14 Oct 2015

The power of adjectives in descriptions: cities

Hi there!

These days we've been talking about cities and we've learnt some very useful vocabulary to describe them. Below I include some of these words (remember to check their pronunciation!). Can you add any other?

Now, today I didn't want to focus solely on these adjectives, but rather highlight the effect  and crucial importance that adjectives have in our writing and speech: being able to be specific and choose the right word adds value to our language, and colour to our descriptions.

Have a look at the following text about Mexico:
Mexico City is Mexico's capital city and one of the most important political, cultural, educational and financial centres in North America. With a GDP of $411 billion US dollars in 2012, it is ranked as the eighth richest city in the world. Settling on an altitude of more than 2,000 metres, tourists are instantly enamoured by the city's glamour, cultural heritage and contemporary development. Every corner of the city is sprinkled with stories to tell of famous personalities and ancient tribes. While the Aztecs discovered and gave the city its culture and heritage, the Spanish revamped and added their touch. Today, the cultural amalgamation is mirrored in every landmark of Mexico City, be it the Templo Mayor, El Zócalo square, Catedral Metropolitana or Frida Kahlo museum.
  • What feeling do you have when you finish reading?
Now compare it with the text below, about the English city of Middlesbrough:
  • What kind of adjectives are used the most: positive, negative or neutral?
  • How does this affect the impact of the article?

(Note: No offence intended to the people in Middlesbrough. It is deliberately wildly exaggerated to show the power of negative adjectives in an English text.)

The text is evidently extremely negative, something which is mainly achieved via the adjectives used. Now, do the following:
  • Highlight all the negative adjectives/expressions.
  • Replace them with some more positive ones.
  • When you have finished, check the impact the text has on the reader now. Has it changed?
This exercise would be a very good opportunity to start using an antonyms dictionary. Check the entry "Back with dictionaries again! Enrich your vocabulary fast and easy" to learn how to do it!

7 Oct 2015

Natural disasters: Chile's earthquake


Today I post a quick listening activity with a video from Reuters News Agency. It covers the earthquake and later tsunami that affected Chile last September 2015. As you know, the topics of "cities", "natural disasters" and "the environment" are included in our curriculum, and therefore in the contents of the different levels.

I ask you to find some time to do this listening activity, and write down some interesting words you could learn. Remember:

  • Watch once for general understanding (forget about the activity at the beginning)
  • Do the activity in the second listening
  • Finally, check your answers in the last listening

As usual, remember that the answer key is at the end of the document :)

Thanks for watching!

After watching this video and doing the activity, you might want to visit: "School reopens after Oklahoma tornado".

2 Oct 2015

Back with dictionaries again! Enrich your vocabulary fast and easy

Several posts have already been published in this blog about dictionaries ("There is life outside word reference!"; "Using monolingual and collocations dictionaries"). Today we're going to focus on yet a different type of dictionaries: dictionaries of synonyms and antonyms. Have you ever used them??

To start with, a synonym is a word that has a similar or the same meaning as another one in the language, whereas an antonym is a word that has an opposite meaning. I include some examples below:

Examples of synonyms:


Some more advanced examples include:
Beautiful: Attractive, Pretty, Lovely, Stunning
Fair: Just, Objective, Impartial, Unbiased
Funny: Humorous, Comical, Hilarious, Hysterical
Happy: Content, Joyful, Mirthful, Upbeat
Hardworking: Diligent, Determined, Industrious, Enterprising
Honest: Honorable, Fair, Sincere, Trustworthy
Intelligent: Smart, Bright, Brilliant, Sharp
Introverted: Shy, Bashful, Quiet, Withdrawn
Kind:Thoughtful, Considerate, Amiable, Gracious
Outgoing: Friendly, Sociable, Warm, Extroverted 
Examples of antonyms

Working on our synonyms and antonyms will incredibly help us to enrich our vocabulary. (I also talked about this in an earlier post: "learn how to be more descriptive!"). But how can you do that? Well, there are many ways, from writing lists in your notebook, to designing flashcards or categorizing your vocabulary. But today we're only going to focus on one: dictionaries of synonyms and antonyms.

There are two main dictionaries of this sort online:

I personally prefer the second one, and here I'm going to show you an example of how it works. Extremely useful, and dead easy, you'll see!!

The homepage looks like this: (make sure it says "synonyms" on the left)

As an example I have introduced the word "sad". To start with, something very useful is that the words are coloured according to their relevance/frequency, as you can see below:

More than that, you can also activate the options "common" or "informal" on the right, so that the corresponding words are highlighted. This is extremely important, since when you learn a new word, you should also know if you should use it in formal or informal contexts. These differences of register are essential for advanced students.

If you scroll down a bit more, we find the antonyms. Again, they're highlighted according to their relevance and you can activate the options "common" and "informal".

Awesome, huh? :)

Well, now you just have to start using it!

21 May 2015

Exam practice - Official Language School in Vigo

Hi everyone!

Here I leave you with a link to the Official Language School in Vigo. There you can download the exams corresponding to levels Basic (A2), Intermediate (B1) and Advanced (B2).

Certification exams EOI Vigo


26 Mar 2015

Exam Practice - Official Language School in Murcia

Hi there!

Today I post a link to the Official Language School in Murcia. There you can download the exams corresponding to levels Basic (A2), Intermediate (B1) and Advanced Level 2 (B2).

Way to go!! :)

Certification exams EOI Murcia


9 Mar 2015

Exam Practice - Official Language Schools in Aragón

Hi again!

Today I post a link to the Official Language Schools in Aragón. There you can download the exams corresponding to levels Basic (A2) and Intermediate (B1).

I hope you do well!

Certification exams EOI Aragón

19 Feb 2015

Exam Practice - Official Language Schools in the Basque Country

Hello again!!

Here I leave you with the link to the Official Language Schools in the Basque Country. There you can download the exams corresponding to levels Basic (A2), Intermediate (B1) and Advanced Level 2 (B2).

Good luck!

Certification exams EOI Basque Country


2 Feb 2015

Exam practice - Official Language Schools in Madrid

Hi again!

Today I post a link to the Official Language Schools in Madrid. There you can download the exams corresponding to levels Basic (A2), Intermediate (B1) and Advanced Level 2 (B2).

I wish you the best of luck!

Certification exams EOI Madrid


23 Jan 2015

Videos with useful phrases according to your level!

Hi there!

Today I wanted to share with you a very useful section within the Inside Out website. It contains videos with useful phrases categorised into different levels: pre-intermediate, intermediate and upper-intermediate.

Here you  have the first video of the series. Scroll down and continue watching more videos which correspond to your level. I'm sure you can all understand a lot!

I also take advantage of this entry to recommend you another incredibly useful website to do listening at home (audio this time, not video, I'm afraid). It is listed in the resources I recommend for listening (make sure you check that section! --> resources online > skills > listening).

The website is, and all the listenings are divided into different levels. You can choose the type of activity you want (open questions; multiple-choice questions or filling the gaps), and you have the transcription as well. Very useful!! :)

I hope you start using these websites!

20 Jan 2015

The present perfect and typically related words (ever, never; for, since; just, yet, already)

Hi everyone!

Today we're going to focus on the present perfect tense and, more specifically, several words that are typically associated with it -although in future years you will see that they can be used in other tenses as well!

First of all, let us very quickly revise when we use the present perfect, especially in contrast with the past simple:

To cut a long story short (en resumidas cuentas), use the present perfect:

  • For life experiences (they are finished, they happened in the past, but I don't know when)
It is in this context that we typically use ever and never:
Have you ever swum with dolphins?; Have you ever tried bungee-jumping? 
I've never eaten Viatnamese food.
If you want to practise a little bit, complete this information about Loch Ness.
  • For actions that started in the past and still continue now.
It is in this context that we typically use the words for and since.

If you would like to have more information about for and since, click for a detailed explanation with plenty of examples that you can also listen to. If what you need is practice, click below:

Finally, there are three other words that are normally used in the present perfect: just, already and yet. Read the information below to understand their meaning and their position in the sentence.
  • We use just for something that has very recently happened (acabar de). We place it in the middle of the sentence, between have and the participle:
I've just learnt how to use for and since.
I've just been to the supermarket.
  • We use already in affirmative sentences to mean 'sooner than expected'. We generally place it between have and the participle, but it can also appear at the end of the sentence:
I've already finished reading Dracula / I've finished reading Dracula already.
I've already been to London three times / I've been to London three times already.
  • We use yet in negative and interrogative sentences. We place it at the end of the sentence:
I haven't started Sherlock Holmes yet.
Have you been to England yet?
  • BUT remember: we can also use already in questions when we expect a positive answer
Have you already started revising for the exam?

And now comes the practice!

To finish today's entry, here you have two websites to practise some of the grammar we have seen already :)
Remember that revising is even more important than studying something for the first time! :)

7 Jan 2015

New Year Resolutions for your English learning - some ideas!

Hello everyone! And Happy New Year!

We're back after the Christmas break with renewed energy from these cosy and warm days with the family. I hope you come back as energetic and lively! :)

The first days of the New Year are always full of optimism, ambitions, new projects, resolutions, etc. Along with that philosophy, I wanted to post something uplifting and that gives you ideas to orientate your English studying in 2015.

Funny enough, I've just bumped into a very interesting blog post that I share with you below. It is written by an English student who passed the Advanced level without attending lessons. It is a clear example of perseverance, willingness to learn and organizational skills.

She also gives plenty of ideas, resources and tips to study autonomously at home. And, last but not least, I'm sure you'll feel identified with her because of the language she uses and also because she encountered the same obstacles and problems as many of you do.