Trekking to the South Pole (Ray Zahab)

Aquí tenéis un nuevo pack de actividades TED. Esta vez, Ray Zahab nos habla de su travesía de 33 días por el Polo Sur. Si queréis practicar vuestras habilidades de listening mientras escucháis su historia en menos de 5 minutos, visionad su vídeo y después, ¡a poner a prueba vuestra capacidad de comprensión auditiva! Descargar actividades aquí

Extreme runner Ray Zahab shares an enthusiastic account of his record-breaking trek on foot to the South Pole — a 33-day sprint through the snow.


Student’s Review: Mobile App (by Yolanda)

Hoy compartimos una recomendación de una de nuestras alumnas de nivel A2:


“Although I started to study English a few years ago I felt I wasn’t progressing enough; I had problems with the listening and understanding when I spoke with other people.

So I downloaded an App called Tandem. Now I talk with people around the world every day. I write to the people and we arrange to chat. We do video calls. I have improved my listening and my vocabulary a lot and I have met a lot of interesting people.

I think this App is very good for learning and improving your language.

I recommend Tandem for learning and practicing English. It helps me a lot.”

Thanks Yolanda!

The Secret to Learning a Second Language (by Matthew Ray)

Since the launch of Ziggurat Language Services SL, back in 2003, I have been offering our new students, whenever possible, the First Class.

The First Class is a session that is done before the language training begins in a company; the presentation has the objective of making students aware of the “secrets” to learning a foreign language. Those secrets are a mix of “reality checks” about what one really needs to do to learn and maintain their second (or third) language, as well as some common-sense strategies to guarantee successful learning.images

Before you can successfully learn a language, you need to accept the following truths/realities.

  1. No one can teach you a foreign language, you have to learn it.
  2. You are the only one who can guarantee your success.
  3. It is very important to maintain what you have learned in your second-language, which will require daily contact with the language, for the rest of your life!

These three reality checks bring us to a clear conclusion: unless you develop the habit of including daily contact with the language you are learning, you will not progress very much or, worse yet, you will lose any progress that you have made.

There are three factors that most affect whether or not you learn your second language:

1. The Psychological Factor
2. The Contact-Time Factor
3. The Listening Factor

1- The Psychological Factor: you become what you think about all day long
I have met thousands of people over the years that think they have some sort of inherent problem that inhibits them from learning another language (a genetic defect?). They say things like “I’ll never learn English”, “I’m a disaster with languages” or “I’m going to die without knowing English“. Thinking these thoughts is very dangerous, since you will eventually believe them and they will negatively affect your ability to learn.

Your mind is the “muscle” that you use to learn a language, and you can greatly increase the rate of learning by speaking positively (and honestly) to yourself. So rather than thinking that you will die before learning English (or Russian, or French, or German…), tell yourself that you can learn the language, that you will overcome obstacles and that you are determined to be successful. And remember this… all of my students have been much better than they thought they were. Think about that before you start criticizing yourself.

2- The Contact-Time Factor: 120 hours of class is the equivalent of a weekend of practice
How can someone living in Paris, for example, expect to learn English if the only contact time they have with English are the 90 minutes of class they have each week? If you want to learn, you must increase your contact time with the target language.

Imagine doing a 120-hour language course perfectly, without missing a single day. In reality, that’s only the equivalent of about one week of contact (as the following calculations show):

1 day = 24 hours – Sleep (8 hours) = 16 hours per day awake (24 – 8 = 16)
Total -> 120 hours ÷ 16 hours = 7.5 days

To increase contact time, you need to incorporate the target language into your daily routine. If you dedicate 5 to 15 minutes per day, that’s around 6 more days of annual contact time; but more importantly, by maintaining constant contact with the language, you are avoiding losing progress, which will further motivate you to keep learning.

The path to learning a language is not a sprint, but rather a marathon; you need to maintain a steady pace for a long time.

3- The Listening Factor: if you improve your listening skills, the other skills will quickly follow. If your listening (comprehension) skills are limited, then…

  • You will be more nervous and tense when interacting with other speakers, which makes communication (and learning) even more difficult.
  • You won’t be able to learn new vocabulary because you can’t hear new words when you communicate with other speakers.
  • Your pronunciation will be limited too, since the first step to correct pronunciation is hearing the correct pronunciation. If you can’t hear the difference between shit [ʃɪt] and sheet [ʃi:t], for example, then how do you expect to pronounce them correctly.

Students often avoid listening practice because they get frustrated when they only understand a fraction of what they are listening to. However, to get to the point where you can understand 80% of what you listen to in your target language, you must first pass through the stage of understanding 10%, 20%, 30%, etc. The more you listen, the sooner you will reap the benefits of understanding more of your second language. If you improve your listening skills, I promise that the other skills will quickly follow.

Check out our ‘Learning Tips’ section on the blog.

Remember… There is no Shortcut
I once had a coach who often said “no pain no gain”. Learning requires effort; it doesn’t have to be painful, but it does require determination, dedication and consistency. Don’t kid yourself anymore; take responsibility for your language learning. In the end, whether you learn or not is up to you, and it has nothing to do with a genetic defect. 🙂


7 Ways to Learn Languages Online

The Internet is an incredible tool for language learning, but sometimes we have so many options that we don’t know where to begin! Check out these 7 ways to learn languages online for some creative and fun ways to learn a new language.

With, you listen to songs while reading the lyrics and complete the missing words. The site offers songs in dozens of languages and offers classics and current hits. The site offers beginner, intermediate, and advanced options for all songs, so it’s great for all levels!

Listen and read at the same time with an audiobook! Short stories, novellas, classic novels, and even speeches are all available in written and audio form on many sites. For English learners, we recommend ESL Bits.

3. TED
Perhaps one of the most popular sites for learning a language is TED: the videos come with transcripts and well-written subtitles in many languages. With so many topics, you are sure to find a TED Talk that fits your interests.

Practise with our TED Activity Packs. Check them out here!

Sites such as Instagram are excellent for learning a language through context: by seeing the photo, you will better understand its caption. After reading the caption in your new language, click on “translate” to see if you understood.

Google has created an extension called Language Immersion that allows you to learn new words while you are reading online. The extension translates some of the words of any site into the language you choose (currently there are 64 languages offered). If you don’t understand the word, simply click on it and Google changes the word back to your native language.

Teachers have been using Quizlet for years, and it’s a great tool if you’re looking for some vocabulary practice!

The world of podcasts is large: find one you love! Podcasts are great while commuting, cleaning the house, or just relaxing. If you’re not at the level where you can listen without a transcript, check to see if the podcast has one: many do.

By Amanda Jones @Sedimentality 

English Daily Vitamin (February 2017)


daily_vitamin_2016MISSING MONDAY



THEME THURSDAY. Oscar Vocabulary




Recta final #MagicLine2017

¡A tan sólo 3 días de la #MagicLine2017 hemos superado nuestro objetivo solidario!

Queremos agradecer vuestra participación a todas y cada una de las personas y empresas que lo habéis hecho posible. Muchísimas gracias por colaborar con la #MagicLine2017 y haber ayudado a Ziggurat Team a lograr su reto.

El domingo caminaremos 10 km juntos  por la #MagicLine2017.

¿Sabéis que a las 17:00 horas habrá concierto solidario en la plaza de la Catedral de Barcelona?

¡Nos vemos!

And the Oscar goes to…

La semana pasada os habíamos avanzado algunos vídeos y vocabulario para que os empezarais a familiarizar con la Gala de los Oscars. ¿Qué tal ha ido? ¿Habéis visto ya alguno de los vídeos que circulan por Internet? Aquí os dejamos el más polémico:

¿Y conocéis a los ganadores?

  • Best Picture. Moonlight


  • Actor in a Leading Role. Casey Affleck


  • Actress in a Leading Role. Emma Stone


  • Actor in a Supporting Role. Mahershala Ali
  • Actress in a Supporting Role. Viola Davis
  • Animated Feature Film. Zootopia
  • La La Land


  • Costume Design. Fantastic Beats and Where to Find Them
  • La La Land
  • Documentary (Feature). J. Made in America
  • Documentary (Short Subject). The White Helmets
  • Film Editing. Hacksaw Ridge
  • Foreign Language Film. The Salesman
  • Makeup and Hairstyling. Suicide Squad
  • Music (Original Score). La La Land
  • Music (Original Song). ‘City of Stars’ from La La Land
  • Production Design. La La Land
  • Short Film (Animated): Piper
  • Short Film (Live Action).  Sing
  • Sound Editing. Arrival
  • Sound Mixing. Hacksaw Ridge
  • Visual Effects. The Jungle Book
  • Writing (Adapted Screenplay). Moonlight
  • Writing (Original Screenplay). Manchester by the Sea

Esperamos que hayáis disfrutado de la gala. Y, si no habéis visto estas películas, os recomendamos aprovechar la oportunidad para verlas en versión original.

English Daily Vitamin (January ‘17)


¿Te perdiste alguna de las lecciones de enero? Aquí tienes el listado de nuestras publicaciones. Haz clic en el título para acceder a la lección que quieras leer.




THEME THRUSDAY. Idioms with “Cold”



Oscar Vocabulary Overview (by Amanda Jones)

Are you going to watch the #Oscars on February 26th? If so, make sure you know the vocabulary you will need to understand the show!

To start, what ARE the Oscars? This event is also called the Academy Awards.

The Academy Awards (Oscars) is an annual awards ceremony that is hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The goal of the event is to recognize and award those who are making excellent films. Winners receive a statue, which is called the “Academy Award of Merit” but nicknamed (and more commonly called) an “Oscar”. This event has been a tradition in the U.S. since 1929.


Oscars 1929

The Oscar categories are as follows:

  • Best Picture. This is for the overall best film. Note how the word “picture” is used as a synonym for “film” or “movie.”
  • Actor in a Leading Role. This is for the best male actor in a movie that was released this last year. The actor must be the main actor of this movie.
  • Actress in a Leading Role. This is for best female actor in a movie that was released this last year. The actor must be the main actor of this movie.
  • Actor in a Supporting Role. This category is for excellent male actors who did not have the lead role in a movie.
  • Actress in a Supporting Role. This category is for excellent female actress who did not have the lead role in a movie.
  • Animated Feature Film. This is for animated films. If you have children, you probably recognize some of these names!
  • Cinematography. A cinematographer is a person who directs the camera crews for a film. This category is to recognize great camerawork.
  • Costume Design. In this category, great costume design is awarded an Oscar.
  • Directing. They say that a great director is the difference between a good and a bad film. This category gives an award to the man or woman “behind the scenes!”
  • Documentary (Feature) and Documentary (Short Subject). A documentary is defined as a nonfiction motion picture “dealing creatively with cultural, artistic, historical, social, scientific, economic or other subjects”. These two categories deal with shorter and longer documentaries.
  • Film Editing. The people behind the computers get credit in this category!
  • Foreign Language Film. The Oscars also recognizes films from other countries or films made in other languages with this category.
  • Makeup and Hairstyling. Even the makeup artists great credit at the Oscars!
  • Music (Original Score). Musicians and composers are nominated in this category. Some soundtracks become classics. Remember Jurassic Park? Or Titanic?

  • Music (Original Song). Sometimes songs are associated with a movie. The songwriters are given tribute for their work here!
  • Production Design. This category recognizes artistic production in film.
  • Short Film (Animated) and Short Film (Live Action). The Academy has different categories for shorter films so that they receive recognition.
  • Sound Editing and Sound Mixing and Visual Effects. Each of these teams has an opportunity for an award for their hard work. The things we take for granted are often complicated (and sometimes ground-breaking)!
  • Writing (Adapted Screenplay). If the screenplay came from another source (such as book, a TV show, etc.) then this script is placed in this category.
  • Writing (Original Screenplay). If the screenplay is completely original, then it is placed in this category.

Will you be watching the Oscars? Tell us on Facebook or Twitter (or in the comments of this post). And be sure to check out the Theme Thursday of The Daily Vitamin: this month, the Thursday posts are all about Oscar-related vocabulary!

The 2017 Oscars! (by Amanda Jones)

I know many Americans who have Oscar parties. Are we crazy? Perhaps we are. But Oscar-fever is real, and many have caught this “disease!”

As an English teacher, I of course see everything as an opportunity to learn some new vocabulary. The Oscars are no different! Today we are looking at some of the vocabulary related to the Oscars. Read on to find out more!

oscars-2017-nominaciones-cintas-entretenimiento-aztecatrends-tv-azteca-21149502017 Nominees
What the films that are up for* awards this season? (* we use the expression “to be up for” an award.)

Several movies have been nominated repeatedly, including:

  • Arrival
  • Fences
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Hell or High Water
  • Hidden Figures
  • La La Land
  • Lion
  • Manchester by the Sea
  • Moonlight

Have you seen any of these films? If so, do you think that they deserve to be nominated for an Academy Award? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook!

And be sure to check out the Theme Thursday of The Daily Vitamin.

You can check out the full list Academy Awards Nominees page here:

Oscar Fashion
The Oscar night fashion is a big deal: the “best dressed” and “worst dressed” lists are published immediately after the event, and some historic fashion moments are created during the show! Check out this slideshow of some of the most famous fashion moments from the Academy Awards.

Acceptance Speeches
When a nominee wins an award, he or she gives a speech. Most of them are “thank yous” to everyone they work with, but some are heartfelt, emotional, or funny!

Matthew McCononaughey, Best Actor “Dallas Buyers Club” (2014)

Tom Hanks, Best Actor “Forest Gump” (1995)

Jennifer Lawrence, Best Actress “Silver Linings Playbook” (2013)

Anne Hathaway, Best Supporting Actress “Les Miserables” (2013)

What’s your most memorable Oscars speech? Share with us in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter.