martes, 25 de noviembre de 2008

The Open University

Here's something a bit more positive:

The OU is brilliant, but expensive. What's really great, though - if I understand the system right - is that now, when they are now publishing a selection of courses online FOR FREE!

Now, it's pretty serious stuff and perhaps not to everyone's taste. There's also no tutor support, but (and I do think this is quite clever) you are encouraged to register and keep a learning journal so that you can keep in touch with other people who are using the same materials and form a sort of self-supporting group. Nice.

Courses in Spanish seem to be available at 3 levels: Introductory, Intermediate and Advanced.
Plenty here for someone to chew on, especially once they've progressed beyond the most basic level. Get stuck in!

viernes, 21 de noviembre de 2008


Oh dear. I kinda hate to do this, I don't really like to be negative about anything because I reckon that if it helps you or gets you over an obstacle in your language-learning journey, then that's great. Even bad teachers, poorly written courses or whatever can help certain people if for no other reason than being available in the right place at the right time.

But this just really irritates me, so I'm going to say something about it. But listen, if you have used the Amigo course and it really worked for you, then I'd love to hear about it - I guess I could be wrong and I'd be pleased if it has done someone some good!

The website is here:

... and it sounds like a good idea, I guess. Learn Spanish by reading in English. Or if not a good idea, at least an interesting one. But really their examples are rubbish. And with a moment's consideration, this couldn't possibly work. Spanish has sounds that are different from English. A Spanish "J" for example does NOT sound like an English "H". Not really. Sorry.

And it's not cheap - if it was a budget £5 course, it would be understandable!

Get a teacher, get some tapes or CDs. Anything but this. Generally my thing is to say use whatever you like, whatever helps; I fear that this course could just lead to frustration - do let me know if your experience is different.

On the plus side, the Open University have got some really good materials now available for FREE!! (So why pay anyone anything?!) More about the OU next post!

jueves, 30 de octubre de 2008

And relax...

Oops, just realised that the last two posts basically consisted of links to big lists of words, sorry about that. Don't feel you have to learn them all at once! I mean, if your brain responds well to that sort of thing then by all means memorise them - some people are very target-oriented and just love having a defined task, like learning a specific list of words, to get on with.

Others (like me) are less focused. I still like browsing down lists like that from time to time and letting interesting things stick in my mind, but let's not put ourselves under too much pressure here - we've got years to do this in! Plug away at it as you feel motivated, as you get time, as it's convenient and whenever it tickles your interest. If it becomes a chore, you'll be able to stick at it for a wee while, but then it'll just get too much. Relax, take a break and come back wanting more!

Falsos amigos

Goodness, it's been a while - sorry about that! ¡Lo siento!

Anyway, I had mentioned that we should also have a look at some false friends - words which look the same as an English word but which actually have a different meaning.

Once again we find that someone friendly out there in internet-world has done the work for us and you can find a big list of false friends here:

Wow, there´s a lot of them, huh!

But don´t worry - they seem like something which is going to be confusing, something to trick you, but actually in many cases the context makes clear that the "false" meaning of the word is simply impossible. And in other cases there is at least the possibility of getting a great story out of a hilarious misunderstanding! (Check out embarazada!)

jueves, 17 de julio de 2008

Spanish Cognates

About half-a-dozen posts ago, I said I would try to publish a list of Spanish words which are cognates with English words (and vice-versa!). The only trouble is, there's such a heck of a lot of them! This is good - is makes Spanish easier for you to learn!

So, I did a quick bit of internet research and came up with this link, which i recommend to you:

They've got over 4000 cognates listed so far, and I don't think they've finished yet! Their page on Peruvian slang is fun, too!

So, off you go then and enjoy that. The next thing, though, is False Friends - they look like cognates, but they're NOT!

miércoles, 28 de mayo de 2008

Have a rest!

Have a day off every week! If you're anything like me, you'll go through phases where you're not only getting a buzz from all the new stuff you're learning, but it's becoming compulsive and habit forming. But this is also stressful, as you try to squeeze some Spanish into every spare moment, and can ultimately become counter-productive. Don't forget that you've got plenty of time. Give your brain a rest and take a full 24 hours away from Spanish every week. Seriously. You'll come back refreshed and suddenly understanding things that didn't somehow quite click into place while you were putting yourself under all that pressure.

Heck, I took a whole year off when I was learning Spanish. Did I forget stuff? Sure! But I remembered most of it after only two weeks in Spain and another two weeks brought me to further than I'd ever been with the language. Fluency and general competence with a language cannot be rushed, so you might as well relax about it - getting obsessed could actually slow down your learning and cause frustration. I just don't want to hear anyone saying, "Well, I worked really really hard but wasn't getting anywhere, so I just gave up!" Try working less hard and not giving up!!

sábado, 17 de mayo de 2008


Ok, people are generally surprised at how I, as an educator of young people, have a generally dim view of the usefulness of tests and exams. In fact, I think they have a pretty negative effect. Yet I do have to admit that now that I'm doing increasing amounts of work with adults, I'm beginning to see a certain usefulness to formal examinations.

Lets face it, adults are keen; they want to learn - they're giving up good time and money to do so. But they're also extremely busy and tired and I have found that many have really benefited from the wee bit of extra motivation that an exam provides to help them settle down and learn their vocabulary - again I'm not a big fan of just learning lists of words, but if your life is too busy to "absorb" the language by spending lots of time reading Spanish books and listening to Spanish music and podcasts and watching Spanish DVDs, then learning the odd list of useful vocab could be just the shortcut you need. But what words to learn - well the ones on the word-list for your exam of course!! So the test provides motivation, direction and focus to the adult learner. And when they pass, as the generally do, it provides an extra boost of reasurrance that they are making progress along the long road to fluency in their new language, Spanish.

So, go, join a class and get doing some exams - don't hold back!