Tuesday, January 31, 2012


If you go to Scotland or Ireland, you might be invited to a ceilidh, a traditional dance. A band plays traditional music, and people dance traditional dances all night long. You might see men wearing kilts and women in traditional Scottish clothes. As the evening continues, the dancing gets faster so you’ll have to be quite fit.

Ceilidh (pronounced kei-li) is not an English word; in fact, it’s Gaelic. Gaelic was the original language of Scotland and Ireland. Nowadays, you’ll hear Irish Gaelic spoken in Ireland, but you won’t hear Scottish Gaelic spoken much in Scotland. In fact, they only speak it in the Highlands.

Here is a well-known, traditional Scottish song, called Loch [1] Lomond:

By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes,
Where the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond,
Where me and my true love were ever wont to gae,
On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.

Oh, you tak’ the high road and I’ll tak’ the low road,
And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye,
But me and my true love will never meet again,
on the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.

At the end of the evening, you can join in with everyone when they sing Auld Lang Syne, written by Robert Burns, Scotland’s most famous poet:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And days of Auld Lang Syne?
For Auld Lang Syne, my dear
For Auld Lang Syne
We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet
For the sake of Auld Lang Syne.

[1] lake

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Visit to Edinburgh.

"Edinburgh is what Paris ought to be".   Robert Louis Stevenson.
                               "Edinburgo es lo que París debería ser" 

Two of the most popular sights (lugares de interésin the capital of  Scotland are Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood house. Let's learn a little  about their history. 

Edinburgh Castle   

Since the reign of King Edwin  in the seventh century Edinburgh has  had a castle. For centuries castles have been built and destroyed in the same place. The present Castle was built in the twelfth and thirteeth centuries . Sometimes the English defended it against the Scots and sometimes the Scots defended it against the English .
In 1437 Edinburgh became the capital of Scotland and from that time (desde entonces) the kings and Queens lived in the Castle.

The Crown Chamber (La cámara de la corona ) still has the crown and jewels  of the Scottish Kings. Every September visitors from all over the world come to the Castle to see Edinburgh Festival  and the Castle echoes with shouts of joy and not of war ( el castillo resuena con gritos de alegría no de guerra).

Holyrood House           

A mile away from the Castle is Holyrood House. This mile is in fact called the Royal Mile, because Scottish Kings and Queens travelled along it so often . Holyrood House was built by James IV and James V  in the middle of the fifteenth century.Mary Queen of Scots  lived here too for a time before becoming a prisoner of Queen Elizabeth I ( 1558-1603) .
Later Queen Elizabeth executed Mary by cutting her head off.

Holyrood House  still receives royal visitors. Queen Elizabeth II stays here when she comes to Edinburgh. This Queen Elizabeth does not take prisoners and cut their heads off  ! 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Schools Kill Creativity

It is said that information is power. Unfortunately, Internet has inundated us too much information, more than we are able to process. Our attention is constantly distracted by one website or another, and it can be easy to overlook [1] interesting ones. So that’s why I am strongly recommending TED: Ideas worth Spreading [2]. It offers “riveting [3] talks by remarkable [4] people, free to the world”. Although the English speakers may be difficult to understand, they are often available with subtitles, like the one below .

Pretty much everyone agrees that there is something wrong with the modern educational system. Of course, it’s hard to find a consensus on what exactly are the problems, or even harder, how to solve them. In this video, Sir Ken Robinson doesn’t have the solution to fixing [5] education but he believes he has found the problem: schools kill creativity. With typical British humour, Sir Robinson argues his point strongly and convincingly.

[1] pasar por alto, [2] ideas que valen la pena difundir, [3] fascinante, [4] excepcional, [5] arreglar

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Some and Any Revisited

Michael Lewis -autor, formador y profesor- nos ofrece un interesante análisis del punto gramatical some/any  desde una perspectiva innovadora.

A menudo se presenta la "regla" sobre el uso de  some /any como:

Some en frases afirmativas.  Some in positive sentences.
Any en frases negativas  y preguntas. Any in negatives and questions.

La realidad es que los siguientes ejemplos también son frases posibles y correctas en inglés:

I like some pop music.
I don't like some pop music.
I like any pop music.
I don't like any pop music.

En un esfuerzo por "preservar" la regla enseñada los profesores y manuales se deben esforzar para explicar los usos "especiales "  de some  y any . Por ejemplo al "pedir algo de forma educada" (polite requests)  se utiliza  some.  Can I have some pizza , please ? 
El problema realmente es que la regla inicial es totalmente incorrecta pues el uso de some/any se determina por el significado y no la estructura. Por lo que debemos formular una nueva regla:

Some y any se utilizan para hablar de cantidades indefinidas.
Some si la cantidad está restringida .
Any si la cantidad no está restringida.

La restricción o limitación puede ser real ( There is some cheese on the table .)  o que exista sólo en la mente del hablante (Would you like something to eat ? ) .La regla aunque algo más abstracta es válida para todos los usos de some /any y sus compuestos (somebody, anything...).
Las cuatro frases dadas anteriormente pueden ser representadas con un diagrama para ilustrar que  some siempre se refiere a "parte"  y  any a  "todo/a" o "ninguno/a".
I like some pop music.

I don't like some pop music.
I like any pop music .

I don't like any pop music.
(Adaptado de .Practical Techniques in Language Teaching  por Michael Lewis  ).

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Word Award

Now’s the season for awards. In the new year, we’re bombarded with awards ceremonies to recognize the best of the year before. In the U.S., there are the Oscars for films, the Emmy’s for television, the Tony’s for Broadway, the Grammy’s for music, and so on. Yes, there’s a an award for everything, even for words! Well, not really an award, words don’t receive shiny statues, just some recognition.

In the U.S., there’s actually an organization called the American Dialect Society (ADS), which studies the English language. It’s actually been around since 1889. Members include professional academics and amateur language enthusiasts. For a fee, anyone can be a member of this society. Every year, they elect the word of the year. Members nominate their favourite word, and then the top choices are voted on. Essentially, a word’s candidature depends on its popularity without being overly abused, and its relevance during the year.

In homage [1] to the occupy protest movement, last year’s word of the year is…


Other candidates included humblebrag (an expression of false humility, especially by celebrities on Twitter*), FOMO (acronym for Fear of Missing Out, describes the anxiety of being inundated by information on social media*) and tablet (a lightweight portable computer with a touch screen to input data*). Previous winners include app (2010), tweet (2009) and bailout (2010). 

If there’s a most popular word, logically, there must also be a most unpopular one. According to a New York poll, the most annoying word that came up in conversation last year was…

whatever [2]

This annoying word was followed by like, you know, just sayin’ and seriously. It appears that whatever has been the most infamous word three years in a row!

[1] homenaje, [2] lo que sea
* definitions quoted from the ADS webpage.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Iron Lady

Margaret Thatcher also known as the  " The Iron Lady "La Dama de Hierro) is one of the 20th century's most influential women. In a world ruled by men ,she was the first and only female to become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom ( from 1979 to 1990).
The film "The Iron Lady"  is being shown in cinemas now. The actress playing the role of Margaret is American Meryl Streep .Film experts say it might win (puede que gane)  an Oscar or two in February so don't miss it ! 
In the following video Margaret Thatcher talks about Socialism and what is her idea of a free society. This is part of a speech ( discurso) given in the Conservative Party Conference of 1975 . Four years later, Thatcher would become Prime Minister. In this speech ( check the script below to help you understand it better) she outlines (esboza) the kind of values defended by her government and exemplifies her commitment (compromiso) to the free market, a property-owning (derecho a la propiedad ) democracy and the rights of the individual.


Introduction: ..which firmly...and...unmistakably...underlines...
and then a politician emerged , who also believed that people should  be allowed to express themselves , instead of being controlled by the state, the individual should became the central focus of society.

Margaret Thatcher: Some socialists seem to believe that people should be numbers in a state computer. WE believe they should be individuals . We are unequal . No one , thank heaven, is quite like anyone else, however much the socialists may pretend otherwise and we believe that everyone has the right to be unequal , to us every human being is equally important ...
A man's right to work as he will, to spend what he earns, to own property yo have the state as servant and not as master, they are the essence of a free economy and on that freedom all our other freedoms depend.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Here and Now

At the end of the year, it’s common to review the past 365 days, and then at the beginning of the year, we make resolutions [1] for the next 365 days. During this period of time, we look backwards and forwards but we don’t take enough time to look at the here and now. For this reason, I think it would be appropriate to reflect on the wise words of the Turtle Guru from the movie Kung Fu Panda, which you probably haven’t heard in the original English version.

Turtle: I see you have found our sacred tree of Heavenly wisdom [2].
Panda: Oh! Is that what this is? I’m so sorry! I though it was just a regular peach tree.
Turtle: I understand. You eat when you are upset.
Panda: Upset [3]?! I’m not upset. What makes you think I’m upset?
Turtle: So why are you upset?
Panda: I probably sucked [4] more today than anyone in the history of Kung Fu. In the history of China. In the history of sucking!
Turtle: Probably
Panda: And the five. Man, you should’ve seen them. They totally hate me.
Turtle: Totally.
Panda: How is Master Shi Fu ever going to turn me into the Dragon Warrior? I mean I’m not like the Five. I’ve got no claws [5], no wings, no venom. Even Mantis has those thingies [6]. Maybe I should just quit and go back to making noodles.
Turtle: Quit, don’t quit. Noodles, don’t noodles. You are too concerned with what was and what will be. There’s a saying: Yesterday is history. / Tomorrow is a mystery. / But today is a gift. That is why it is called the present!

[1] propósitos, [2] sabiduría, [3] alterado, [4] era una mierda, [5] garras, [6] “thingy” refiere a una “thing” cuyo nombre hemos olvidado 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Happy Three Kings Day !

We end this Christmas series in magnificent style  ! Hugh Jackman (Wolverine in X-men) , David Hobson and Peter Cousen singing the famous "We Three Kings of Orient Are " in quite a festive style. This Christmas carol tells the story of the Wise Men, theThree Kings who brought glorious gifts to the  baby Jesus in the stable in Bethlehem.

A  happy Three Kings  Day to you all  !

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy Perfect Light

Born a King on Bethlehem's plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to rein

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light

Frankincense to offer have I
Incense owns a Deity nigh
Pray'r and praising, all men raising
Worship Him, God most high

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes of life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light

Glorious now behold Him arise,
King and God and sacrifice,
Heaven sings, "Hallelujah!"
Hallejujah!" Earth replies.

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Time Warp

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a cult movie classic from 1975. It is a musical parody of B horror and science fiction movies.  It tells the story of a newlywed [1] couple (including a very young Susan Sarandon) who get a flat tire [2]on a secluded country road in the middle of a storm. Of course, the closest sign of civilization is a scary mansion on the top of a hill. The couple go to the mansion seeking help and find themselves immersed in mayhem [3]!

You can still see the movie today in theaters, especially on university campuses. The cult following of this movie is so great that the public doesn’t only watch the movie, but participates in it as well. Some audience members dress up [4] as their favorite character [5], and dance and sing on stage in front of the screen. And there are various rituals that are performed at certain movie cues [6]. For example during the opening church scene, the audience throws rice. Even movie virgins go through [7]an initiation ceremony!

The best-known song from this musical is The Time Warp [8]. This song is often played at parties and discos. The song even has its own dance moves, as you can see in the video from the movie. Enjoy!

The Time Warp 
It's astounding [9], time is fleeting [10]
Madness [11] takes its toll
But listen closely, not for very much longer
I've got to keep control

I remember doing the Time Warp
Drinking those moments when
The blackness would hit me and the void [12] would be calling
Let's do the time warp again...
Let's do the time warp again!


It's just a jump to the left
And then a step to the right
With your hands on your hips [13]
You bring your knees in tight
But it's the pelvic thrust [14] that really drives you insane [15],
Let's do the Time Warp again!

It's so dreamy, oh fantasy free me
So you can't see me, no not at all
In another dimension, with voyeuristic intention
Well-secluded, I see all
With a bit of a mind flip [16]
You're there in the time slip [17]
And nothing can ever be the same
You're spaced out [18] on sensation, like you're under sedation
Let's do the Time Warp again!


Well I was walking down the street just a-having a think
When a snake of a guy gave me an evil wink [19]
He shook me up [20], he took me by surprise
He had a pickup truck and the devil's eyes.
He stared  [21] at me and I felt a change
Time meant nothing, never would again
Let's do the Time Warp again!


[1] recién casados, [2] neumático desinflado, [3] caos, [4] espectadores se disfrazan, [5] personaje, [6] indicaciones, [7] experimentan, [8] alabeo de tiempo, [9] asombroso, [10] fugaz, [11] locura, [12] vacio, [13] caderas, [14] empuje pélvico, [15] demente, [16] perder la chaveta, [17] resbalón, [18] desconectado, [19] guiño, [20] me sacudió, [21] mirar fijamente