TEACHER INTERVIEW. Let’s meet Steve Roberts

We have a lot of musicians and artists on the team! Today, we’re interviewing Steve Roberts, who’s not only a singer and musician but also one of our most experienced English teachers.

Steve was born in Northampton (England). He’s been working as an English teacher for 23 years and working for Ziggurat since 2006. Apart from teaching, Steve has also written books and articles about teaching and training methodology and he’s trained as a coach. He also plays music and loves walking in the mountains or on the beach. Now let’s meet him!


Photo: Àlex Fernandez

Hi Steve! Glad to interview you. First of all, let’s talk a little bit about you.

Q: You’ve been living in Barcelona for a while. When did you decide to move here and why?
A; Well, it’s a long story, but it was in 1994, and basically because I loved the city and had the feeling that I could make a life here.

Q: What is your favourite thing about Barcelona?
A: Now it’s become really cosmopolitan, so there are a lot of fantastic places to eat, for example Indian food, Japanese, etc. But there are lots of other things…

Q: Tell us something about your background…
A: I studied English literature at University College London and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, then spent ten years trying to make a living as a writer. Because this is virtually impossible if you don’t already have a job as a journalist or academic, in the end I decided to teach English, which is when I moved to Barcelona.

Q: You’ve been working for Ziggurat for more than 10 years and you teach a lot of English telephone classes. Let’s focus on these.
A: Why would you recommend this type of classes? They’re basically one-to-one classes, so you get personalised attention from your teacher throughout the class. Also, because of the format, you have to concentrate very hard on listening, so it develops your comprehension quickly in this essential skill. Finally, it’s very flexible, and can easily be adapted to your work schedule.

Q: What type of learning activities do you most like to emphasise in your classes?
A: A bit of everything is necessary, but I specially emphasise speaking, since that’s most people’s main priority, and it’s the most powerful way to learn new language in general.

Q: What aspect of the Ziggurat classes or methodology would you like to highlight?
A: I don’t know, there are a lot of positive things… Perhaps the way that we do our best to adapt the classes to the specific needs of the students. And the communicative focus, so that we’re teaching people to communicate effectively from day one.

Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: Again, there are a lot of things, but I particularly like the social side of meeting a wide range of people from many walks of life and helping them to communicate in English.


Photo: Àlex Fernandez

Apart from teaching, you’re also a singer. You have recently launched a new CD, ‘The Loss and the Gain’

Q: What music do you play and sing?
A: It ranges from folk to acoustic pop and rock.

Q: Do you write the lyrics? If so, what inspires you to write?
A: Yes, I write both the lyrics and the music. I never know what’s inspiring me until I get an idea!

Q: When is your next gig?
A: At the moment I don’t have any lined up because I’m recording a couple of new albums. But I expect I’ll play one again soon. If you know of any good places to play, tell me!

Q: Where can we see you?
A: I play a lot in venues in Sant Boi, where I live. Apart from that I’ve also played often in La Contra, an art space in Poble Sec. That’s the type of venue I like. But when I have a gig lined up I’ll let you know!

Q: And finally, how does your musician side influence you as an English teacher?
A: I use music in my classes, but most teachers do! Also I try to help my students as much as possible with their pronunciation, and having a musician’s ear really helps in this respect.

It was great to know more about you! Thank you very much for the interview, Steve! 🙂

You’re very welcome! All the best!

You can follow Steve on his Facebook page, the page of his band Grog. And you can also listen to him on this Bandcamp links: Steve Roberts and Grog.

Steve was also interviewed by Olga Merino (El Periódico) on April the 3rd. Check it out! STEVE BRUCE ROBERTS_elPeriodico_3apr17

TEACHER INTERVIEW. Let’s meet Scott Riley

Today we are interviewing our English teacher Scott Riley, who is also one of the artists of the team.

nScott was born in New York City, where, as an artist, worked in art-related jobs: teaching, gallery work, scenery painting, etc. He also managed a bar in Brooklyn for a few years before moving abroad, first to Glasgow and Hong Kong and eventually to Barcelona, where he has been living and teaching English for the last 11 years. He spends most of his free time with his wife and two teenage kids; he also enjoys traveling, cooking, reading and playing the bass guitar.

Hi Scott! First of all, let’s talk a little bit about your past.

Q: Where are you from?
A: I was born and raised in New York City. In the 70’s and 80’s New York still had some rough edges, but there was a lot happening in the music and art scenes, and it was an exciting place to be.

Q: What did you study?
A: I studied painting and sculpture at the School of Visual Arts, in Manhattan.

Q: You’ve been living in Barcelona for a while. Why Barcelona?
A: The short answer is that after 6 years in Glasgow I needed some sun! The quality of life in Barcelona is very good. This is due in part to the mild and sunny climate, but also to the mentality of the people, which is less aggressively careerist than in New York. Also it has deep cultural roots, and an increasingly cosmopolitan population, both enriching qualities. The food and the wine are also excellent!

Q: You started working for Ziggurat as an English teacher 3 years ago. What do you like most about your job?
A: Almost all of my students are interesting, well educated, and fun people, who enjoy talking about the crazy world we live in. Being a very social person, I think that’s a great way to spend the day.

Q: But you are also an artist. What do you do?
A: I make photographs that look like paintings.

Q: How and where we can see your work?
A: I rarely show in galleries, but you can follow me on Instagram @scottrileyart, or on the facebook page: Scott Riley Art. I also have books of my art, which I am happy to show anyone on request.

Q: How does your artistic side influence you as an English teacher?
A: I think that creative people generally have a well developed sense of curiosity, and an open mind; two qualities that serve well in other fields. Also, I’m always trying to improve on the last art I did, so I try to bring that idea into everything else.

Q: What type of learning activities do you most like to emphasise in your classes?
A: I like to focus on conversation skills, and teach my students lots of colloquial expressions. Fortunately that is what most of my students enjoy, but if they are looking for something else, I’m flexible.

Q: And finally, what do you like doing in your free time?
A: In the little free time that I have, I like to make art, play music, cook, read books, swim in the sea… Also to sit around a table eating good food and drinking nice wine with my family and friends. Clearly there are not enough days in the week!

It was great to know a little bit more about you!
Thank you very much for the interview, Scott!

TEACHER INTERVIEW. Let’s meet Rebecca Sweet!

Today we are interviewing Rebecca Sweet, one of our most popular English teachers.

Rebecca was born in Atherston (England). She’s been working for Ziggurat for 8 years and before teaching she worked in the hospitality industry. After qualifying as an English teacher she decided to move to Barcelona and has been teaching here ever since. If you can’t find her teaching around the city, you might bump into her walking her dog in Guinardó or snowboarding in the mountains. Now let’s meet her!

meHi Rebecca! Glad to interview you. First of all, let’s talk a little bit about your past.

Q: Where are you from?
A: I was born and raised in Atherstone, which is a small picturesque town situated in Warwickshire, England. Atherstone has a long history dating back to Roman times and is steeped in history.

Q: What did you study?
A: I studied Tourism and American studies at Canterbury Christ Church University in Kent and after I graduated I got a job as a Holiday Representative for Thompson Holidays, which led to a placement on the beautiful Island of Ibiza, where I worked in the hospitality industry for 10 years.

Q:You’ve been living in Barcelona for a while. Why Barcelona?
A: After 10 years of working in Ibiza I needed a career change, I’m a peoples person and I couldn’t bear the idea of returning to England and working a desk job, so in 2007 I decided to do my TEFL course. My teacher training was in Barcelona and I just fell in love with the city, there is so much to do and so much to see, I’m still discovering new places and things to do even after being here for 9 years, it’s a beautiful city.

Q: So a few years later you started working for Ziggurat as an English teacher. What do you like most about your job?
A: Honestly I love students who are motivated to learn English, that motivates me to make their learning experience enjoyable fun and worthwhile. Also there is the benefit of meeting a wide variety of people, every day is different and they do say, “Variety is the spice of life”.

Q: You’re very popular among our students. As an English teacher, what type of learning activities do you most like to emphasise in your classes?
A:I tend to try and adapt my activities to my students needs, I think every aspect of learning English is important and I focus on trying to get my students to achieve their goals so I like to find out what activities they enjoy doing and apply it to their classes.

Q: And finally, what do you like doing in your free time?
A: I don’t get a lot of free time because I’m a dog owner and most of my time is taken up walking him, we usually walk about 3-4 hours a day, fortunately I live near park Guinardó so it’s a pleasure to get a little out of the city so to speak and enjoy the spectacular views of Barcelona.


When I do get a little time to myself I love to sew, I make my own clothes and I really enjoy the satisfaction of wearing something I have created. In the winter I snowboard when I can there is nothing quite like speeding down a mountain and getting that adrenaline rush. And of course I love having a couple of wines and a good gossip with my friends on a terrace in the evening.

It was great to know a little bit more about you! Thank you very much for the interview, Rebecca!

TEAM INTERVIEW. Let’s meet our partner English Options

us-homeEnglish Options es la empresa con la que coordinamos nuestros cursos en el extranjero. Pero, ¿quién se esconde detrás de nuestro partner? Hoy hablamos con Louise y Claire, las responsables de la empresa y con quien estamos encantados de trabajar.

Now, let’s talk to them!

Q: Recientemente, English Options ha cumplido 10 años. ¿Cómo nació la idea de crear la empresa?
A: La idea surgió porqué las dos reuníamos experiencias que se complementaban. Ambas extranjeras (inglesa y suiza) y procedentes del sector educativo y la enseñanza de idiomas.

Q: ¿Os conocíais de antes? ¿Habíais trabajado juntas?
A: Habíamos trabajado juntas en proyectos de organización de campamentos de idiomas. Diseñamos un modelo de inmersión lingüística para jóvenes, con un equipo de personas nativas que sólo hablaban inglés y con eventos típicos de un país anglófono.

Q: Explicadnos un poquito más sobre vosotras…
A: Las dos sentimos una gran empatía con las personas que quieren aprender un idioma. Hemos pasado por esta experiencia. También hemos vivido en muchos países y aprendido las distintas culturas de cada uno. El uso cotidiano de varios idiomas forma parte de nuestra vida.

Q: ¿Qué es lo que más os gusta de vuestro trabajo?
A: Nuestro trabajo es apasionante, conocer personas y ayudar a conseguir sus objetivos buscando el método más apropiado de aprendizaje.

Q: Y siempre hay algo que desagrada, ¿qué es?
A: ¡No nos gusta equivocarnos! y oír experiencias sin resultados. No nos gusta que el aprendizaje de un idioma sea un negocio únicamente y que se juegue con la necesidad. Nosotras tratamos con estudiantes y no clientes. Nuestra función principal es orientar y asesorar.

Q: En English Options, trabajáis mucho con jóvenes, enviando a los adolescentes a cursar un año escolar en el extranjero o intensivos de verano, por ejemplo. Nuestros alumnos son todos adultos, ¿qué opciones tenéis para ellos?
A: Hoy nos encontramos en un momento en que tanto jóvenes como adultos necesitan hablar otro idioma. Los adultos se encuentran con un hándicap: la disponibilidad de tiempo. Para esto hemos buscado cursos intensivos de inmersión completa: en casa del profesor, en escuelas para adultos y programas para mayores de 50 años que incluyen un interés cultural. Finalmente también estancias combinadas de vacaciones/estudio para toda la familia.

Q: Tenemos alumnos que ya nos preguntan sobre cómo mejorar su inglés este verano, ¿qué opción creéis que es la mejor para incrementar el nivel de un idioma en el extranjero?
A: No existe una opción igual para todo el mundo. Hay que tener en cuenta, el objetivo del curso, la duración, el perfil de la persona y el presupuesto para ofrecer el curso idóneo.

Q: Nuestra experiencia nos dice que escoger un destino donde apenas haya personas que hablen tu idioma es lo ideal, ¿qué más sugerencias tenéis?
A: En efecto lo ideal es estar inmerso en el idioma. Aconsejamos vivir y estudiar en casa del profesor. Un programa a medida que obliga al estudiante a practicar fuera de sus clases particulares utilizando el idioma en la vida cotidiana.

Q: Y, por último, explicadnos cómo trabajáis y el proceso que seguís para asesorar a nuestros alumnos.
A: Siempre intentamos tener una entrevista previa sea por teléfono correo o personalmente. Cuanta más información del estudiante más posibilidades tenemos de encontrar el curso apropiado. Trabajamos de manera personalizada.

Muchas gracias Louise y Clara por la entrevista. Seguro que nuestros alumnos ya os conocen un poco mejor. ¡Esperamos seguir trabajando juntos mucho tiempo!

Testimonio de nuestros alumnos:

I wil be forever grateful for your professionalism demonstrated at all times. We will continue in contact of course. I will never forget Bristol, Canterbury, Cork and Vancouver (Probably the best experience of my life) and all thanks to English Options. – Josep Maria Terrer

Confianza y profesionalidad. Cuando buscábamos una ayuda para los viajes de estudios de nuestros hijos esos eran los dos conceptos que para nosotros eran prioritarios. Una organización pequeña y cercana que nos ofreciera la confianza de que nuestros hijos estarían en buenas manos y una gran profesionalidad que nos garantizara un buen aprendizaje del idioma. Nuestra experiencia, repetida en el tiempo, ha sido extremadamente positiva en estos dos aspectos con English Options.
– Jordi Badia

TEACHER INTERVIEW. Let’s meet Jenny Smedley!

Today we are interviewing Jenny Smedley, our Teacher Coordinator.

Jenny was born in Blackpool (England). She’s been Ziggurat’s Teacher Coordinator for nearly 4 years, teaching English for 15 years and living in Barcelona since 2002, when she decided to move there with her partner. If you can’t find her in the office or teaching, you might bump into her hiking in the mountains or playing in the park with her lovely family. Now let’s meet her!


Blackpool (England)

Q: How does a girl from Blackpool end up settling in Barcelona?
A: As a child I was fascinated by other countries and languages and after graduating in French and German, I headed straight to France to teach. I came back for a while to work in the South of England (and I am glad I did as I met my husband that way!) but after a couple of years, we both were ready for a change and Barcelona was the obvious option. The location seemed perfect – so close to the mountains and France and within driving distance of family in Italy.

Q: Did you find it difficult to adapt to Spain?
A: I suffered a lot at the beginning to be honest. The working days seemed so long! My first summer in Barcelona was also one of the hottest summers in history and I thought I would literally melt. However, after a couple of years I soon felt at home.

Q: I know in your family there’s a real mix of languages: your husband is Italian, you are English and your child is growing up in a Spanish and Catalan city. Do you find it difficult to handle?
A: Now my daughter is 2, I do sometimes feel a bit sorry for her when she has to listen to me in English, her babbo in Italian, her nursery teacher in Catalan and her childminder in Spanish. Who knows what she will speak when she is older!

Q: Apart from these 4 languages, you also speak French and German. You must really have a talent for languages! What is the key to learning so many languages?
A: I think what is important is to have a passion for languages. In my case, for English first and foremost and I love teaching it. As for foreign languages, I love being able to feel that I communicate with people in their language. My pronunciation is not always great but I am not afraid to speak and that is the key. Just go for it.

Q: Now, that we are talking about languages, tell me about your job. Nowadays, you are the Teacher Coordinator in Ziggurat, aren’t you? What does this title mean? What do you do?
A: My overall aim is to develop the most efficient and effective team of teachers in Spain. To differentiate ourselves in the market, we have to strive to be the best. I try to ensure that our clients are getting the profile of teacher best suited to their company training needs. At the same time, I try to make sure that our teachers have the necessary pedagogical support, tools and information they need to teach their classes well.


Jenny in a meeting with the teachers

Q: What do you like the most about your job?
A: I enjoy passing on the positive feedback we receive from clients to our hard-working teachers. It is also great to hear success stories about students who have done their first presentation in English, survived their first meeting at the German headquarters.

Q: And what is the thing it annoys you the most?
A: Language teachers are not very highly regarded in certain sectors in Spain. Ziggurat teachers are highly qualified and dedicated individuals with very busy schedules. We are always striving to increase the prestige of our language teachers and the teaching profession as a whole.

Q: You are also an English teacher, what type of learning activities do you most like to emphasise in your classes?
A: Communicative activities above all but always with correction and always with review of these corrections. Everything needs to be recycled on a regular basis so students see real progress in terms of building vocabulary and eliminating fossilized errors. I am also a big fan of encouraging my students to work on their extensive listening skills. It is a great feeling for both parties when you have a student who starts watching a series with subtitles in Spanish, then in English and after some time with no subtitles at all!

Q: And finally, what do you like doing in your free time?
IMG_0785A: Much of my free time now centres around activities for 2-year-olds so I am often in the park but I am a big fan of cinema and a bit of a foodie too. I love trying out new restaurants in the city.

Q: You also love nature, don’t you?
A: Yes, I do. We always go to the sea or the mountains most weekends for the day. It is nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city at the weekend.

IMG_4700Q: As far as I know, you travel quite often. What is the place you have visited that you liked the most? Why?
A: That is a hard question to answer as they are difficult to compare. Our road trip in Namibia was one to remember though. I will never forget seeing the elephants in the wild for the first time when the African sun was setting. It was so beautiful that I cried.

Q: Is there any place you are dying to visit?
A: Oh, yes, I’m dying to visit Disney World. It was somewhere I really wanted to go as a child and now I have one and one on the way, I have an excuse to go!

Q: Oh! Really? So there’s a little girl inside you… would you say so?
A: Yes, there is and I am not ashamed to say so. You are only as old as you feel! 🙂

I’m glad that you still have this little girl side! Thank you very much for the interview, Jenny!

ENTREVISTA. Vamos a conocer a Amélie Faure-Grise

Hoy entrevistamos a Amélie Faure-Grise, una de nuestras profesoras de francés.

Amélie nació en Lyon (Francia) hace 32 años. Lleva dando clases de francés desde hace 8 años y hace poco que reside en España. Además de enseñar francés, se dedica a la artesanía, creando complementos con perlas y cuero. También le encanta el senderismo y la escalada.

¡Vamos a conocerla!Sin título

Selon toi, quelle qualité devrait avoir un professeur de français?

La patience ! Il faut bien avouer que la grammaire et la phonétique françaises ne sont pas des plus simples…

Qu’aimes-tu le plus dans l’enseignement du français?
Je pense que mon rôle dans une salle de classe est de guider et de m’effacer au maximum. Je me réjouis donc chaque fois que mes étudiants s’entre-aident, se corrigent et collaborent pour atteindre un objectif commun.

Quel type d’activité proposes-tu le plus en cours?
Je propose beaucoup d’activités ludiques pour rendre mes cours dynamiques. Les apprenants sont plus à l’aise et participent plus activement qu’avec des exercices « classiques ». Je suis convaincue que pour bien apprendre, il faut avant tout prendre du plaisir !

Quel est ton conseil numéro un pour quelqu’un qui veut apprendre le français?
Le conseil que je donne toujours à mes étudiants et que je m’applique à moi-même est de ne pas avoir peur de s’exprimer car c’est en faisant des « erreurs » que l’on apprend, et de ne jamais se décourager.

Pourquoi aimes-tu travailler pour Ziggurat?
J’apprécie l’excellente communication au sein de l’équipe et avec les étudiants. Pour bien apprendre, il est très important que l’aspect organisationnel soit rigoureux et clair pour qu’apprenants et professeurs puissent se concentrer sur leurs objectifs.

As-tu une autre activité professionnelle dans la vie?
Je suis très manuelle et fais de l’artisanat que je vends sur des marchés. Je tisse principalement des bijoux en perles de rocaille avec plusieurs techniques et apprends à travailler le cuir.

Qu’aimes-tu faire pendant ton temps libre (cinéma, sport etc.)?
J’aime beaucoup faire de la randonnée et de l’escalade. Le week-end, je pars souvent avec ma tente à la découverte de nouveaux paysages et à la recherche de tranquillité.

Est-ce que ces autres activités t’ont aidée pour enseigner le français?
L’artisanat me permet de stimuler ma créativité, ce qui, je pense, est essentiel pour un professeur. De plus, dans l’artisanat comme dans le sport, il faut être tout aussi persévérant que dans l’apprentissage d’une langue.

Let’s meet… Amanda! TEACHER INTERVIEW

amandajonesToday we are interviewing Amanda Jones. Amanda was born in Monterrey (California). She’s been teaching English for 8 years and living in Spain for almost 2. As well as being a teacher, she’s also a yoga instructor and a freelance writer. If you’d like to practice some English and read about her articles go to Sedimentality and, if you’d love to do yoga while you’re learning English, join her classes at Bella Yoga.

Now, let’s meet her!

What do you think is the most important trait that an English teacher should have? Any great teacher should understand how it feels to be in their student’s shoes. That’s why I think that all English instructors should also be learning another language or skill at the same time as they are teaching!

What do you most like about teaching English? I’m a writer, and I love the English language. I love its idioms, its expressions, and dialects. I truly enjoy teaching students how to express themselves using these devices.

What type of learning/activities do you most like to emphasise in your classes? Any of my students will tell you that I love phrasal verbs! I think they are daunting because there are so many, but they’re a vital part of the English language learning process, and very helpful because students can apply them in everyday speech. I’m also a big fan of reading, and I love reading books with my students and then discussing them in class.

Amanda’s piece of advice «Set small goals: don’t begin with the intention of “mastering English.” Start small and say, “I don’t know how to express ______________,” and go from there.»

Why do you like working for Ziggurat? I love the opportunity to travel throughout Barcelona and meet students in their work environments. I also LOVE teaching test preparation, and am thankful that Ziggurat gives me the chance to share this skill with many students.

What other things are you doing professionally in your life? I’m a certified yoga instructor, and a freelance writer. I have a little website, Sedimentality, where I combine my love of writing, food, and travel.

What do you like doing in your free time? I love yoga (in any language! I attend classes in Catalan, Spanish, and English) and I love photography, and food and wine.

How has Yoga helped you in your English teaching? A popular motto in yoga is “practice and all is coming.” I think this applies perfectly to English as well. Without practice, all of our grammar and vocabulary knowledge is useless! We must learn to be patient and enjoy the process, not the destination. Only then are we truly students, and only then are we enjoying what we are doing.

Teacher Interview. Let’s meet… Jonathan Holden!

Jonathan HoldenWe have a brand new section on our blog starting today… Let’s meet  Jonathan Holden. Jonathan was born in Switzerland in 1965. He has been living and teaching English in Spain for 8 years and joined the Ziggurat team 4 years ago. As well as being a teacher, he is also a professional sculptor.

What do you think is the most important trait that an English teacher should have?
Patience. Students know more English than they think, and it’s important for the teacher to allow them time to work out how to express an idea before correcting them.

What do you most like about teaching English?
I love it when students try hard to use a new set of vocabulary or a grammar structure that they have learned, even if they make mistakes.

What type of learning/activities do you most like to emphasise in your classes?
Speaking. It’s the most important way for students to get to understand how English works in a different way to their native language.

Jonathan’s piece of advice: «Little by little. If you add up all the little things you can do to learn English, it can soon become quite a lot. And a routine for listening to English. For example, before reading your work emails, start your day by listening to five minutes of an English podcast.»

Why do you like working for Ziggurat?
Ziggurat is all about making the students responsible for their own learning. That’s important for me because it means that I can give students a variety of activities that will really help them learn. And I can challenge them to find ways to add English to their daily work routine. We don’t just have to follow a course (although they are very valuable), we can go off on a tangent or focus on specific skills for the workplace.

Escultura Jonathan HoldenWhat other things are you doing professionally in your life?
I came to Barcelona to change my life completely, and so I have become a sculptor, with a few shows around the city. I’ve also recently started writing a novel, and a blog about art.

What do you like doing in your free time?
I started running a couple of years ago, and eventually did a half-marathon. Then last year, to add some variety, I decided to do a triathlon. I couldn’t swim 25m to start with, so it was interesting to have lessons and learn this new skill. Apart from training, you’ll find me in my studio or at an art gallery opening, drinking cava.

How have these “other things” helped you in your English teaching?
It’s amazing how much I have learned about using words in English, especially by reading how non-native speakers use English. It’s made me aware of how I can write the same sentence in ten different ways and each one has a subtly different nuance. Also the step-by-step approach to sports training has shown me that a little work, three or five times a week is more important than one big session.

You can see Jonathan’s sculpture at http://www.jdholden.com and read his blog at https://medium.com/@lonetour