Hints for learning Spanish, free resources!

Basic hints to get you started in learning Spanish (to be updated)

(Note: the url links provided are mere examples, I am not being paid by those people to put them here)

In order to succeed in learning a language, and most importantly, keeping it up and hopefully not ditching it after a couple of weeks, here are my personal tips:

Whether you are learning on your own or in a group you can apply these rules to yourself appropiate:

  • To start with: don’t buy every single self-teaching book you find on the bookshop shelf. First do some research over the Internet, download sample units from virtual bookshops (such as, ask friends if they own a Spanish language book that they don’t use anymore, borrow several methods from the local library and try to use a couple of units if you’re learning on your own to check that it is the right book for you. I am not against ebooks by any means but I find that learning on paper is far more effective even though you’ll have to play the CD’s separately, etc… (perhaps I’m growing old).
  • To learn vocabulary: do buy a notebook to jot down new vocabulary, verbs and expressions that are new and revise them from time to time, use them when speaking and when writing sentences (a teacher of mine used to say “use it or lose it!”. Depending on your learning style you can divide the page in two with a line, use two different colours (e.g blue for English, red for Spanish), capital letters vs lowercase, divide the notebook in sections (e.g. verbs, basic vocabulary, idiomatic expressions, alphabet and pronuntiation)… and if you are a visual learner you can always create or look for free flashcards online.
  • To look for courses: have a browse on the Internet. However, some courses if they are run locally by a tutor or a school may not necessarily be the first result on Google search. Therefore, visit the local library, have a look at the local Post Office adverts or supermarket notice boards, enquiry at local schools, look in the classified adverts of local newspapers or bulletins that come through your letterbox… that way you can decide what sort of course to enroll. Some courses are intensive, others are relaxed and holiday Spanish oriented, others are simply conversational and you’ll need to know the basics of the language (and some more; the term conversational is far too vague sometimes). Depending on your level of commitment you can choose a long term course (around 24 weeks) or a shorter one (typically 8-10 weeks). If you are unsure of what language you would like to learn, look for taster sessions as well, they are very cheap or even free in some instances. If you live in London there is an upcoming event called “The Language Show live” in October 2015, admission is free and you can sign up and pay for a taster session in a good variety of languages (at London prices of course!)
  • Be patient! Learning a language needs time, specially at the beginning when you are getting used to the new pronuntiation, rules of the language and social conventions that may have an impact on the daily use of the language. If you are learning on your own it’s easy to become disheartened. If so, you can get a study buddy, look for a local exchange, have a few lessons with a tutor who points you in the right direction (Skype lessons are usually more cost effective), or join a short course to kick start you, then continue learning on your own. (Note to myself: I must do the Skype thing with Chinese since I: a) Bought the books without researching first, b) got frustrated because I was getting nowhere, c) Never bothered looking for help. Said by a linguist who speaks 4 languages already…do as I say, not as I do!)
  • Try to use the language whenever you can: again, look for an exchange or a social gathering (example in York: or when if you go abroad to Spain or Latinamerica, do not hesitate to try, the locals will be delighted to help and will appreciate your efforts (there’s always a rotten apple, but you’ll get far more positive responses than you think).

Did you find these tips useful? What other tips would you give to people who would like to start learning Spanish or other foreign language?

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Why learning a language (Spanish) is always a good thing

This is not a scientifically based article, but for many years the benefits of learning a language have been outlined by studies on people’s brain functioning. There are other more social and personal reasons that, although very obvious and well know, must be outlined in this article. I hope that after reading these lines you take on a learning a language as a hobby.

  • When going away on a holiday not everybody will speak English, hence speaking the basics of the language may save you, for example, from a bad time at the local restaurant if you don’t  fancy dishes such as tripe, snails, pig hands and other dishes that are very popular, in the case, Spain. If you are on a business trip, it is wellknown that being able to greet and introduce yourself in the local language will cause a great impression on your customers, so you couldn’t have got off to a better start if you are intending to sell them your product or service.
  • This hobby can be as cheap or as expensive as you like:

Cheap: you can choose to use self-teaching books if you are happy to learn on your own. They can be borrowed from the local library at no cost or bought second hand for very little. You can find a local language exchange where the other person wants to improve their English, so you can help each other. Spanish is a very popular language, as it is spoken by around 559 million people in the world.

A bit less cheap (but very social): group lessons; evening lessons are usually offered at local colleges in the UK. Local authorities also offer short courses with concessions and discounts for different groups. Also, people like me will set up their friendly but effective courses in local community centres or church halls at affordable prices too.

Even less cheap: book a course in Spain and stay with a host family (This tends to be the choice of those with an intermediate level of Spanish to develop fluency by full immersion)

  • This hobby in some cases can help your CV stand out if the rest of a candidates for a role don’t speak a foreign language. Companies in the UK value languages skills and in fact they are complaining about the shortage of multilingual candidates at present!

I think that these are the truly main reasons that you should give yourself to learn a language. At the beginning, like everything in life, it may be a steep learning curve, but be patient and kind to yourself, nobody can run a marathon after two days practice, so the same applies for learning a new language from scratch.

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Links to Spanish resources online

Let’s be generous! here you have some links to websites I find very useful when it come to Spanish resources. They’re free access, in some cases you may need to sign up, but again, it’s for free!

(Disclaimer, you may become a digital hoarder like me after you visit the websites, because you will want to have them all!) needs signing up free access, ideal for primary and secondary Spanish teachers. needs signing up

And a classic: high quality educational videos

Teaching in primary schools?


Don’t forget that editorial companies in Spain offer downloads of sample units. You may want to use them and if they work for you, well you’ll end up having a quite populated bookshelf  with the actual books like moi.

I would like to start publishing my own materials for you, for free. Let me review them first, then I will organise them and upload them 🙂




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First things first when meeting a new student (beginners)

Apart from arriving on time, giving a firm handshake and smile, I developed a “tailored routine” to establish the needs of the students and hence the success of the language learning procress (in my humble opinion).

I found that asking a few questions on the first meeting, such as “why do you want to learn Spanish?” or “how did you feel about learning a language back at school?”, “what is it that you find easier or more difficult when learning a language?” “what skill would you like to focus a bit more on?” can have a huge impact in the student satisfaction and motivation when learning the language. The UK is well known for the (unfortunately, and please don’t beat me up for this cliché, I’ve heard it from many Brits) somehow lack of interest in learning other languages. To be honest, everybody else speaks their language, so we cannot fault them for this. Therefore, learning a language can seem at first a mamoth task for some. Others, simply didn’t enjoy learning a language at school or felt they were not good at it, lacked confidencce and the list goes on. Therefore, and as hard as it can be for a first meeting, I try to make them be open about these matters there and then. That way I can plan lessons in one way or another and avoid certain teaching styles that may remind people of the school teacher that they may not have been overly fond of. If the reasons they provide may lead to self confidence, I then ask them how they feel about being corrected during a lesson for any pronuntiation/grammatical mistakes, etc… (I learned this trick at a fantastic course delivered at the Cervantes Institute of Leeds); overcorrecting can bring their confidence down, but it must be balanced so that we don’t allow certain mistakes to consolidate. Gradually and as that confidence increases, then we can slowly increase the amount of corrections.

And then, with my list of questions answered, I return home and put my thinking cap on and plan the first 6 weeks or so. After then, I do a review with the student and steer the rest of the course in a direction that we both find suitable.

In the regulated teaching world where a lot of paperwork is mandatory, this is called an ILP form; funny enough, before learning about their existence, I already did all this.

What is it that you do? Have you encountered any problems in doing this?


PS: for students that are not beginners, needless to say that having a more thorough conversation and a taster lesson in assessment mode is quite useful to be able to pitch the lessons at the right level.

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Why I love teaching Spanish

Well, after two years of constantly ignoring my blog, I have decided to give myself a kick on the backside and get going. This is all thanks to my friend Cécile, who is writing her on blog for people interested in learning French in a fun way. It’s called “Froglegs on Toast”. Don’t hesitate to visit it, or you’ll miss what could be the highlight of your day!

This entry shall be dedicated to the reasons as to why I find teaching my own language so interesting (now as a freelance tutor, not as a school teacher).

Being able to have the freedom to prepare learning plans, resources and activities without the well known time strains and guidelines that change every year is just fantastic. Of course I do make sure that I am not left behind in teaching trends, the difference is now that I can choose the institution and professionals to get inspiration from.

My customers a.k.a. students, choose to learn the language voluntarily, so it makes the work substantially easier, but only at the very beginning. My mission is to keep them keen and make sure that they make progress at a steady pace.  Each student is different and learns the language for a variety of reasons; listening to them is the key and this will involve tweaking existing resources or creating new ones out of thin air, as there may be nothing available out there that can satisfy their needs.

According to the demographics of my customer database, many people choose to have their lessons after work or school, meaning that I can spend my mornings doing some exercise, housework or translating. As I am not a morning person, this is simply heaven. I don’t mind staying up until late, but the alarm clock and I are a match made in hell.

The pitfalls of this line of work are quite obvious:

-It is not a steady income, that is why I translate as well.

-I may spend too much time searching for and cherry picking resources, rather than networking and advertising or doing other things for my business.

Job satisfaction is therefore, very high and encourages me and challenges me to raise the bar everytime.

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Lincoln and its Steep Hill

Lincoln’s Steep Hill has  received an award for its unique attributes and setting and example



Under construction…

I am glad you have found my blog.  As you can see, it all looks rather empty, but I will be adding contents as I go along.

I will be primarily writing about the wonderful cities of Jaén, where I grew up, and Lincoln, where I live now. They are hidden gems that for different reasons are not as well known as other places. However, they never cease to surprise me.

I will also include some of my experiences in translation and tuition and the present challenges in both fields for all of us who share these professions.

The title of the blog “Translate, teach and miss” summarises my worklife and how I feel about places and people I have met along the way and places I have visited.

To be continued…

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