Learn English Using Your City

Using Your City to learn English-2.png

Were you born in the city you live in?

Picking up a guidebook to read about your city is a great opportunity to both improve your English and either fall in love all over again with the city you've chosen to make your home, or if you were born and grew up in it, perhaps fall in love for the first time!

Three years ago I came to live in Madrid with the Spaniard, despite the fact that he grew up here and didn't leave until he was 25 I was the one running around like a little pac-woman, pulling him away from the touristy spots and towards secret plazas.

I thought he was just very uninterested in his own city until I started meeting friends in places I thought they would know and surprising them with hidden gems like the secret garden in Plaza la Paja (the best quiet shady spot for reading a book or some furtive instagram scrolling for any Madrilenos reading this).

I was equally guilty of not breaking out of my comfort zone when I lived in Manchester, rarely leaving the Northern Quarter for 7 years. In London before that, I went between Regents Park, Covent Garden and Borough Market, it was much more fun visiting friends years later and popping in and out of Greenwich and Portobello Road. 

As a tourist I actually go to the galleries and markets that as a Londoner I used to add to my notes app, an eternal list of things to do that were never checked off.

This is why I strongly recommend you pick up a MONOCLE guidebook for your city, grab your notebook and pencil and go sit in a cafe to see your city through the eyes of someone who loves it.


1. You already have an idea or feel for the places they are describing, your brain is going to be exercising and training itself to anticipate the meanings of words. You’ll be making connections and building vocabulary without even trying to. 


2. The level of language and the quality of writing in Monocle is high with a variety of styles of writing. From introductions to the creators and makers of the city to essays describing writers experiences there on all topics, from politics to relationships to the retail revolution.

Probably my favourite part of them is the neighbourhood guides and suggested routes to walk around. Invest an afternoon every few weeks to follow them and get the latest on shops, bars and galleries in each one. You will hopefully find yourself filled with enthusiasm, or if not you'll at least have plenty of things to talk about in work that week!


Use your notebook to write down any particularly interesting expressions or vocabulary, remember to try to sketch pictures to help you remember things and jot (write) your responses down. If the guide claims a certain new cafe is the greatest thing to happen to a street in 5 years and you think it’s the worst, write it down! It will help you both to construct your language and also to remember the structures from the guide.


If you find the level of language to difficult to begin with, then start with a blog, usually the language will be more accessible, here are some to begin with but you can find your own for your city simply by googling ‘YOUR CITY’+ BEST + CITY GUIDE + BLOG. 

For Madrid you could start with Naked Madrid.

For Paris try Local Milk, she even has a google map that you can download with the best places to take photographs in Paris!

For other cities DESIGN*SPONGE have great 24 hour guides!

Don’t forget to supplement your reading with a podcast to listen to about cities or culture, or some music in English about your City!

Or pick up a copy of SUITCASE magazine to get some inspiration on other places to visit if your own city hasn’t persuaded you!



3 Podcasts in English with transcripts

learn English podcasts

If you're struggling to get into the podcasting world because you can't follow those fast speaking ladies at the High Low I completely understand, so here are three podcasts on very current and fascinating topics that you can access the transcripts to easily!


1. About Race Reni Eddo-Lodge

I'm very excited to listen to this podcast, I listened to an interview with her on the in good company podcast (which if you haven't listened to yet, please do!) She is the author of Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race the interview was funny, packed with information and I immediately ordered the book and am now consuming as much written by her as I can. The fact she already has transcripts for each podcast just makes me love her even more!


2. The Allusionist Helen Zaltzman

About language, it's funny, entertaining and there are a great variety of voices on here. My favourite episode so far has been about Mary Shelley being inspired to write Frankenstein during a storm next to Lake Como in Italy. Less highbrow, there are also plenty of spicy episodes about swearing and words we use for sex! 



This is pretty epic. The resources on here are huge, you have the TED radio hour where they discuss 3-4 TED talks with the people who present them which means you get to hear the story behind the glossy presentation.  They break the transcripts into 9-10 minute sections of the show so that you can listen and read at the same time. Just look at the menu on the top left and click on transcript to see it.

Tiny desk (for music lovers) where a band will play around a tiny desk...... (click on the link, it's exactly as it sounds.) Doesn't have a transcript, however you have a written description of the performance and a video so it's still a great resource to improve your listening and get some new music at the same time!

There are lots of other shows on many topics, so I would suggest spending a bit of time on the website and exploring to see what you enjoy!


5 Websites in English for women who work


There is no better place to get the vocabulary you need to do your job well and climb the career ladder than these websites.


- The information is current and on trend.

- You can connect to a whole community of other professionals who have encountered similar problems or challenges to you.

- These are the skills you need to develop professionally and you can learn them at the same time as improving your English!


1. Create & Cultivate

'Create & Cultivate is an online platform and offline conference for women looking to create & cultivate the career of their dreams.'

They hold conferences all over the world where you can see female entrepreneurs and creatives speak whilst networking with and meeting other like-minded working women.

Sign up for the newsletter to get exclusive content and career tips



2. Career Contessa

'Women are building careers on their terms. We've created a resource that addresses the unique challenges acing women and developed solutions specifically for you.'

There is a wealth of information on this site, it is focused on 

Download some of the free digital downloads here to combine English practise with some career planning!




'Our mission is to empower women to achieve their ambitions.'

If you haven't bought the book yet, please do that! It's something to keep in your handbag or on your desk in case you need some support quickly dealing with a difficult colleague, asking for a raise or saying no to a project.

The website has a huge amount of resources and practical advice, you can become part of a global movement by signing up! 

If you're in Madrid - I'm one of the moderators for our lean in circle, so please join and come to a meeting we'd love to see you there!



'A URL and IRL community for creative working women.'

A monthly podcast that I listen to with notes open on my phone, an amazing CV planner that you can buy from the site and another amazing book packed with advice... this one is very small and pretty and literally lives in my handbag and I pull it out to find useful references for clients, friends and the lovely lady who makes my espresso in the morning before work! 

Follow on instagram for beautiful London shots & even more great ideas! @womenwho 



'A platform for women who are too busy to browse. We produce interesting and inspiring original content on everything from people and politics to food, fashion and film.'

They curate the internet and filter out all the crap so you don't have to waste time reading about the latest Trump or Brexit or Catalonia or 'insert your countries depressing and repetitive news cycle here' scandal. It's an excellent way for you to both keep on top of global news, trends and fashions while reading in English.

Sign up for the newsletter - today in 3, to get the 3 most important daily news pieces sent to your inbox. Or follow on twitter where they post fairly frequently and check them out on your commute!

They also have a great feature 'the scrapbook' where you can sign in and save article for later - a great way to review your vocabulary at the end of the week by quickly rereading the articles and seeing if you can remember the words and expressions you had to look up previously. 


EMERGENCY - How to Understand Native Speakers


This is a very quick 'emergency' post.

One of my clients has just come back from a business meeting, the pitch was fine, they answered questions perfectly well from a variety of different nationalities with no problems in the room. 


The social side of the weekend was a disaster and not at all fun. The client had to have dinner with two Brits and two Americans, all of whom spoke incredibly quickly and about a host of topics that he had no idea of (bitcoin for example!)

As you can imagine, it was stressful and unpleasant.

I've been in these social situations myself here in Madrid many times, my first year I spent talking to our friends children, as we had the same level of Spanish at any get-togethers. This was fine, I don't mind kids, and I was very grateful for their company to be honest....... but I'm generally found arguing about politics or film or other topics that traditionally you need someone legally allowed to vote or go into a cinema to talk about.

So given that we can't download languages via a magic cable while we sleep (and be careful what you wish for nowadays!) Here are 3 things you can do today, to build into your weekly routine to avoid being in the situation where you're bored and stressed.

Consider this your 'summer and bare legs have arrived' panic, when the sun suddenly appears and you realise that your pasty white reflective pins are going to be on display but you have a weekend to get ready! Or is that just the welsh blanquita over here?


1. Problem - you're not up to date on the news and cultural happenings in the anglophone world

 Solution - Listen to the Monocle Briefing https://monocle.com/radio/shows/the-briefing/

When? Everyday on the way to work.

Why? It's a speedy roundup up of the global tech, finance and culture news with a variety of different accents to listen to.


2. Problem: you have difficulty following the native speakers (because of accent and speed)

Solution: listen and read sections of the podcast The Allustionist, print it and highlight the sections that you don’t hear or are having difficulty hearing.

 When? 2-3 Times a week (or more if you have time)

                This week: https://www.theallusionist.org/transcripts/survival1

                Topic: Welsh speakers in Patagonia, 

Why? Even if you have a teacher who you speak to regularly you're probated to their voice and they also are likely speaking more slowly and clearly than other native speakers. This means you are out of practise with fast speech. Printing the transcript for The Allusionist and highlighting any expressions or words that you either have difficulty with or simply can't hear is a great exercise to find the gaps in your knowledge. Then you can start to fill them!

3. Problem: Smalltalk with the native speakers away from work topics

Solution: Sign up for newsletter from fast company (choose the topics you’re interested in OR that you don’t know too much about) https://www.fastcompany.com/newsletters (daily)

When? Daily, try to scan the topics in 5 minutes before lunch or when you get home, don’t worry about recording the vocabulary, it’s just to get awareness of whats going on in the English speaking world.

Why? We have very different news in the Spanish and English language media...... I genuinely wasn't aware of the Venezuela situation until quite recently despite knowing the minutia of the Iran deal and all the players in it. So it's a good idea to sign up to a fun, well-rounded and interesting daily newsletter to get it in your inbox and keep up to date with minimal effort.


Let me know how you get on, do you have any other tips and tricks you use in these situations?



Do it in English - Apps to make the world better


This was supposed to be a quick post as I came across an app that felt too good not to share, this then led me down the rabbit hole of the internet and finally I think it might be rather long!

Maintaining and continuing to improve your English means trying to add it into your normal day in as many little ways as possible, these apps are a great way to focus on you, the world and our community while also improving your English. Win win!

It isn’t a complete list at all, and I’ll keep adding to it so please tell me if you have any additions or any experiences with these apps your self, all comments welcome!

environmental apps

Environmental apps


Whilst not strictly an app, but actually a search engine - Ecosia is a fantastic way to plant trees by doing nothing. I installed it as my homepage a few months ago and have racked up 2000 searches in the last few months - as each 45 searches = one tree being planted, that means I’ve ´planted´ 44 trees - not a bad way to balance my hours lost on twitter and instagram!

I haven’t been using it on my phone for 2 reasons, the first that I was too lazy to reenter all my passwords, the second is that initially it just wasn’t as good as google at finding the things I wanted. That might actually be a good thing, as from what I understand, google is so great at knowing what I want because it’s basically listening to and rifling through all my conversations, emails, interactions etc. So Ecosia is winning on the privacy front too! Also the searches have massively improved the longer I use it, so today I’ll change over to Ecosia on my iPhone too. I’ll let you know how I get on!

In their words:

‘You search the web, we plant trees

Searching with Ecosia is like searching with any other search engine, with one major difference. We use the profit we make from your searches to plant trees where they are needed most.’

You also get nice video updates when new things happen on their youtube channel here.

Poverty porn, this isn’t. It’s a group of people putting their money where their mouth is. While politicians have had twitter spats and parties have come and gone, Ecosia has been quietly planting forests and improving the world quietly since 2009. Very inspiring stuff:)

2. Irecycle is only for the states at the moment but there’s still plenty of ideas in the app and on their site. Worth downloading if you’re ever not sure how or what to recycle.

(For my first year in Spain I thought ‘papelera’ written on the bins in the metro meant that they were paper recycling only, so I was carrying my banana skins around until I found a bin that looked appropriate. Not good and more than a little embarrassing! Do I still get points for trying?!) 

3. Joulebug helps you to save money and rewards you for making sustainable choices. It has challenges, community and is a nice proactive way to start taking sustainability steps (and practise your English!)

4. How Good - rates your food choices quickly and easily based on their sourcing, production and organisation. It helps you to make better choices with your money. I strongly believe that we have power with how we spend our money, you only have to look at H & M one of the biggest fast fashion culprits introducing recycling initiatives!


apps to cut down on food waste

Apps to cut down on food waste:


 Yo no desperdicio Members send pictures of food products and their best before date to the app, you reserve it and collect. Simples! Perfect for clearing out the cupboard for the 10kg of rice you have because you buy one every time you go to the shop….. or is that just our house?

Ni las migas works by connecting shops & restaurants whose food is going to be thrown out at the end of the day but is perfectly edible. You can see what is nearest to you through the app, reserve it, pick it up and give it a new life as your dinner!

The world:

Too good to go

In their words: 'We're fighting food waste by providing stores with a free platform to sell their left over food - instead of just throwing it away.

Similar to ni las migas but European rather than only Spain, you reserve unsold food that vendors have through the app, just show the receipt and collect it when you go to the store.

 Zero Waste App- So this is pretty self-explanatory, wherever you go, you can use it as your one-stop app for zero-waste cafes, markets, activities, communities. 

Click on the link here to see 10 of the guardians global picks.

apps for sustainable fashion & beauty

apps for sustainable fashion & beauty

Good on you - ethical ratings for fashion, if you haven’t seen the documentary the true cost yet then I strongly suggest you do, it raises a number of important questions to ask before you buy.

Gunas - high fashion vegan and sustainably made accessories 

Marche Ethique - an ethical and vegan fashion market with no hemp to see anywhere! Not cheap, but after watching the truecost you might feel happier about spending once and buying for a lifetime rather than cheap and fast.

Lush app - Lush have taken a bashing from various sides including one well known zero waste blogger. For me they have always been on the frontline of activism, they walk the walk have pioneered things like package free products (some better than others!) Personally I’m more than happy to choose lush for my bathroom, in fact if you haven’t bought sleepy yet - go and ask for a sample, you won’t regret it!

Etsy - I’ve added this because of the huge amount of vintage clothing on here, as well as independent makers and sellers of smellies, non toxic candles etc. You can support small, local businesses (maybe not your local but somebodies local! - my favourite candles come from NYC) and buy high quality second hand too goods too so you're not contributing to the make it once and chuck it model.


apps for self-care


apps for SELF-CARE

This book is on my Wishlist at the moment, I follow them on instagram too in case you're just getting started on the self-care journey!


Headspace - if you haven’t heard of headspace yet I can only assume you are actively anti tech and anti meditation, but even so I urge you to try it, the app has come a long way since I was using it 3 years ago in Melbourne (we accidentally moved in with a swinging, psychedelic couple who spent every Monday to Wednesday in tears on their comedown - it was an experience!)

Shine - like having a cheerful American yoga instructor in your ear, I may be British and suspicious of the overly optimistic, but I’ve found my 4pm notification to take 2 minutes out and listen to a happy affirmation actually does energise and prepare me for the second half of my crazy freelancer day.

Sleep cycle  - the negative of this is obviously that you’re bringing your phone into the bedroom, which is bad. However the reality is that most of us use our phones for alarms and if your house is like mine there are probably two phones (Mr Gonz reads comedians on twitter late into the night laughing to himself in the dark), we also have the 23kg pitbull with a broken leg and plastic lamp on her head to stop her scratching. So for me, a sleep app & sleepy from lush is the best way to manage in this imperfect world!

5 minute journal or paper  - of course you can use a normal paper and pen journal to do this, but the idea of using an app is to support you. As you get into a new habit (I can confirm that for me 21 days is indeed about the time I need to develop and stick to a new habit!) it can be handy to use an app that will time you and remind you. The other thing to think about is that as you’ll be journalling in your second language, you may need help with the spelling and punctuation. 

Breathe - very therapeutic and no-frills app to help you to slow your breathing and take stock, until I went to my first yoga class, I hadn’t realised that I was actually bad at breathing, I got very stressed trying to breathe properly, I thought it was ridiculous! Now 3 years on of slow breathing my way out of stressful situations, this is a skill I appreciate!

Yoga apps are their own category so I’ll just recommend that you start with this article here and experiment to see what suits you!


apps for easy plant based food choices

Apps for easy plant based food choices

I have to share a story with you before we go on to these apps. The other day I was running late for work, didn't have time for breakfast so I bought a cookie ….which I do a lot….. I pretend it’s healthy because it’s from a fancy baker.  Anyway,  I got a funny look from the guy in the cafe where I get my espresso,  I didn’t realise why until I caught my reflection  crossing the road where I saw myself holding my phone which has a bright blue cookie monster case and eating a giant cookie. I did not feel like the big solopreneur that I pretend to be and decided to make time to prep and eat breakfast at home from now on….. these apps are helping me!

Happy Cow - works globally, all you do is drop your location and it will tell you all the veggie, vegan and veggie-vegan options for restaurants, bars and shops around you. SUPER useful!

Deliciously Ella -  I love this app, her ingredients are all fairly accessible and I really don’t think she’s fallen into the ‘wellness but secretly fat shaming’ group of fraudsters on instagram. I use it a lot when I’m on the metro on my way home, with no idea what to cook and need recipes I can make easily and that are going to make my belly happy instead of a quickly snaffled energy bar and stupidly expensive take away drink.

Blender Girl Smoothies - A friend recommended this (thanks Esther!) and I love it, matches your mood to the juice you should have.

Harvest (free) - tells you what food is in season and when, very handy especially for us city kids who haven’t seen an apple actually on a tree except in the movies. Lovely descriptions of how fruit and veg should look and feel if you’re not familiar with something.

Rawvana makes raw food look appealing and helps you to organise shopping lists to make prepping it much easier! (it’s not my cup of tea everyday, but definitely we could do with more in our diets!)

In the next post I’ll go through apps to maintain your digital wellbeing, but that’s a whole other story!


Further resources:





10 of the best Design Podcasts



I love podcasts

Every year there are more and more to choose from, the quality is only improving as the competition increases and it's such a great way to passively learn. When I'm going between classes during the week I probably get through at least30 hours a week of them! Even if I'm too busy to actually do the fun and cool things I listen to at least I know what's happening and I can recommend things to people who do have a social life.... 

So I've filtered through my podcast library to find 10 of my favourite podcasts on design, both the creative and the business side:

1. Debbie Milman - Design Matters

As her website says, she has the prestige of not only being the most popular design podcast out there but she's also the first! You can listen back as far as 2005 (confession: I didn't know podcasts had been going that long.) On her website you can search by discipline or by the person's name which is fantastic if you're interested in a specific person or area.

2. 99% invisible

99% Invisible is about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world. With over 250 million downloads, 99% Invisible is one of the most popular podcasts on iTunes .

3. Design Sponge

One of the first podcasts I ever listened to, Grace Bonney is a hero in the design world, one of the earliest design bloggers she has a similar status to Debbie Milman. Grace brings a focus that is not always there in the design world to the work of minorities and the LGBT community, featuring makers from a whole variety of backgrounds and even though she isn’t currently making new podcasts (she’s been writing her fantastic book ‘In the company of women') You can still listen to the archives here, the conversation certainly haven’t dated!

4. The Urbanist + Tall stories
The urbanist and it's baby brother 'Tall Stories' is one of many podcasts created by the media company Monocle, this one focuses on cities and takes a fresh look at how we live in them and the way they’re changing and developing. The miniseries ‘Tall stories’ is bite-sized looks at specific buildings (no more than 5 minutes!)

5. Section D

More Monocle...... (sorry not sorry). 

They say: 'Everything you need to know about the world of design, from furniture to fashion and craft to architecture. Expect fresh stories, new finds and designers and all the latest news from the world’s most exciting studios' and I wholeheartedly agree!

6. The Entrepreneurs + Eureka

The last Monocle podcast today :)

They say: 'Monocle 24’s weekly tour of the most inspiring people, companies and ideas in global business, whether they are starting from scratch, reinvigorating the family firm or developing new technology.' To add to that, I think so many of these episodes are relevant to design it's well worth a listen. As with the Urbanist, there's a mini 5-minute podcast called Eureka which focuses a 6-minute look at an individual or idea for their 'eureka moment'. 

7. Adventures in Design

From the other side of the pond, an American daily pod.


8. Design Story

They say: 'Design is more than a plan, a process, or a pretty picture. It’s a way of thinking and disrupting the status quo. Hear stories from the boldest influencers about design, and how it shapes the world around us.' 

9. Creative Mornings

This is more like a movement, similar to Rising Tide, so I'm just going to give you their manifesto and suggest you have a listen!

The CreativeMornings Manifesto

Everyone is creative.

A creative life requires bravery and action, honesty and hard work. We are here to support you, celebrate with you, and encourage you to make the things you love.

We believe in the power of community. We believe in giving a damn. We believe in face-to-face connections, in learning from others, in hugs and high-fives.

We bring together people who are driven by passion and purpose, confident that they will inspire one another, and inspire change in neighbourhoods and cities around the world.

Everyone is welcome.

10. Revision Path

They say: 'Revision Path is an award-winning weekly interview podcast that focuses on showcasing some of the best Black graphic designers, web designers, and web developers from all over the world. On each episode, we explore the stories, processes, experiences, insights, and creative inspirations of these awesome creators.' These podcasts are always interesting and useful, sign up for the newsletter to get even more out of the experience!


If these aren't enough for you, have a look at this link here to see Grace Bonney's recommendations for more female podcasters to listen to!


How To Learn English With Magazines

Photo by  Charisse Kenion  on  Unsplash

I've loved magazines since I was small, as a teenager living in North Wales I used to buy Vogue and dribble over the colours, textures and gorgeous sets, pure escapism from 'boring' small town life - I fantasised about living in London.

When I finally got to London as a student with extremely limited funds, I used the magazines again, to pretend I was a grown up and imagine life with money, sitting in my room listening to Radiohead with a poorly made rollup cigarette and my hipster beret (ouch.) 

Now that I AM a grown-up magazines serve a different purpose, after spending all day plugged into my laptop or iPhone, and having flirted with digital magazines in the past I love getting my hands on a real, made-of-paper Architectural Digest or Wallpaper. Sitting down - alone, this is very important as a part-time anti-social introvert - with a glass of wine and actually touching the paper, scribbling on the pages and tearing bits out to save for later.

It's one of the more fun ways you have to build your vocabulary.  

Magazines let you at once build your vocabulary, get yourself up to date with what’s happening in the country and cities of your chosen language, be it London, New York, Madrid, Paris or Berlin.

You'll find people to follow on social media, events going on to inspire you and recommendations for music to listen to, the latest vocabulary for talking about trends - which, you might not be interested in but will certainly help you when you’re having a conversation with a native speaker or listening to an interview! 

The quality of writing is going to be beneficial too, blogposts are great to get you reading in English, but they’re often lightly edited and can’t compare with an article in the New Yorker or Monocle.

Here are some activities you can do to make the most of your magazine:


I love to take an article or double page spread in a visual magazine such as Architectural Digest and try to label everything in the image, in as much detail as possible. You soon find gaps in your knowledge, this is the ‘rich’ vocabulary that gives you a luxurious ability to choose your words carefully and control the image that you present (plush velvet for example, was never going to appear in my Spanish classes!) 


One of the fastest ways to learn new vocabulary and also improve your structures when writing is to literally steal expressions or phrases from articles that you read. We can ‘hack’ our way to fluency in writing and speaking by making note of and reusing expressions until we assimilate the language. In your native language, you’ve picked up intonations, jokes, ways of saying things from a thousand different sources in your lifetime and this is a way to speed up the process in your second language.


This is an easy way to practise the expressions and vocabulary - one of my favourite things to do is to use a dedicated WhatsApp group with your language partner and send a combo of voice memos and actual texts, that way you’re practising speaking as well as writing and recycling vocabulary! If you don’t have a language buddy, you can use your dog/cat/rat/iguana - Rosie is a very obliging language partner to me when we go on our walks together.


Take 5 minutes and jot down the things you’ve discovered in a notebook, review it every few days and you’ll soon find you’re remembering things!

So here are my recommendations for magazines to read



Monocle - https://monocle.com/magazine/

The New Yorker - https://www.newyorker.com

Buffalozine - https://buffalozine.com

Apartment - https://www.apartamentomagazine.com

Kinfolk - https://kinfolk.com

Cereal - https://readcereal.com

Suitcase - https://suitcasemag.com



ISUU - https://issuu.com I’m not sure how I came across this site, I think it was to embed a PDF in my site but it’s actually really useful, they curate digital magazines so you can access LOADS of different independent, under the radar and fascinating zines, delivered straight to your tablet or phone!


And HERE for the super enthusiastic amongst you is podcast, about magazines! I know, amazing eh?!


Magazines to learn English with-2.png

The Schwa - Your secret weapon to understanding Native speakers


Sound instantly more British by getting rid of (removing) the -er endings of words. What do I mean by that?

When British people say 'Better' or 'Hotter' or 'Jumper' we don't pronounce the -ER at the end of the words, instead we use something called a SCHWA. The schwa sound can be either your nemesis or your secret weapon depending on whether you're a glass half full or glass half empty type of person.

I'm glass half full as I'm sure you've noticed by now, so I strongly encourage you to make friends with the schwa!

What is it? It's a vowel sound, probably the most common sound in the English language and Adrian Underhill says the following:

'The vowel sound /ǝ/ is as close to nothing as you can get and yet still have a sound. It is the only sound with a name, schwa, which is from Hebrew and means something like “a neutral vowel quality,” literally  “emptiness” or “nothing”.

In a nutshell, English is a stressed language, this means we 'squash', change or omit certain syllables or sounds to make them fit the stress or rhythm of our language. This changes depending on the region you're in or the accent of the individual speaker.

I know this might make you want to give up learning English as it seems unfair, but it's absolutely a sound you can master. Nobody teaches us about the schwa when we're children in the UK, it's something you pick up on naturally from family, friends, tv and the radio. 

If you start by noticing when it's being used then practising it on your own or with a language partner, you'll see a big improvement in your pronunciation and listening ability very quickly.

If you have a dog, they can be very understanding practise partners - I practised rolling my 'r' with Rosie in the park for a couple of weeks and it really worked!

To 'find' the sound (and you might want to do this on your own as you'll look a little strange....)

1) Completely relax your face with your mouth open (yes, the aim is to look very dopey.)

2) Make a long sound without moving your tongue or lips.

3) Now holding the sound, move your lower lip into the tiniest smile, you should just feel the corners of your mouth have some tension.

4) Try the sound again, the /ǝ/ should sound like the 'u' in CUT.

Practise makes perfect! Here is a BBC video to help you practise!


Elysia - Positive Business Inspiration 01

Photo courtesy of @georgia-de-lotz via unsplash

Photo courtesy of @georgia-de-lotz via unsplash

Happy December guys!

I hope you're managing to enjoy the cold, we're storming through Netflix and HBO at the moment, wearing triple layers and drinking endless cups of tea, Rosie is obviously an excellent source of heat too.

These last few weeks, after reading a terrifying article on the impact our smartphones have on us - (read it here, you’re welcome!), I’ve been making an effort to move away from reading about the shitstorm that our world is right now. It's distracting and we can only do so much to help.

From little changes like moving all the apps except for the ones that are helping me focus on my goals away from the first page of my phone:


To bigger changes, like deciding both my personal reading and the classes I give will be focused on positivity and innovative solutions. 

Earlier in the year I had started to do this anyway, by making the move to using the TED Keynote course books. But honestly, with current events, conversation always steers back to something bleak. Like the futility of battling climate change when America pulls out of the Paris accord. (Don't worry! Most cities are ignoring the orange wonder until he goes away and are continuing with their plans. (Houston, San Francisco, Miami and New York for example).

It's easy to feel isolated sometimes, like you’re the only one who cares. So to balance that I want to introduce you to the publications, projects and people who are not only solving problems through innovation; but are also doing it in a creative, elegant way that will hopefully inspire you and might even plant some seeds for your own ideas. 

The first company I want to talk about in this series is Elysia Catering,

I came across this catering company in the publication POSITIVE NEWS who I recommend following on Twitter, Facebook or signing up for the newsletter to get practical optimism in your inbox rather than the usual deluge of politicians embarrassing themselves.

Elysia Catering

........ was founded by French entrepreneur Sophie André who moved to London in 2016 after working on startups in Senegal, France and The States. Her business development partner is Rose Fooks who is a cordon bleu graduate and also co-runs the food assembly Islington

The heart of the business is supporting local artisan producers by taking their ‘waste’ or not up to selling standard food. This can be something as little as a spoon too much honey in the granola or even  discoloured chocolate bars (even though the taste is perfectly fine!) Elysia pays them slightly above margin so the businesses aren’t losing money on the waste product and then they perform culinary magic on these unwanted odds and ends by turning them into beautiful dishes which they then deliver or serve at events!

Their website states their values as:

  • High Standards
  • Audacity
  • Integrity
  • Simplicity
  • Happiness

Company values still seem to be a very anglophone concept, I think it can be worth thinking about though, why do you do what you do? What are your values or your company values?  

The company is based in London, although if we’re going to be philosophical about the origin Sophia attributes her idea to Joe Deloss, who she describes as an American social entrepreneur. He founded Hot Chicken takeover in Columbus (OH). They deliver food and cater for events at sites all over the capital, which Sophia started out by doing personally on a bicycle.

So why does Elysia exist? Well, food waste is something we all know about, but maybe don't focus on too much. In the UK supermarkets alone cause 200,000 tonnes of food waste every year, we’re the worst in Europe at the moment. Although artisan food makers produce less than 1% of this waste, it’s an area that Sophie can make a difference in. If you visit her website, the last thing you think of is imperfect, unappealing food. It’s pretty, elegant and visually appealing, it’s only when you start to read the information on the site:


That you realise this is more than just another trendy food delivery service! (On a geeky note, I have to say that choosing the word ‘rescue’ rather than 'reuse' or 'repurpose' creates a lovely image!) What do you think of the idea? Could you bring elements of it into your own life or business?

Photo by  Mira Bozhko  on  Unsplash

Photo by Mira Bozhko on Unsplash


5 of my favourite apps for learning English


Photo by Dawid Liberadzki on Unsplash

Every day I discover new apps for learning languages, I test them out to the best of my ability, but at the end of the day it comes down to personal preference. I don't think any of them are a complete resource on their own yet but they certainly have their merits when used in combination with each other and with a good language coach/practise partner!


Duolingo is one of the most popular free language learning apps in the world, if you're starting a language from the beginning or want to review the basics again then it's a great resource. If your level is B2 or above I would suggest starting an online course in your language with skill share or getting involved in a social group. You need to be reading and communicating to get beyond the dreaded B2 plateau that so many of my students arrive stuck on!


Like Duolingo, Memrise is free, and like Duolingo it has a fairly great backstory to it, I heard a podcast with the founder Ed Cooke about how he came up with the idea and it's great. It still feels like a game, and you very much respond like Pavlov's dog to the reward system built into the app. That's ok with me though if I'm learning! For me, Memrise is best used for targeted learning, imagine you need to memorise vocabulary for a finance meeting suddenly, well here's a course with all the words you could ever need. Or you're off to London for a week and realise you don't know any slang, you can download a quick course to complete on the flight there and you'll be less lost when you arrive.


I got very excited about Lingvist when it first appeared last year, waited anxiously for the English to Spanish course to come out, and then when it finally did, I stopped using it within a week, so I guess that doesn't bode particularly well. After reading other peoples' reviews about it however for this blogpost, I feel inspired to start again. I remember the clean layout really appealed to me the first time I tested it, so I'm going to set myself the challenge of completing it in the next 100 days and I'll keep you updated!


This one isn't free but you can trial it for 15 days without paying, it's interesting as it uses authentic (real) videos from the web and then teaches you vocabulary and grammar from them. It means you're learning with context and the way native speakers use the language. Which is perfect really :)


This app is a nice allrounder, you have listening activities, speaking, reading and writing. Another thing I like about it is that like the tree in Duolingo you can see where you are in the course which can be a good motivator! You have the option to have your answers corrected by native speakers also using the app and of course, you can get involved and correct theirs too which adds to the feeling of being part of a community.

So what do you think of these apps? Are there any more that you've used or have heard good things about? 








On My Bookshelf


This title is misleading, most of these books are also on my Kindle, or have in fact been loaned out insistently (usually after a glass of wine when I can get aggressively generous).

They rotate next to my bed in a stack, making a bedside table depending on the season. Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries makes it to the top in Autumn when I’m a little homesick for the UK and want to read about comfort food and allotments. The Bone Clocks is a January read when I'm feeling morbid. I’ve read it numerous times and it fills me with dread for the future, but in an exciting way - like reading a slightly too scary book when you’re a kid. 

These books aren’t for everyone, but some of them will be for you.

 I’ll explain what they mean to me personally and link you to a more comprehensive and qualified review so you can see what you think!


1. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind + Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

By Yuval Noah Harari

These are the story of us, our history and our future. I picked them up together in Manchester Airport a few months ago partly because of the Barack Obama quote on the front of the Homo Sapiens book. I started to read it on the plane and was so absorbed that I became the annoying person reading as the walk through the metro, people bumping into me. Some people I've made buy it have read it and found it a bit depressing, but I felt a deep sense of calm by the end of it. Read it yourself and let me know what you think!

Reviews by the Guardian of Sapiens and Home Deus

A nice Vox interview with the author here

2. Thinking Fast + Slow

By Daniel Kahneman

So far, there hasn’t been a student I’ve met who I haven’t told they HAVE TO buy this. It’s fairly dense, but every page is fascinating and incredibly useful. This is the product of a lifetimes research and work, the author describes one of the most perfect working collaborations in the introduction, which will give you serious colleague goals! Like other books on this list, dip in and out, you’ll find something you can apply to your life to improve it every time. You’ll understand yourself better too without having to go on a hippie mountain retreat - obviously, you can do that too, but you don’t have to!

New York Times review here

3. The Bone Clocks

By David Mitchell

This book is astonishing and uncomfortable and brilliant. Just read it - stick with it, the first part can be a little confusing, but you’ll be hooked! Get a squishy chair and some kind of sugary treat while you’re reading because it’s VERY enjoyable. I reread it every few months to spook myself again.

An epic Vulture analysis of the author and his novel are here

A New Yorker review here

4. Setting The Table

By Danny Meyer

This book is an education in customer service, it isn’t just for hospitality people even though that’s certainly the author's industry. If you work with people (which everyone has to unless they’re a self-sufficient hermit living on an isolated island) you need to read this book. He is relentlessly logical, pleasant and positive. He changed his industry forever for the better by implementing the simple but shocking idea that if you look after your staff, train them, incentivise them, pay them well your business will thrive.

New York Times Review here

5. On Liberty

By Shami Chakrabarti

This book is by the director of Liberty, the human right organisation. She articulates exactly why our rights and freedoms are so important, what they’re under threat from and how to move forward in a positive way. It’s not the lightest read, but you’ll feel much more informed having read it!

A Financial Times review here

6. The Rosie Project

By Graeme Simpson

Gonz and I love this book so much we named our dog after it! I loved it immediately because it’s funny, sweet, and shines a light on the world from the perspective of a man with autism, rather than those around him. As someone with aspies in the family, there were bits of this book that made me cry with laughing. I fell in love with it again when we moved to Melbourne where the book is set and we walked around seeing the actual places that we’d imagined. It’s such a good book, it’s charming and leaves you feeling like the world is sunnier than before you read it. 

The Independent Review HERE (it's shorter than the others, I promise!)

7. The Flavour Thesauraus 

By Niki Segnit

Even as a fairly recent vegan, I love to read this book, the descriptions are truly beautiful and it’s a treasure trove of adjectives for those who feel their speech could do with some colour adding! Yes, it’s about food and cooking, but actually, it’s about thinking outside of the box, taking pleasure in naughtily surprising people with unexpected combinations. 

Especially here in Spain, where I’ve had to get used to the fact that my cooking - (which was always looked forward to and appreciated in the UK)is no longer appreciated. Tortilla de patata, (AGAIN) is king at parties, and my best Ottolenghi chilli, lemon, goats cheese ravioli is left suspiciously in the corner of the table. So for me, reading recipes with Cinnamon, Tomato and Prawn or Coriander seed Coffee makes for an afternoon well spent.

Guardian review here

8. The Monocle Guide to Good Business

Well, where to begin here? My copy is very grubby and lives in the kitchen. It’s brought out and plonked in front of guests when I discover they haven’t seen it. It isn’t small, and could probably do some damage if you dropped it on your toes. But it’s invaluable, inspirational, positive and beautiful. I love the Monocle brand, I feel like they give me hope and ideas in a world that has gotten very scary and bleak, very quickly (double whammy of Brexit and Trump). This book is a manifesto, which, together with Danny Meyers Setting the table, confirms to me that YES you can do business ethically, and with passion and you don’t have to screw people over to make a living. Something I’ve always believed, but at certain points secretly started to worry I was too naive. Buy it, read it, start planning your dream business and penning your resignation from the dreary office/classroom you’ve been dreading going to every Monday. PLEASE (Or as the Spanish say - POR FAVOR!).

Good Reads Reviews here

9. Cradle to Cradle

By Michael Braungart, William McDonough

A few years ago I very slowly and painfully completed an Interior Design Diploma. I have no idea why it took me so long to complete as I loved doing it, but the final unit on sustainable design really grabbed me. This book was the recommended reading before starting the project and IT. IS. AMAZING. Designers, innovators, all you brainy folk out there - if you haven’t read it yet, please do - it might inspire you to come up with the idea that saves the planet!

WATCH the author's TED talk here

10. Daily Rituals

By Mason Currey

This is a cheerful little book, particularly if you’re nosy (like me). The author started a project where he wrote about the daily rituals of lots of great minds including Voltaire, Jane Austen, Nicola Tesla, Joan Miro and Sylvia Plath. The routines are varied and inspiring. It’s a book to dip in and out of, good to keep in the kitchen to read when you have a coffee. I find it’s reassuring that even the most creative and flamboyant characters have to include at least a routine in their life! 

Follow him on Twitter HERE

Essentials for studying


I'm from North Wales, a lush green corner of the UK which owes it's greenness to the rather wet climate. While that's never been a problem for me, for Gonz (so very Spanish) it's a different story! 

The last time we visited Wales, my dad took us to a bog. The largest bog in Europe in fact! Gonza's had trainers and I had wellies - guess who was the most miserable after my dads animated tour of the bog? 

We British have a saying 'There's no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes.' Which basically means that if you have inappropriate clothes or 'kit' for an experience you're probably not going to be very successful at it or very happy at the end of it!

This made me think about the kit you need to enjoy the process of learning English.

So here is a suggested checklist for you:

1. A vocabulary book, small, with good quality paper and a nice pen attached to it if possible.
2. A small, specific list of achievable goals
3. A good dictionary
4. The Macmillan 'Sound' App
5. A magazine/book/blog in English - that you LOVE
6. A nice cup of tea or even a coffee or glass of wine.
7. A diary

1. A vocabulary book, small, with good quality paper and a nice pen attached to it if possible.

The vocabulary book is your anchor when learning English. It's a home for your English brain and personality to develop. I'll talk about this in more detail in a later post but it's important to remember some things when you are using another language. To begin with it's definitely exhausting and depending on the individual can also be very  frustrating.

You lose yourself. You can't make the jokes you make in your first language. It's difficult to be creative and show your character. Your vocabulary book is where you record and build your vocabulary and phrases. So that you can choose how to express yourself and find your personality again!

2. A small, specific list of achievable goals.

A list of achievable goals mean you have a measure for your progress. I can't even begin to describe how important this is. Do you remember when you were a child and you had a long car journey? You had NO IDEA how long it was, it was horrible! So you ended up saying 'are we there yet? How far is it? When do we get there?'

Now imagine sitting in the back of the car with a colourful checklist on it. You're looking out of the window eagerly to tick off the things you see. The old farmhouse, the petrol station with the blue sign, the field that has three bathtubs and a lazy sheep in it. You're excited and happy because you know EXACTLY where you are and where you're going. And it's interesting! The process should be the same with learning English.

3. A good dictionary

I use the online Cambridge English Dictionary.
You can listen to a recording of the correct pronunciation of the word which is really useful. You get a definition of the word in English and within a sentence. This means that you get the sense of the word in it's natural habitat. You will also save precious thinking time so that you aren't translating.

4. The Macmillan 'Sound' App

The Macmillan sound app - I will go into detail about how to use this app another day. For now let me point you in the direction of Adrian Underhill

5. A magazine/book/blog in English - that you LOVE
It's so important to have a magazine, or a book or blog that interests you. If you're not reading in English you're making life much harder for yourself. I say this whilst looking guiltily at my stack of Spanish Vogues which I need to start.

6. A nice cup of tea.

it's a great idea to make a positive association with your language learning. When I started to pick up my french again I liked to have a fancy Mariage Frères tea to put me in the mood. You could go for a Twinings Earl Grey or my current absolute favourites are the higher living teas !

7. A diary.

 This goes hand in hand with the cup of tea. By taking 5 minutes a day to journal, either in the morning or before bed you can consolidate your learning for the day. It helps to solidify your new vocabulary and also it's a meditative way to start or end the day. You can use a journal app or a traditional moleskine diary - my favourite!


Listening practise 01



'Gironella’s inventive solution' Listening by The Urbanist

Many English learners struggle the most with listening, particularly on the phone. You might be very comfortable with your teacher or colleagues' accents but when there is an unfamiliar situation or phone call your brain wipes out, which feels like this:

The solution to this problem is exposing yourself meaningfully to different topics, accents and situations to develop your ability to respond to these situations. Fortunately for you, you're learning in 2017 with everything the internet has available!

Let me talk you through an example of how you can use short clips from podcasts, youtube etc to quickly improve your listening and also your vocabulary.

This week some of you have already done this exercise with me, but if you want another go (woohoo!) or for those of you who haven't and fancy a challenge, here is an extended version.

You can repeat this type of exercise with any podcast or interview, I like the monocle series because they’re always interesting and current and are split into ‘chapters’ roughly 6 minutes long. I think I’ve learnt more about things I want to see/do in my city (Madrid) through Monocle than any other source!


Today, we’re using

'Gironella’s inventive solution' Chapter 1 from Monocle's The Urbanist podcast, episode 292
  1. To start with have a listen to chapter one of the podcast - click on the link here.
  2. Read the questions below and see which ones you can answer:
  • What do you know about the town of Gironella?
  • What was the problem? 
  • What was the solution to the problem?
  • How did it work?
  • What were peoples worries about the solution?
  • How did the Mayor and the Architect resolve these worries?
  • How has the town dynamic been impacted by the elevator?
  • What other (perhaps unexpected) benefits has the elevator brought?

3. If you can’t answer everything, don’t worry - you’ve only listened once! Listen again and try to catch more information.

4. The next step is to start to ‘steal’ phrases that you like the sound of, and swap out the words you already knew for some more complex alternatives. 

For example ‘they live on top of a hill’ for ‘they live atop a steep climb'

5. To solidify the new vocabulary try using it it to write some thoughts down about the next three questions:

  • Can you think of alternative solutions to the problem?
  • Can you think of any problems with his solution?
  • Where in your city could we use this type of implementation (if at all!)?

6. Finally - have a look at the real thing here! Does it match up to your idea? I’d imagined a cable car covered in army camouflage textiles 😔 So I was VERY pleasantly surprised to see such an elegant and beautifully designed structure!

Here are some bits and pieces of vocabulary and expressions that I caught when I was listening, feel free to add to the list!




atop a steep embankment

stay put


cliff side

upper/lower part

revitalise and regenerate

obviously there were concerns about ……. 

ruining the aesthetic

reject something

remarkable landscape

what I had in my mind


Has it been embraced by the people?


Have a more in-depth look at the lift with a look at this dezeen article about it here and sign up for their newsletter to get some English sent to your inbox every week!

What do you think? Is it how you imagined it?







How to be listened to



As I child I was hooked on audiobooks, my parents had to play tapes in the car on long journeys, while I read along with my paper books. I had lots of different ones, but my favourites were always anything by Roald Dahl. 

He's a large figure in British literary history, writing books for children that didn't treat them like children. The characters were strange, gruesome, magical and heroic. Talking foxes, witches with no toes and magic soups made from everything in the house. I've since heard from multiple sources since that he didn't really like kids that much ironically and was pretty grumpy when he had to visit schools giving talks. 

However, that didn't affect me and like thousands of other kids I was captivated by the voice telling the story.

If you want three minutes of escapism and a flashback to childhood then listen to an extract of the giraffe the pelly and me, read by Hugh Laurie here.

Today, people in business think about body language, their clothes, the location of their meetings, their online presence and image. What many neglect to think about is their voice, how you sound, the pauses you use. Your voice is in fact your most powerful tool for communicating, persuading and influencing. 

In your first language this is something people forget about, but when English is your second language it is often the very last thing you think about. After all, by the time your brain has organised the grammar, the correct vocabulary, the pronunciation - often you're ready for a rest and a beer!

Each week I'll introduce you to a speaking hero, someone who specialises in the voice, and how people use them to be heard effectively and powerfully the first is:

Julian Treasure

This man is easily one of my favourite people, if you're not familiar with him then take a look at his TED talk here.

To get the best out of him, you can sign up to his resource library and peruse it in your own time, or he has a course on udemy that you can complete. Why? Well as always, it's great to kill two birds with one stone. Doing a course in English means you get the benefits of exercising the English bit of your brain and at the same time you get a great new qualification that you can apply to your life!



Practical Skills 01 - Make friends with your phone.


I don't think I've met a single student who feels phone calls or conference calls are their strong point, they seem to make everybody stressed and uncomfortable. 

Living in Madrid and working freelance has meant a lot of phone calls in Spanish with varying degrees of success. The first six months where I had virtually no Spanish I would panic when the phone rang, ignoring it unless I absolutely HAD to answer. There was one incident where I received my medical check up results which could only be accessed by a code given over the phone.  I think the poor man who had to walk me through the steps with my pigeon English was more traumatised than me. I still felt like an idiot days later

One year later I'm happy to open bank accounts, do phone interviews and arrange deliveries in Spanish by phone, it's not always smooth but I definitely feel confident about the process!

People think that conversations are all different and complex. In reality, we are repetitive creatures and most conversations follow a fairly set script. This works to your advantage when you're in your second language. If you prepare a cheat sheet before each planned phone call over the next few weeks and add to it during and after the phone call; you'll feel much more confident and even start to enjoy making efficient phone or conference calls.

So based on my personal experiences and those of my students here are some strategies for handling phone/conference calls:


- At the end of the blogpost you can download a cheatsheet template to put these ideas into practise!-


1. Refresh the alphabet and numbers and remind yourself of very basic punctuation @ . / etc

Sounds basic, but it's incredible how many people (me included!) are suddenly silent when they're asked for their email address or mobile number in language 2.

2. Keep a record of useful expressions in the notes section of your phone,

for example it took me a number of awkward callbacks before I remembered to learn the Spanish for 'Hi, I have a missed call from....' I only remembered I needed this phrase when I was already inelegantly shouting - 'give me Ana, Ana call me!'.

3. Are you making the call or receiving it? This affects the language you're going to use. 

If you're making the call, think about your aims for the call, what information do you need? Simple things like this disappear from your memory when you're concentrating on understanding somebody without any physical gestures or facial expressions to help you.

If you're receiving the call, what questions can you expect? Try to anticipate as many as possible to prevent any nasty surprises. 

4. Don't apologise for your English.

My friend Carmen taught me this, for my first year in Spain I started every conversation with 'Hello, I'm sorry but my Spanish is very bad'. This puts you in a defensive position that you just shouldn't be in. Anyone attempting another language is already doing a great job. 

5. Who are you talking to? What accent do they have?

Use youtube to listen to the target accent and note down any characteristics of the accent that can help you.

This blog is a great resource for Native accents.

For non-native accents, there are many generalities. However, for sure, Spanish speakers find other Spanish speakers easier to understand as well as the French, Italian and Portuguese in English. 

The key is to identify what happens to the vowels and the ends of words, do they miss the -ed endings? How pronounced are the /r/ sounds? What happens to their intonation? How connected is their speech? Identifying just a couple of these elements will lead to a much smoother experience on the phone!

6. What are the typical errors you make when speaking? 

Most people forget to use the past tense when they're speaking, I'm not entirely sure why but this is something I've noticed myself and almost all of my students do. 

Question forms disappear also, remember if you want to make 'So, see you next Tuesday' into a question rather than a flat statement, you need to use INTONATION, or you could sound robotic. Which is ok, but not ideal for building relationships with people.

7. can you prepare any Key Vocabulary?

If the call is with someone from Human Resources, get a list of human resources vocabulary and review the key terminology before the call. This gives you the chance to anticipate any 'jargon' (area specific language) and note the pronunciation. The same goes for Acronyms - are there any you have in your language that are different in English?  Take 30 seconds to check on google!



10 Easy ways to immerse yourself in English



If you normally do a yoga class or have a half hearted attempt at pilates - then do it in English instead! Kill two birds with one stone - don't worry too much about technical vocabulary, you'll pick a lot of it up through watching the instructor. I still don't know what glutes are and I've been doing these videos at home for years!

Choose instructors with a variety of accents so that you don't get too used to one and get lazy!

Yoga with Adriene - very zen lady, easy to understand.

 Pop Sugar Fitness - Lots of different options and styles!


Youtube is such an amazing resource, here are some of my favourite cooking channels:

Aine Carlin - Vegan Irish Blogger 

Food Tube - This is Jamie Olivers channel and there's a multitudes of options on here from all over the globe!


This is vital, with skype you can find someone to practise with at any time of the day from all over the world. There are many different sites to choose from, but the ones i've used personally and been happy with are the following:

Italki - Online

Meetup - In person (be wary of the language exchanges, they can be a bit of a cattlemarket! I prever to go along with a cinema/book club)


This can be a little frustrating, but it definitely makes you work harder! You can also use the translation element to check your friends messages in English.


Accountability really helps with language learning, and agreeing that the workplace has a designated English hour can provide a bit of light relief during the day as well as meaning that you can review your vocabulary together and have a brainstorm about any shared problems you're having in English!


TED, my students know that i'm a little obsessed with TED talks, they can be used in so many ways to help you improve your English and increase your world knowledge! Interesting topics  equal interesting conversation, which means you're using English without thinking about it. Memorising sections of TED talks will help you to increase your fluency quickly, it doesn't even matter if you understand everything. Mimic the intonation and tone and you'll start to enjoy speaking in English so much more!


You don't have to upload it, you can just keep it in your phone for yourself. But taking time to record a video in English in the style of a youtuber helps you to identify any pronunciation errors or areas you want to improve. I was horrified to realise how much I overused the word amazing when I recorded myself teaching (AMAAAAAZING GUYS) and now my delivery is much more punchy!


Yes, again, recording yourself - but rather than a video, focus on the audio - you could set a series of topics to talk about in order to improve your vocabulary. Evan journalling everyday for a week will help you to set the habit!


I sign up for websites in Spanish to make sure that I get their newsletters sent to my inbox everyday. Before I let myself look at the news or my favourite blogs in English, I read at least one in Spanish, it really helps with Vocabulary.

Find a blog to sign up to here.


Skillshare is a fantastic resource for this, you can do something completely frivolous and fun (my first class on here was a 'knife skills' class) - if you do it in English, it counts towards your practical hours!