Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A taste of Ireland

The Irish are a hospitable nation who love socializing and good food and drink form part of this. They believe in simple, hearty (copiosa) cuisine with lots of meat, potatoes and root vegetables. (tubérculos) Visitors will remember the big breakfasts and tea and cakes in the afternoon, plus the salmon, trout (trucha), oysters (ostras) and a glass or two of a certain stout (cerveza negra) beginning with the letter G.


You cannot underestimate (subestimar) the importance of the potato in Irish history. It was introduced in the sixteenth century and soon became the most important crop (cultivo) in the country. But when the potato crop failed, poor farmers (granjeros) died of famine (hambruna) and millions more emigrated to the United States. It is eaten almost every day, and used in cakes too. It is an essential ingredient in classic stews,(estofados) for example Irish Stew, Ballymalloe in Gaelic. This is made with lamb chops,(costillas de cordero) potatoes and onions and cooked slowly in the oven.(horno) This was left cooking when everyone was working in the fields. When they returned home it was ready to eat.

Pub Culture

You have probably noticed (fijarse) that there seems to be an Irish bar in every town in the world. But these are often poor imitations of a real Irish pub. Pub culture is a very important part of society and in rural communities the village pub is the centre of all social life. Men (and many women) drink pints of stout (only tourists ask for half a pint (media pinta). Make sure you buy a round (ronda) for everyone in your group. Smoking was banned (prohibido) in all pubs in Ireland last year, but the effects were not as apocalyptic as many people had predicted, and has made them more pleasant places for non-smokers.

Oysters and Guinness

With its long coastline,(litoral) it is not surprising that Ireland has excellent fish and seafood.(marisco) Salmon, trout, prawns,(gambas) mussels (mejillones) and oysters are some of its specialities. In fact there is a festival dedicated exclusively to oysters. The Galway International Oyster Festival is more than fifty years old and attracts visitors from different countries.


The Irish love cakes, and one of their favourites is Barmbrack. It is made with dried fruit soaked (frutos secos en remojo) overnight (toda la noche) in tea. Originally it was a cake that was eaten at Halloween and contained a pea,(guisante) a piece of cloth,(un trozo de tela) a stick (palillo) and a ring.(anillo) The person who received a piece with the ring would be married before a year had passed! Now it is served all year with butter and lots of tea. Maybe you will still find a ring in your slice!
  Try our recipe of Barmbrack and surprise your guests with a delicious Irish dessert!    

Friday, April 26, 2013

Using Connectors in Essays 2

Last week we talked about connectors used to add and balance contrasting ideas. Today we will talk about connectors used to emphasise a contrast and give examples. It is difficult to remember all the connectors, so we will focus on the most frequently used ones and illustrate their usefulness in an essay situation. We will then test your connecting skills.

Emphasising a Contrast

There are other connectors that are used to emphasize two contrasting ideas. The most common are however and nevertheless. Both would be translated as sin embargo, but the latter is used in more formal situation. Here are some examples of their use:

This is not, however, the best method of doing things.
I thought it was an excellent plan. Nevertheless, everyone ignored my advice.

Giving Examples

The main connectors for giving particular examples are for example and for instance. You can use in particular to emphasize the one thing that is especially important. Here are some examples:

a. The weather has been very hot throughout (X) Spain. For instance/For example in Granada, the temperatures reached 43ºC.
b. I really loved the film. In particular I liked Penélope Cruz’s acting.

 Using Connectors In An Essay

 Now you know the most important connectors, let’s put them into an essay that compares two different types of summer holiday.

Holidays on the Beach or in the Mountains?

Choosing a destination for your summer holidays is often a difficult decision. In Barcelona many people like to escape from the hot humid conditions that frequently occur during the summer months. During August, many Catalans leave their city residences and descend in their thousands to spend their holidays on the beach, whilst others prefer the mountains. Clearly, there are arguments for and against each type of holiday.
Beach holidays in Catalonia are not only popular with the Spanish people, but also with people who come from colder countries such as the UK and Germany on package holidays.( vacaciones organizadas) They like to return to their countries with a golden suntan (bronceado) from the guaranteed Spanish sunshine on the beaches. The Coast Brava’s Callela or Tossa de Mar, for example, provide a paradise for sun worshippers. (devotos del sol ) In addition to going to the beach, holidaymakers can swim in the sea and do more energetic activities that help keep them fit and healthy, for instance swimming, snorkelling, or scuba diving. Furthermore, there is usually vibrant nightlife in the seaside resorts that appeal to many people. For example, these resorts have discos, bars and nightlife to keep the tourists entertained throughout the night and into the early hours of the morning.
However, beach holidays do not appeal to everyone’s taste. Some people find it incredibly boring to lie on the beach all day and hate having to listen to disco music every night. Catalonia also provides many wonderful places to enjoy the mountains, especially the Pyrenees. There tourists explore the mountainous terrain by doing various activities. They can go trekking along mountain trails, while those looking for a challenge (reto) can do some rock climbing. Moreover, the tourist can enjoy the excitement of mountain biking. All these activities enable people to admire the breathtaking ( impresionante, que quita el aliento ) scenery, the abundant wildlife, such as birds, butterflies and mammals, or different types of mountain flower. As well as this, some tourists can enjoy the greater tranquillity and cleaner air that mountainous regions bring. At night, you can go camping and see the stars more clearly, whereas in the beach resorts there is too much light pollution from the streetlights, shops and hotels. Maybe you may be fortunate enough to see a shooting star! 
So are beach holidays better than mountain holidays? Personally, I would vote for mountain holidays because of the greater tranquillity they bring. On the other hand, I enjoy the seaside once in a while  if the place is not too packed (lleno) and like to do different water sports. If, however, you and the rest of your family or friends cannot decide between a mountain and beach holiday, the simplest solution is to spend half of the holiday in the mountains and the other half by the beach.

Connectors Test

 Here’s our test on connectors. Just fill in the gaps with one of the appropriate words . Good luck!

however/ in addition /while/ in particular

1. Barcelona won the Champions League.__________   they won the Spanish league.(adding ideas)
2. Mediterranean food is  the best in the world,________olive oil, salads and pasta. (giving examples)
3. John plays the piano,__________ Ben plays the guitar in the band. (balancing contrasting ideas)
4 Margaret is a schoolteacher who works 45 hours a week. ___________, she gets a ten week summer holiday. (emphasising contrasting ideas)

Solutions: 1. In addition 2. in particular 3. while 4. however

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Saint George and the Dragon

Saint George was a knight and was born in Cappadocia. One time he came to the city of Silene in the province of Libya. Near this city was a pond (estanque) where there was a dragon which was poisoning (envenenando) all the country. Whenever he approached (acercaba) the city he poisoned the people with his breath (aliento), and therefore the people of the city gave to him every day two sheep to eat, so that he would do no harm (daño) to the people. When they ran out of sheep, he was given a man and a sheep. Then an ordinance (ordenanza) was made that the children and young people of the town should be chosen by lottery to feed (alimentar) the dragon. Whoever the lot fell upon, wealthy or poor, he or she was delivered (entregado) to the dragon.
 This continued until the king's daughter was selected. The king tried to bargain (negociar) his way out of it, but the townspeople were adamant (firmes) that she should be delivered to the dragon just as many of their children had been. Then did the king embraced (abrazó) her, kissed her and gave her his benediction, and after, led her to the place where the dragon was.
George, who was passing, asked the lady what was happening. She told him about the dragon and begged (suplicó) him to leave before it appeared because the dragon would kill him too.

Then said S. George:
Fair daughter, doubt ye no thing hereof for I shall help thee in the name of Jesu Christ.  She said: For God's sake, good knight, go your way, and abide not with me, for ye may not deliver me.
Thus as (mientras) they spoke together the dragon appeared and came running to them, and S. George was upon his horse, and drew out (blandió) his sword and garnished him (adornado) with the sign of the cross, and rode hardily against the dragon which came towards him, and smote him (le golpeó) with his spear (lanza) and hurt him sore and threw him to the ground. And after said to the maid:  Deliver to me your girdle (faja) and bind it (átala) about the neck of the dragon and be not afeard.(no tengas miedo)
The princess led the defeated (derrotado) dragon into the city, causing much panic and alarm until George told the people not to be afraid: "Ne doubt ye no thing, without more, believe ye in God, Jesu Christ, and do ye to be baptized (sed bautizados) and I shall slay (mataré) the dragon."

The king was baptised (bautizado), followed by all his people, whereupon (con lo cual) George killed the dragon and its body thrown (lanzado) into the fields.

The king set up a church of Our Lady and Saint George. On the site there sprang up  (brotó) "a fountain of living water, which healeth (curaba) sick people that drink thereof (que bebia de ella) ".

Friday, April 19, 2013

Using Connectors in Essays

Can you write good essays (redacciones)  in English? Many of you probably hate the idea of writing essays because of the negative memories associated with school homework. Well, don’t worry, help is here! Today we pay particular attention to one of the most distinctive features of essay writing, the connector. It is difficult to remember all the connectors, so we will focus on the most frequently used ones.

There are many different connectors that occur in essays. These either appear as a word or a multi-word phrase. These can be subdivided into four principal categories.  Today we will talk about the first two. 

1. Adding Ideas

The following connectors are used to add information or arguments that have already been mentioned. The following table shows the most common adding idea connectors and their Spanish translation.

Adding Ideas
Spanish Translation
Moreover (formal)
Además (por otra parte)
Furthermore (formal)
In addition 
Además de
As well as that 
Además de esto
Another thing is 
Otro cosa es
In fact 
De hecho
Besides /in any case
Además (de), aparte de/de todos modos 

Here are some of the above expressions in context:

He borrowed ( tomó prestado) my English dictionary and never gave it back.(devolvió ) And as well as that/another thing is, he broke the mirror in the bathroom and never paid for it. He also said it was my fault!

Harry has no alcohol drinks for tonight’s party. Furthermore/In addition, he has no food to give his guests.

Why are you trying to get a job as a lifeguard?(socorrista) You are too young for the job. In any case/Besides, you can’t swim very well. In fact you don’t even like swimming!
2- Balancing Contrasting Ideas
Often connectors are used to contrast two different facts or ideas, but do not contradict each other. Below are some examples with their Spanish equivalent.

Balancing Contrasting Ideas
Spanish Translation
Mientras que
On the other hand
Por otro lado

Here are the above expressions in context:

She likes reading books, while/whereas her sister prefers watching TV.
While/whereas she likes reading books, her sister prefers watching TV.
It is very common to have sub-zero temperatures in Siberia during the winter. In Africa, on the other hand, sub-zero temperatures are unusual.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston Cuisine

Bostonians love good food and any visitor to Boston will be spoilt for choice.(tener demasiado donde elegir) Here you can enjoy the best American cuisine, and excellent Italian, Chinese, North African and Indian restaurants. Because there are so many students, there are always places to go on a limited budget(presupuesto limitado) and many cafés to spend a lazy (ocioso) afternoon in.

Seafood Paradise
The city is famous for the quality of its seafood, (marisco) including shrimp,(gambas) scallop,(vieira) lobster,(langosta) swordfish (pez espada) and oysters.(ostras) One traditional recipe is clam (almeja) chowder, a soup made with onions, potatoes, bacon and cream, and of course clams. It was already popular in 1836, and served at Ye Olde Union Oyster House, the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the USA. It was so important that the novelist Herman Melville dedicated a complete chapter to Chowder in Moby Dick. Now you know what helps people survive the cold New England winters!

Boston’s “Little Italy
The North End is the place to eat Italian and Italian-American cuisine, with restaurants that are representative of all the regions of Italy. They have taken the best seafood ingredients and combined them with Italian sauces and homemade (casera) pasta. Some of the specialties are shrimp or calamari in various sauces. You have to go out early to guarantee finding a table. Many restaurants open from 5-10 pm and until 11 at the weekend. There are lots of reasonably priced (a un precio razonable) restaurants, but wine is usually expensive.

Central Square, Cambridge
Where there are hungry students there are usually cheap places to eat, and Central Square in Cambridge in no exception! Here you can find excellent Middle Eastern, North African and Indian cuisine. Why not try some couscous, hummus or stuffed wine leaves? (hojas de vid rellenas) And you should not miss Indian tandoori specialties cooked in a tandoor clay oven. (horno de barro) Subtle combinations of spices (especias) give these dishes exciting and unexpected (inesperados) flavours (sabores).  And several restaurants also have live music, which means you can have a complete night out in one location!

Boston Baked Beans
And for something sweet, try some Boston Baked Beans.(alubias asadas) These are not like the baked beans in tomato sauce that people eat for breakfast in England. The original idea came from Native American Indians, who coated beans in maple syrup.(jarabe de arce) Bostonians preferred to use sugar because Caribbean sugar was processed in the city. The authentic recipe includes sugar, pork, mustard and onion. But you can buy sugar-coated peanuts (cacahuetes garrapiñados) with the same name!

In Home English we love cooking, so here we show you the recipe of the original Boston baked beans so you can try it at home.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Judith Ortiz, alumna de Home English, nos cuenta su experiencia

Tenemos el placer de presentaros a Judith Ortiz, alumna de los cursos de inglés y alemán en Home English. Judith, catalana residente en Girona, tiene consejos de sobra para todos los que queráis estudiar idiomas a distancia, ¡es toda una experta en Home English! Esto es lo que nos cuenta :)

  ¿Cómo te definirías en una frase?
Una persona dinámica, entusiasta, alegre, exigente en mis metas, con la que te reirás un buen rato...

Para todos aquellos que no te conozcan, ¡cuéntanos un poquito sobre ti!
Me gustan los perros, especialmente mis dos amores quienes además de ser fieles y tremendamente bonachones, me divierto mucho con ellos adiestrándoles y saliendo a pasear por la montaña. Me gusta el gimnasio, voy  todos los días  y entreno al máximo,  la aviación me apasiona y un requisito de la aviación son los idiomas que, además de gustarme, pronto serán  obligatorios para cualquier trabajo.
Y como a la mayoría de personas, me encanta viajar y experimentar cosas nuevas.

Desde tu pasión por los perros hasta la aviación… ¡qué variedad! Entonces, ¿dónde te gustaría trabajar en el futuro?
Como la experiencia de trabajar con perros ya la tengo, (buenísima por cierto), me gustaría mucho entrar en la aviación, que es por esto que me estoy preparando, ya tengo el titulo de azafata y de Técnico en Operaciones Aeroportuarias, así que voy a por el trabajo...   Espero conseguirlo.

Los idiomas se pueden aprender estudiando y también practicando… ¿Tienes pensado irte al extranjero para mejorar la conversación y la escucha?
Sí, he estado de vacaciones en Londres donde pude poner en práctica mis conocimientos de inglés y, al ver que no tenía problemas y que me espabilaba tremendamente bien, decidí dar un paso más adelante en mis estudios, seguir avanzando con el nivel y además la ciudad me gustó tanto que estoy intentando irme para allá, de hecho estoy en lista de espera para irme  a trabajar y aprender la cultura y desde luego mejorar el idioma.
Como consejo, después de terminar vuestro curso de inglés, iros unos días a Inglaterra a experimentar... Os sorprenderéis vosotros mismos y volveréis motivados para emprender un nuevo curso.

Está claro que el inglés es la lengua universal  pero… ¿por qué alemán y no otro segundo idioma?
En mi caso porque lo he enfocado a mi futuro profesional, quiero ser azafata de vuelo y en aviación, además de necesitar un nivel de inglés casi nativo, hay muchas más posibilidades si tienes más idiomas, en mi caso alemán porque mi meta es ser azafata de Lufthansa, y necesito un nivel de esta lengua igual que de inglés, aunque no descarto otros idiomas...

¿Te gusta más un idioma que otro?
Me gustan varios idiomas;  inglés, alemán, francés, ruso, italiano, nórdicos... y latín, si tuviera que elegir los tres que más me gustan: Inglés, Latín y Alemán.

¿Cómo te está resultando estudiar una lengua extranjera a distancia?
Mi experiencia con los cursos a distancia es muy positiva, no le veo ningún contra... Si durante el estudio te surgen dudas o no entiendes algo que se te explica, contactas con tu profesor y te resuelve lo que sea... Además te pones el día y a la hora que quieras; si un día no quieres no estudias, pero tampoco se puede dejarlo todo y ponerse las pilas a último momento, es algo que debe ser progresivo, un poquito cada día y sin quererse comer el mundo en un día... Poco a poco y bien adquirido.

¿En qué momento del día y en qué lugar te gusta más estudiar?
A mí me gusta estudiar por las mañanas después del paseo de mis perros y de terminar las tareas de casa, me pongo en mi habitación-despacho, (decorado al estilo Londres, para entrar en ambiente) unas 4 horitas, luego me voy al gimnasio a despejarme un rato y por las tardes  me pongo un ratito en el campus con algún link de videos o canciones  porque es otra manera de aprender.
 Hay que reconocer que sentirse a gusto en el espacio donde se va estudiar es muy importante, alguna vez me he puesto en el comedor sentada en el sofá y en la mesita y esos exámenes me han salido con menor nota....

¿Qué tal está siendo la relación con tu Personal Teacher?
Uy, no tengo el placer de conocerle face to face, pero en los años que hace que somos profesor-alumna, puedo decir que es una bellísima persona, como si le conociera de hace años, me encanta y estoy súper contenta, no lo cambio ni loca. Alguna vez ha estado de vacaciones y me ha corregido un examen otro profesor, y aunque no tengo nada en contra de los demás, he pedido que me lo corrigiera mi profesor, que no me importaba esperar el tiempo que hiciera falta pero que quería mi profe... Hay un feeling muy positivo.

¿Cómo definirías tu experiencia en general con Home English?
Fantástica, fácil, eficaz, sencilla, profesional, completa... Amazing!

¿Qué les dirías a aquellas personas que aun no conocen Home English como alumnos?
Si tienen dudas tipo: "Es que eso de no tener el profesor....." "es que eso de hacerlo por internet, yo no me aclaro mucho con las tecnologías..."
... Puedo garantizar que: si tienes dudas sobre el temario del curso, tu profesor trabaja un montón de horas en las que le puedes llamar y te atenderá al momento o puedes enviar tus dudas por mail y en 24-48 horas tienes tus respuestas.
En cuanto a los que somos torpes con las nuevas tecnologías (yo la primera), debo decir que el campus es todo muy sencillo de manejar, está todo muy ordenado, y en un click estás donde quieras: consultas, exámenes, contenidos gramaticales, videos, podcast,...
Exámenes sencillos de completar y las correcciones del profesor son súper claras.
Home English tiene el curso de inglés muy completo con mucho material extra  para todos los niveles de inglés, puedo decir que la persona que hace el curso con Home English sale preparada para un examen oficial sin haber asistido a clases presenciales.

Yo os animo a tod@s...

¡¡Gracias por todo Judith!! Te deseamos toda la suerte del mundo y... have a nice flight :)

Si eres alumno de Home English y quieres participar en una entrevista, ¡¡escríbenos a home.socialmedia@gmail.com o coméntaselo a tu profesor!! ¡Ánimate, es muy sencillo!

Friday, April 5, 2013

More Thematic Phrasal Verbs !

"Come and join in. "

In the following mini conversations, we have selected another 10 useful thematic phrasal verbs for situations at a party and going on a holiday.

1. Party Phrasal Verbs

Agnetha: Hi, Björn. We’re having a party tonight. Come and join in.
Björn: Cool.(
¡qué guay! ) I love parties, but I’m afraid I haven’t brought any food or drink.
Agnetha: Oh, don’t worry. There’s enough food and drink to feed an army.( para (alimentar)  un regimiento) Help yourself (Sírvete tú mismo ) to the food. It all needs eating up.
Björn: Thanks. The DJ is putting on my favourite song and he’s turning up the volume. It’s Let’s Do The Twist by Chubby Checker. Well, drink up, Agnetha, because we’ve got to dance to it.
Agnetha: You’re right. The song is telling us to get down and do the twist, which means we must dance.

To join in (to take part in an activity)
To eat up (to finish eating)    
To put on (to start playing a record)   
To turn up (to increase the volume)
To drink up (to finish drinking)   
To get down (to dance)

 2. Holiday Phrasal Verbs

Agnetha: Well, I think it’s time for us to get away for the weekend.

 Björn: That’s a wonderful idea. We could set off on Friday afternoon and then come back on Monday morning. Where do you want to go?
Agnetha: London. We could check in at The Ritz at 7 o’clock and then see the West End show Mamma Mia. It would be a great way to celebrate my birthday at the same time!

"Passengers checking in"
To get away  (to have a holiday)
To set off (to begin a journey)
To come back (to return)
To check in (to register in a hotel)   

 Phrasal Verb Test

Well, I hope you will be able to practise these phrasal verbs in your English conversations. Before you do, here is our phrasal verb test where you rewrite the sentences with the appropriate phrasal verb replacing the formal verb. Have fun !

1. It’s good to see everybody participating.
2. Could you increase the volume on the TV?
3. Let's dance to this song.
4. What day are you returning?
5. We are going to begin at 10 am.

Solutions: 1. It’s good to see everybody joining in. / 2. Could you turn up the volume on the TV? / 3. Let’s get down to this song. 4. What day are you coming back? 5. We are going to set off at 10 am.