language in my opinion, cannot be mastered in 1000 words.  So how can you improve?


Follow these simple guidelines to maintain a positive learning curve:


  1. Read non-fiction.


Although there is certainly a lot of amazing literature in English, the vast majority of what is sold to the English language learners’ market is watered-down “beach” novels.  While these are great for the beach or disconnecting a bit, I am not convinced they are the best to push the envelope and force you to improve.  They often regurgitate vocabulary and remove the more colourful parts of a novel (which often includes the new vocabulary you are looking for).


However, non-fiction is factual and can also be written with flair and colour.  I am not suggesting the newspaper rather biographies, historical accounts, psychology, philosophy, sociology, sports, engineering, politics, the story of inventions or industries (automotive, aerial, space, naval, fabrics, plastics, architecture, or pyrotechnics).  There really is a virtually unlimited array of topics to be explored.  Starting at the beginning you get introduced the jargon of the topic and little by little you can increase the difficulty by digging deeper and deeper into the topic.


  1. Watch documentaries.

I think that my reasoning for non-fiction reading over fiction applies as well to movies and TV series.  The latter are great for tuning out and consuming easy to digest material but they don’t really go beyond that.  In order to get new vocabulary and jargon, I find that documentaries are an excellent resource.  They don’t tend to use slang which very often goes over the learner’s head but they do use jargon and academic vocabulary to dive into some very interesting and complex issues.


  1. Get a hobby you only do in English.

Everyone needs a hobby.  I am a firm believer in this and not only for people who want to learn another language. Challenging yourself and learning about the world and life is essential to a healthy and strong mind.  Learning English can be an extremely useful vehicle to a lot of information on almost any topic in the world.


Let’s make one thing very clear about hobbies.  Pastimes are not necessarily hobbies.  Going to the cinema isn’t a hobby.  Listening to music isn’t a hobby.  Going to the beach isn’t a hobby.  However, “the cinema” is indeed a hobby if you love the history, art, movements, and development of the motion picture industry.  “Music” is a hobby if you dive into and learn about artists, history, movements, implications, and immerse yourself in the culture of music.  A hobby of music is NOT sitting on your bed and simply listening to songs.  If you travel the world exploring beaches and loving beaches for their diversity and differences, then you have a hobby.  If you go to the beach in your hometown to get a tan on Saturdays, this is not a hobby.


Hobbies are an active activity in which the participant goes out of their way to explore and learn more.  Pastimes are passive and help us to switch our brains off and relax.  Reading a trashy novel, laying on the beach, enjoying a Vin Diesel movie are all great pastimes.  Improving your photography skills, learning to make wine, or immersing yourself in train culture and building model trains are all great hobbies.


Now, I know not everyone will agree with me but I think that if you follow these three small guidelines, you will certainly see your vocabulary and general knowledge increase.  Putting your English to use is why, after all, you learned the language in the first place.  So after you finish the latest Dan Brown novel, get your teeth into something a bit more meaty and challenge yourself with non-fiction

Deciding to start studying a foreign language is both a large financial and time commitment and it is therefore very important that the student makes the right decision and selects the learning method that is best suited to them. Many students prefer studying at home alone or perhaps with a private teacher. However, the majority of language learners turn to language academies to help them to achieve their goals. This is where the next problem arises. With hundreds of language schools on offer, which one should you pick? When selecting a language school, there are many things that one may want to take into consideration. Price, available facilities and reputation are certainly among the top ranking in a list of countless factors that can make select or discard a language school. However, one factor that many seem to value above all others is the amount of native English speakers working in the academy.

Despite the hundreds of non-native English teachers that graduate a year people still seem to consider them inferior to native English speaker. That is why when searching for the perfect academy, those with native English teachers enjoy preference over those with non-native teaching staff.

A native English teacher is more experienced when it comes to speaking their language and their knowledge and understanding of the little specific features of the English language is incomparable and far superior to that of a non-native teacher.

Despite having a complete grasp of the English language there are certain aspects in which native English teachers are worse than their non-native counterparts. Let’s not forget that while native English speakers were born speaking English, non-native teachers had to go through the process of acquiring knowledge in order to speak English proficiently. They are therefore capable of understanding what grammatical structures may prove difficult for foreign students to understand as they themselves have faced the same problems.

When to introduce a native speaker into the learning experience is a very difficult question for most people. I personally would recommend introducing a native speaker when one reaches an intermediate level of English. This is due to the fact that learners new to the language need a solid base on which to build on in later stages and this can be achieved more easily by a non-native teacher who shares the student’s mother tongue.

On your next trip to London how would you react if someone asked you, “Do you want some Rosie Lee?” or said to you, “That’s a fine jam jar you´ve got there”, or someone else exclaimed, “They’re telling you pork pies!” These expressions contain examples of the famous Cockney Rhyming Slang. Read on to find out what these particular expressions really mean, but first you’ll need some background information.

Cockney Rhyming Slang’s Origins

Cockneys were originally working-class people from the East End of central London (from within the sound of Bow Church bells for the purists) with a culture and a way of speaking English all of their own. Since the mid-19th century they started introducing into their already distinct dialect the use of rhyming slang. Some say as a secretive code to evade police control or to dupe unwary clients in many of London’s street markets, but nobody really knows. There are few authentic cockneys left in the centre of London now. Many of them having migrated from their poorer origins, as their fortunes presumably prospered, to settle in regions surrounding London, like Essex; taking their distinct manner of speaking with them. In this way, as well as through a number of popular T.V. programmes (see Stepstoe & Son, Til Death Do Us Part, Minder or Eastenders for example) their rhyming slang has become quite widespread in the English language, being heard often today, not just in London and the surrounding areas.


More About The Lingo

In Cockney Rhyming Slang a pair of words are collocated such that the last word in the pair rhymes with another word actually being referred to. Let’s see this in practice using our previous quotes:

Rosie Lee = tea                Do you want some Rosie Lee* (tea)?                       ¿Quieres algo de té?

jam jar = car                    That’s a nice jam jar (car) you’ve got there.          Ese es un bonito coche que tienes ahí.

pork(y) pies = lies           They’re telling you pork pies (lies)!                       ¡Te están contando mentiras!

*Rosie Lee was a popular 1920´s exotic dancer

To further confound the general public, cockney speakers will tend to drop the second, rhyming word in the pair. So, it’s quite common to hear, “Would you like some Rosie?” or perhaps, “You’re telling me porkies!”.

Try translating the following cockney phrases still in common use today (the answers are at the end):

How are you, my old china?

There’s something in your barnet.

Can you lend me some bread?

Take a butcher´s at that!

Try using your loaf!

I don’t Adam & Eve it!

We haven’t seen you in donkey´s.

Do you fancy a Ruby?

Modern Developments

In modern times new rhyming slang expressions have been composed, tending to focus mainly on the names of famous people, known in the U.K. or internationally. This shows that this cultural phenomenon isn’t ready to disappear just yet. Look at some examples below:

Ayrton Senna = tenner (£10 pounds)                      The famous 1970’s Brazilian Formula 1 driver.

Lee Marvin = starvin´                                                 The very popular U.S 1960´s actor.

Britney Spears = beers                                                The famous U.S girl pop-singer.

Pete Tong = wrong                                                       A popular U.K rave D.J.

Calvin Klein = wine                                                      The well-known clothes designer.

So, are you ready to rabbit like a cockney?             rabbit & pork = talk   (in English pork & talk sound the same)

You can find lots more cockney expressions at

china plate = mate ( friend)

Barnet Fair = hair

bread & honey = money

butcher´s hook = look

loaf of bread = head

Adam & Eve = believe

donkey´s ears = years

Ruby Murray = curry  (a popular Irish singer in the 1950’s)


El aprendizaje es el proceso por cual adquirimos ciertos conocimientos, competencias y habilidades.

Cuando decimos “Aprendizaje Cómodo” nos identificamos y nos ponemos en el punto de visión con respecto al aprendizaje de los alumnos/as. Las clases deben de ser adecuadas y capacitadas a sus necesidades, es decir tienen que aprender divirtiéndose. Deberán ir conociendo las partes de otro idioma a través de la toma de contacto tanto visual, auditivo y como punto más importante el estudio diario de vocabulario para ponerlo en práctica a lo largo de los años del aprendizaje que es la base fundamental.

Tanto para padres como profesores, la ayuda y el trabajo diario con los niños/as es fundamental, un diccionario será un punto reflexivo y principal.

La idea de este tipo de metodología, base del aprendizaje y toma de contacto, es saber que los niños/as aprenden con juegos lúdicos y actividades metódicas, no queremos que ellos/as se aburran y tomen “manía” al inglés, los niños/as tienen que verlo de manera divertida.

Durante estos 10 años hemos puesto en marcha y trabajado nuestra metodología, “Sistema de Aprendizaje Cómodo”, como el principal objetivo, conseguir que se sientan seguros de si mismos, trabajando la destreza oral, es decir perdiendo el miedo a hablar en otro idioma en público. La ventaja a estas edades primarias es que los niños no tienen miedo a equivocarse, por ello es más fácil aprenderlo y expresarse.

La estructura de las clases a lo largo del curso debe de ser igualitaria, es decir se deben trabajar todos los puntos importantes, escrito, hablado, escuchado y sobre todo leído.

Aprender un idioma es comunicarse, permitiendo que se equivoquen aprendiendo de sus errores. Para ello deben de tener rutinas diarias, leer cuantos, cantar canciones, juegos de mesa tradicionales en inglés…

Un lengua nueva abre caminos a nuestros estudiantes, abre mentes, conocimientos y comprensión de otras culturas y puntos de vista.



For centuries linguists and philologists have attempted to discover the origins of the languages of the world and find out a common ancestor they may share. They noticed certain similarities between Greek, Latin and Sanskrit (a language of India), which couldn’t be explained as a mere coincidence. This discovery led them to believe that these three languages must come from a common source and therefore must share a common ancestor. Since then the academic community has attempted to construct a language family tree, dividing all known languages into different language families.


What has all this got to do with language learning? The fact that numerous languages share many similarities makes language learning easier. In the case of Spanish, which belongs to the Romance language family, it shares a large amount of vocabulary and grammatical structures with other such languages such as Italian, Portuguese or French. As a consequence Spanish speakers have an easier time when it comes to learning other Romance languages. Another example of this can be found in the Germanic language family, in particular in regards to Norwegian, Swedish and Danish. These three languages are mutually understandable and allow speakers of all three languages to communicate effortlessly.


However, this phenomenon can be a double-edged sword. Learners of similar languages can come across vocabulary known as false friends. False friends are words which exist in both languages but which have a different meaning in each language. A good example of this is the Spanish word dormitorio (bedroom) and the English word dormitory (university residence for students).


Language learning is a fun and useful activity which, contrary to popular belief, anyone can do and remember the more languages you know the easier it is to learn more.

El Flag Football es la modalidad sin contacto del Fútbol americano en la que no existen bloqueos ni placajes. Es un juego para todas las edades. Esta disciplina deportiva se muestra muy favorable para el desarrollo de los más pequeños, tanto a nivel físico como cognitivo.

El flag football es un deporte en el que la capacidad de estrategia presenta un papel muy importante. En el fútbol americano se utiliza un libro de jugadas (playbook), en el que cada jugador tiene una función determinada que debe llevar a cabo a través de una toma de decisiones, según la situación de juego en la que se encuentre.

El estudio realizado por Yoshinaga, Takahashi y Onizawa (2003), en el cual se aplica una unidad didáctica de flag football a un grupo de alumnos de primaria, muestra que dicha toma de decisiones favorece el aumento gradual de la tasa de ejecución de estrategias del alumno, durante todo el proceso de la unidad favoreciendo su capacidad de estrategia.

Por otra parte, este tipo de actividad involucra una serie de habilidades motrices (desplazamientos, saltos, giros, lanzamiento, equilibrio, recepciones, etc.) muy importantes para el desarrollo de las cualidades físicas básicas (velocidad, fuerza, resistencia y flexibilidad) de los niños y niñas. El correcto desarrollo de dichas habilidades puede resultar un factor determinante para la obtención de una mayor calidad de vida (saludable) en su etapa adulta.

Respecto al juego:

El objetivo consiste en llevar el balón a la zona de anotación rival. El equipo que tiene la posesión del balón (atacante) dispone de cuatro jugadas a balón parado (downs) para intentar avanzar 10 yardas. Si lo consigue, volverá a tener otros cuatro downs para avanzar otras 10 yardas. Si no lo consigue, la posesión del balón pasará al rival.  camp                                                                                (Campo de juego)

Cuando se llega a la zona de anotación con balón controlado se obtiene un touchdown  y  permite anotar un extra point de 1 ó 2 puntos.

Un defensor frenará a un jugador de ataque al quitarle el flag (bandera) que llevará en la cintura simulando el placaje del fútbol americano. La defensa podrá recuperar el balón interceptando un pase del quarterback, con la posibilidad de anotar llevando el balón a la zona de anotación contraria

Posiciones y funciones:

– Ataque:

  • Quaterback: Lidera el ataque. Se encarga de lanzar el balón
  • Receiver: Su función es atrapar el balón lanzado por el quarterback y avanzar lo máximo posible con el balón.
  • Center: Se encarga de poner el balón en juego y salir a ruta convirtiéndose en otro receiver.
  • Running back: Corre con el balón con el objetivo de avanzar el máximo de yardas posibles.

– Defensa:

  • Blitz/linebacker: El blitz o disparo se coloca a 7 yardas del balón y su función es correr hacia el quarterback para quitarle el flag cuando el balón se pone en juego.
  • Cornerback/safety: Los cornerbacks se encargan de defender a los receptores evitando que avancen después de haber atrapado el balón o interceptando el balón recuperando la posesión para su equipo.

Aquí os dejamos un video de demostración sobre el flag football:

Bajo mi experiencia, es uno de los mejores proyectos lúdico-educativo para el niño/a. Ellos/as mismos/as aprenden a diferenciar, compartir, expresarse y saber actuar ante nuevas situaciones. Las funciones, actividades y talleres que se desarrollan sirven para el crecimiento en la vida cotidiana y el futuro personal del niño/a.

Aprenden VALORES, rutinas, saber organizarse y socializarse con todo el entorno que les rodea, sobre todo la convivencia con los demás a base de RESPETO y EDUCACIÓN.

Los padres deben tener muy en cuenta el tipo de campamento que han escogido para sus hijos/as, es muy importante saber escuchar las preferencias del niño/a, ya que para él, puede llegar a ser un punto negativo para su personalidad.

Lo más importante ante todo será, saber abrir los lazos afectivos de los niños/as y tener en cuenta siempre que son pequeños espejos de la realidad que les rodea.


Learning Styles

As an English teacher I am constantly made aware in my classes that students all have different learning styles. For example, some of my students really enjoy working in groups while others progress much more quickly working alone. Alternatively, I have seen some learners draw pictures in their vocabulary books in order to help them assimilate words, and yet others need to hear a word repeatedly before they start to use it.

Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences

The American psychologist Howard Gardner came up with the theory of Multiple Intelligences (1983) which for me goes some way towards explaining these different learning styles. According to Gardner there are eight different types of intelligences, as follows:

  • Linguistic – The word player
  • Logical / Mathematical – The questioner
  • Visual / Spatial – The visualizer
  • Musical – The music lover
  • Bodily / Kinaesthetic – The mover
  • Interpersonal – The socialiser
  • Intrapersonal – The lone thinker
  • Naturalistic – The nature lover

Apparently, everyone has some of each of all these intelligences, but in different people one (or more) is more pronounced. I would say that I respond best to logical or intrapersonal styles of learning; so, for instance, I would get more out of trying to solve a puzzle by myself than learning a song in a group.

Classroom Activities Based on Learner Styles

Thankfully, M. Loon from the University of Canberra has developed the table below to help us link learner types to specific learning activities. (See Jeremy Harmer’s book The Practice of English Language Teaching for more information).

Learner type Is good at Learns best by Activities
Linguistic Reading, writing and stories Saying, hearing and seeing words Memory games
Trivia quizzes
Logical / mathematical Solving puzzles, exploring patterns, reasoning and logic Asking questions, categorising and working with patterns Puzzles
Problem solving.
Visual / Spatial Drawing, building, arts and crafts Visualising, using the mind’s eye Flashcards
Project work.
Musical Singing, listening to music and playing instruments Using rhythm, with music on Using songs
Bodily / Kinaesthetic Moving around, touching things and body language Moving, touching and doing TPR activities
Action songs
Running dictations
Interpersonal Mixing with others, leading groups, understanding others and mediating Co-operating, working in groups and sharing Mingle activities
Group work
Intrapersonal Working alone and pursuing own interests Working alone Working individually on personalised projects
Naturalistic Nature Working outside and observing nature Environmental projects.

In my next blog I will be looking at how we can take advantage of these insights to help us get more out of learning English in a classroom setting.


In my earlier blog I posted some tips on how teachers might go about planning a Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) course. Let me just remind you that in a CLIL course an academic, or vocational, subject is taught through the medium of a foreign language, which in this case is English. In this blog I´d like to continue by saying a few words on how a teacher can go about exploiting subject materials written in English in order to teach a particular subject, be it history, art or science.

Cognitive Load

When selecting materials the teacher should consider its cognitive load, bearing in mind that too much information may overload students’ brains. This could be done by selecting a relatively simple content area, for example, Baccalaureate level students using a secondary level native English course book. Alternatively, by using an area that has already been covered well in class in the first language and then doing the CLIL course in English, as revision or extension.

Exploiting Materials

Let´s say that the teacher finds a particular English text book to teach specific content material. The next question is how to exploit it. One of the first aspects to think about may be the vocabulary – is there any technical or specialist vocabulary that the students may need to know for the course or to understand the text? The teacher might want to pre-teach this by getting students to match words to definitions or pictures, or by making a gap-fill.

Following this, the teacher has to help students discover meaning from the text; initially helping them to guess meaning using context, and then progressively working on general and specific comprehension. This could be done with comprehension questions, information gap tasks, jigsaw reading tasks, jumbled reading text tasks and so on.


Follow-up activities are important as a means of reinforcing the vocabulary learnt earlier and developing both language skills and comprehension of the topic. These activities might include group discussions, individual presentations, making posters or writing about the topic, for homework or in class.

Although CLIL can bring with it additional complexity for teaching, with proper planning and methodology it can become a stimulating and rewarding way to learn English.

Conditionals are of the most common structures used in English or most languages. They are simple to use, and in addition they are exactly the same in usage and meaning to the Spanish equivalents. But they are also much more flexible than the basic grammar suggests.

If you are going to take the FCE or the CAE, then conditionals are a must. You should use them in both the writing and speaking tasks, and you will also see them in the universally dreaded Use of English paper 4. So here are some tips on how to make them even better and get you points in the exam.


Modal verbs – All of the usual 3 types of conditional have the auxiliaries will or would. These can be easily change for other auxiliaries, modal auxiliaries.


1st Conditional

If it’s sunny tomorrow, we can go to the beach.

If he arrives on time, we might get to see the start of the film.

If you can’t stop, you should at least cut down.

If you must watch it, you could turn down the volume


2nd conditional

If I won the lottery I could travel around the world.

If I had a better job, I may be able to afford a car.


3rd Conditional

If I had seen him, I might have told him.

If you had known, you should have warned him.


Mixed Conditionals – Another way to make your conditional more sophisticated is to use mixed conditionals. These are generally a mixture of the second and third conditional.


If I hadn’t seen it, we wouldn’t be here now.

If they had won, we would have the trophy.

If you had brought your coat, you wouldn’t be freezing now.




If the team wasn’t winning, we would have been relegated.

If I had a bigger house, everyone could have stayed.

If I didn’t have to work this week, I could have gone to concert.


Unless  – Also you should never forget unless. Unless means IF NOT. So if you are writing a conditional and the first part is negative than you can easily change it to unless, not forgetting to make any other necessary changes.


In conclusion if you use these structures in the official exams they will give you the needed sophistication to score higher marks than with the more normal conditionals.