Top 10 Tips for Travelling to an English-Speaking Country

Before taking your vacation in an English-speaking country, make sure you’re prepared to use the language! Our tips will help you speak English with ease during your vacation. Safe travels!


Check out the suggestions that Amanda has for us!

  1. Know the basics of the language. Make sure you know how to function in English by learning the “survival” vocabulary: asking for directions, ordering food and drinks, and asking the price of something. These things will make communication easier, which will make your trip more fun.
  2. Familiarize yourself with the accent. Depending on where you go, the people will speak very differently! Watch YouTube videos or movies so that you are more comfortable with the local accent or dialect.
  3. Learn a little slang. Some Google searches and a few articles will help you learn some of the local vernacular, which is fun to use in conversations!
  4. 700px-MonumentvalleyResearch the place and “must-sees.” Just a little time spent researching the place’s foods, sights, and traditions will help you feel familiar with the area before you even arrive.
  5. Be social. When you’re out, try to start some conversations!
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask for suggestions. People love to help and give advice. Ask locals where they eat, where they drink their coffee, and where they spend their weekends. You will get an insider’s look into the area that might not be found in guidebooks.
  7. Know the local customs. Knowing customs, such as tipping, will make you more confident while traveling. Research these things before you leave so that you aren’t spending your time on Google during your vacation hours.
  8. descargaLearn the currency. Don’t be confused about the money: this will make paying for things stressful! Make sure you know the bills and coins before you leave.
  9. Buy a guidebook (if possible, in English!). See our recommendations. Study the maps, get the layout of the city, and have a good idea of where your accommodation is before you arrive. But don’t be stuck using it! As mentioned above, the best advice comes from locals.
  10. Research the public transport. Metros, trains, cabs, Uber . . . depending on where you go, the transport will be different. Knowing your options ahead of time will make you more comfortable (and might also save you some money)!


By Amanda Jones @Sedimentality 

Recommendations for selecting a novel in a foreign language

Are you considering reading a book in a foreign language? Good for you! Reading will vastly improve your vocabulary and help you see your new language’s grammar in use. However, selecting the right book can be difficult. Read on, bookworms*, for some recommendations for selecting a novel to read in a foreign language!

635994817168223213-230785194_why-you-should-read-and-re-read-these-high-school-books-as-an-adult.jpegRecommendations for selecting a novel in a foreign language

1. Consider choosing a novel you’ve read in your native language
You liked the book enough to finish it, and you understand the basic plot. Now, tackle the book in another language! Not worrying about the plot will allow you to focus on the language instead.

2. Check out Young Adult fiction (or even children’s books)
Reading a book written for adults could be difficult (and disappointing if it’s too hard to finish). Consider reading a book that is written for a slightly younger audience (in English, these books are called “Young Adult” or “YA” novels). If these novels are too difficult, don’t stress: even children’s books can be a great way to learn new vocabulary and grammar! Try to read a book that was one of your favorites when you were a child.

3. Search for audiobooks
These days, most books come in audio versions. Make your novel-reading adventure an opportunity to improve your listening skills.

4. Avoid books with technical or specific language
When selecting a novel, keep in mind that some genres can be more difficult than others: books that use complex ideas and complicated or technical language can be tough to understand. A general rule? If it’s technical in your native language, you should probably avoid it in your new language.

Remember that websites such as Google Books allow you to preview books. Before buying the book, try to read a few paragraphs online to get an idea for the level of difficulty.

5. Ask for recommendations
Your teacher or friends will be happy to recommend some books for you to check out. Additionally, try searching online for book lists that are published by schools and universities. Another great way to search for novels? Use Amazon! Select a book that you’re considering reading, and then look at the bottom of the page for Amazon’s recommendations. You can see what other books people purchased while buying the book you’re considering, and you might stumble across** a new book.

Have you read a novel in a language other than your native one? Why did you select this novel? Would you recommend this novel to others? Tell us in the comments or on Facebook!

*bookworm = a person who loves to read
**stumble across = to unexpectedly find

By Amanda Jones @Sedimentality 

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 

Tips for Keeping your Language-learning New Year’s Resolution

Coffee-Study-Read.jpegMany people will make language learning a New Year’s Resolution. Unfortunately, as with many other NY resolutions (remember that gym class we all stopped going to by mid-February?) these resolutions will probably not be followed through until the end of the year . . . rather, they’ll leave us feeling like failures! Follow the guidelines below and you will set yourself up for a language learning plan you are sure to complete.

Tips for Keeping your Language-learning New Year’s Resolution

  1. SET A CLEAR GOAL. Do not just say “I want to improve my French” or “I want to speak English better”: this will never work! How do you want to improve, or what do you want to improve? Perhaps you have some problems using irregular English verbs to talk about the past and so you need some more practice with these. Maybe your pronunciation skills are lower than you’d like. Perhaps you always feel stuck when you see a phrasal verb. Identifying your clear goal is the first step towards reaching it.
  2. CHANGE THINGS UP A LITTLE. A year is a long time: don’t be stuck doing the same thing for 12 months! Also keep in mind your many resources: when it comes to learning a language in today’s technology-filled world, we have so many websites, podcasts, apps, etc. to choose from. Take advantage of the options you have!
  3. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH A CHEERLEADING SQUAD. You will need the motivation! Make friends with other language learners so that you can motivate one another, and be sure your friends and family know that this is a goal you are serious about.
  4. DON’T BE AFRAID TO FALL A LITTLE SHORT. Life has a way of getting in between our plans and ambitions. You will get sick, your boss will change your hours, your friend will have a crisis and need you . . . don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t always reach your goal. But also remember that the time you spend doing things like scrolling through Facebook can be better spent! (Aren’t we all guilty of wasting a little too much time on the internet?)
  5. BE FLEXIBLE. If something’s not working, change it. Perhaps you decided to read a chapter of a book each week, but then you realize after two weeks that it takes you MUCH longer to read a chapter than you thought. Change your plan! How about a new goal of “reading 5 pages per week” instead? Be willing to change in order to help you reach your goals.

With determination, a clear plan, and a support system, you can achieve your language learning goals in 2017. And we are here to help! Check out the Daily Vitamin for a daily English lesson, read our Blog for useful articles and TED Activity Packs, and subscribe to us on Facebook and Twitter for chances to participate in English conversations (and even contests).

Now about that gym membership . . . 😉

By Amanda Jones @Sedimentality 

¿Sabes qué es un plan de estudios SMART? (Parte II)

Si leíste el post del martes, seguramente ya hayas estado pensando cómo crear un plan de estudios SMART y cómo llevarlo a cabo. Hoy te contamos cómo hacerlo tomando como ejemplo el idioma inglés (pero podríais aplicarlo a cualquier otro idioma):

Specific (Específico)
Measurable (Medible)
Attainable (Alcanzable)
Relevant (Relevante)
Time-oriented (Orientado en el tiempo)



En primer lugar, necesitas pensar por qué quieres aprender inglés. ¿Quieres ser capaz de entender a los proveedores en la India por teléfono? ¿Está buscando un nuevo trabajo y quieres estar preparado para responder preguntas de la entrevista en inglés? ¿Quieres participar más en las reuniones? Todos estos son objetivos específicos.

Una vez que tengas un destino específico, piensa en lo que necesitas para lograrlo. Imagina que deseas poder participar más activamente en las reuniones con tus colegas internacionales. ¿Qué pasos específicos necesitas tomar para lograr esto? ¿Qué te detiene en inglés? Tal vez necesites:

  • Aumentar tus habilidades de listening
  • Mejorar tu fluidez y confianza
  • Aprender vocabulario relacionado con el trabajo y expresiones útiles para reuniones, como por ejemplo: Cómo interrumpir a alguien, cómo expresar tu opinión, cómo no estar de acuerdo.

El siguiente paso es decidir cómo puedes medir/supervisar tu progreso. Si tomamos las metas específicas anteriores, sabrás que has progresado cuando:

  • Entiendas más cosas de lo que están diciendo tus colegas.
  • Puedas hablar con confianza en las reuniones.
  • Hayas aprendido el vocabulario y las expresiones que necesitas.

Ahora necesitas pensar sobre lo realista y alcanzable que es tu objetivo y lo que puedes hacer para lograrlo. Por ejemplo:

  • ¿Tienes tiempo para 2 clases por semana para enfocarte en tus habilidades de speaking?
  • ¿Realmente encontrarás 3 horas para emplear al listening cada semana?
  • ¿Puedes aprender 10 palabras nuevas a la semana?

A continuación, debes comprobar que lo que estás haciendo en inglés es relevante para lograr tu objetivo. ¿Estás pasando 4 horas haciendo ejercicios de gramática para ayudarte a entender y hablar en una reunión? No pierdas el foco.

Establecer límites de tiempo también nos ayuda a planear y estar motivados. En primer lugar, puedes establecer una fecha límite general, por ejemplo, en 6 meses podré participar activamente en la conferencia internacional. Entonces necesitas fijar límites de tiempo al contacto con el inglés y recordar que siempre es mejor dedicar un poco cada día en vez de 3 horas el fin de semana.

Por ejemplo:

  • Listening: Pasaré por lo menos 1 hora escuchando inglés por semana. Voy a ver un episodio de una serie y 10 minutos todos los días viendo las noticias en inglés.
  • Speaking: Pasaré una hora por semana haciendo 2 clases telefónicas para mejorar mi capacidad de hablar.
  • Vocabulary: dedicaré 10 minutos al día para revisar y consolidar vocabulario relacionado con mi trabajo y expresiones útiles para reuniones.

Así que no seas como Alice. Sé honesto/a con tu profesor de Ziggurat sobre a dónde quieres ir y lo que realmente puedes hacer fuera de clase. Así él/ella podrá ayudarte a establecer metas SMART y aseguraros de seguir el ‘mapa’ (plan de estudios) y dirigiros a vuestro destino.

¿Sabes qué es un plan de estudios SMART? (Parte I)

Ahora que ya han pasado unas semanas desde que iniciaste tu curso de idiomas, quizás te hayas preguntado cuánto mejorarás tu nivel o qué serás capaz de hacer una vez acabado el curso académico en 2017.

Veamos esta conversación de Alicia con el Gato Cheshire:


¿Alguna vez te has sentido como Alicia al estudiar un idioma? Quizás te sientas como si llevaras estudiando inglés (o cualquier otro idioma) desde hace una eternidad, y que todavía estás en el mismo nivel y no haces ningún progreso real.

Bueno, como el Gato Cheshire dice a Alicia, no deberíamos empezar un viaje (¡al menos la mayoría de nosotros no!) Sin saber a dónde vamos. Lo mismo puede decirse de tu aprendizaje de idiomas. Establecer objetivos es una gran manera de mantenerte enfocado y motivado. Es posible que hayas oído hablar de metas SMART en otras áreas de negocio, así que ¿por qué no establecer algunas para tu aprendizaje de idiomas también?

Specific (Específico)
Measurable (Medible)
Attainable (Alcanzable)
Relevant (Relevante)
Time-oriented (Orientado en el tiempo)

Realmente necesitas planear el viaje desde donde estás ahora hasta dónde quieres llegar y es este “mapa” el que te ayudará a desarrollar tus habilidades y mantenerte enfocado. Así que deja que tu profesor de Ziggurat te ayude a crear un plan de estudios SMART.

En el post del viernes, os explicaremos cómo crear un plan de estudios SMART. ¡No os lo perdáis!

7 alternativas para practicar con el idioma este verano

¿Has acabado ya el curso académico y no volverás a retomar tus clases hasta septiembre u octubre? ¡No dejes aparcado el idioma!

Ya sabes que la mayor dificultad de aprender un idioma es mantener lo aprendido. La mayoría de los estudiantes olvidan, durante los meses de verano, mucho de lo que han estudiado durante el año. ¡No cometas el mismo error!


Si continuas haciendo pequeñas cosas con el idioma durante esta pausa, en septiembre notarás una gran diferencia y podrás retomar tus clases donde las dejaste. No intentes hacer demasiado porque te ‘quemarás’ y acabarás sin hacer nada.

¡El truco es hacer un poco cada día!

Aquí tienes una lista de 7 cosas que puedes ‘meter en tu maleta’ para mantener lo aprendido:

  1. Recursos turísticos en VO. Si aún estás planificando tu viaje, estás a tiempo para comprar una guía en el idioma que estás aprendiendo, buscar mapas, participar en foros, etc.
  2. TV en versión original. Tanto si viajas a un país extranjero como si tu destino es nacional, seguro que tendrás la posibilidad de acceder a canales de televisión internacionales. Aprovecha para mirar el telenoticias o alguna película en versión original.
  3. Novelas extranjeras. Si te apasiona la lectura, un buen libro será tu aliado para esos momentos de relax o en los trayectos. Opta por una novela en inglés, francés, italiano… en función del idioma que estés aprendiendo. Recuerda que si tu nivel es principiante, también hay libros específicos y sencillos.
  4. Periódicos y revistas. En la mayoría de destinos turísticos encontrarás quioscos con periódicos y revistas extranjeras. ¡Cómpralas! Infórmate sobre lo qué pasa en otras partes del mundo y/o cotillea sobre la vida de los celebrities.
  5. ¡Habla! Busca la más mínima oportunidad para conversar con nativos: pidiendo la comida en el restaurante, orientando a extranjeros perdidos, solicitando indicaciones, etc.
  6. MeetUp. ¿Conoces Busca alguna actividad que te resulte interesante y comparte la experiencia practicando otro idioma.
  7.  Postcard. Envía una postal de vacaciones a tus familiares y amigos escrita en el idioma que estudias o envíanosla a nosotros ¡Nos apasionaría saber dónde habéis estado y cómo habéis puesto en práctica el idioma! A la vuelta de vacaciones nos encantaría compartir vuestras experiencias con el resto de la comunidad.

¿Os animáis a enviarnos una postal? Escribidnos a:
Ziggurat Language Services
Calle Nicaragua 48, 1-6
08029 Barcelona

Mistakes are good for you!

Sin títuloHave you ever been in a situation where you wanted to express something in your target language but did not do so because you were afraid of making a mistake? In my years of teaching, I have sometimes experienced frustration with students who preferred to limit their experimentation with the language due to fear of making mistakes. Why do I get frustrated as a teacher? Well, because ultimately this fear impedes progress and also because it is vital that my students enjoy experimenting and improvising in the language.

You may remember a time when you have felt embarrassed due to a mistake you have made. I clearly remember one occasion when I was living in Austria and speaking to my new flatmate in German. He thought I was offering him a massage when I really just had a message for him. I can laugh about it now and I will never ever forget the word for message in German! So you see, making mistakes helps you learn. 🙂

Although you may have had a bad experience with learning a language at school where you were constantly judged on your knowledge, learning a language in your adult life should not be seen in this way, but rather as an extremely useful communication tool which could help you move up the career ladder or improve your life in general.

It is true that you can sometimes feel discouraged if you feel that you receive lots of correction. It is important, though, that the mistakes you make are highlighted to you and that you understand the correction. You should also record recurring mistakes in a notebook or in a Word doc and regularly review them. By doing so, you will eliminate them. We always say that regular exposure to the target language plays an important role but receiving valuable feedback and learning from it is just as, if not more, important.

You should record recurring mistakes in a notebook or in a Word doc and regularly review them

And a positive attitude here is the key to success. Why do we say that children learn languages so quickly? Although it may be true that there is a link between age and ability to learn, the key to progressing in a language could also be to “think like a child.” Children play with the language and are willing to make mistakes. They are not self-conscious. An adult is much more likely to say, “I can’t”, rather than, “I haven’t learned that yet”. Let go of your adult inhibitions!

The US political activist, Ralph Nader, once said, “Your best teacher is your last mistake!” Learn from your mistakes and you will make progress!

5 consejos para aprender idiomas

imagesPara muchos, septiembre es un mes como enero. Después de las vacaciones y coincidiendo con el inicio del nuevo curso escolar, este mes se llena de promesas y propósitos: dejar de fumar, perder los quilos que hemos ganado durante el verano y aprender idiomas son los más frecuentes.

Si te planteas estudiar un idioma (o seguir aprendiendo) aquí tienes 5 consejos para ayudarte a hacerlo día a día y conseguir un progreso importante:

      Si realmente quieres aprender es esencial establecer un plan por escrito antes de empezar y revisarlo de vez en cuando. Esta acción te ayudará a conseguir tus objetivos. Aquí tienes algunos consejos para crear un SMART plan.
      Para progresar es mejor dedicar unos minutos al día (15 minutos, por ejemplo) que esperar a tener 1 o 2 horas un día. En el siguiente enlace encontrarás algunas actividades que puedes hacer para mejorar tu pronunciación dedicando 2-5 minutos diarios, tu comprensión y vocabulario con sólo 5 minutos o tu escritura con 5 más. Sugerencias para aprender.
      Cosas tan sencillas como cambiar el idioma y configuración de tu teléfono móvil o del ordenador harán que mejores tu vocabulario. Así que no olvides cambiar el chip! Aquí tienes más ideas Change your language settings and change your chip!’
      Dicen los expertos que 21 días son suficientes para crear un hábito, si consigues incorporar en tu vida los puntos 2 y 3 te resultará muy fácil seguir tu plan y alcanzar los objetivos que te marques. Quizás pueda serte interesante visionar también este vídeo: Try something new for 30 days.
      Mirar películas o series en versión original, leer novelas escritas en el idioma que estás aprendiendo, escribir un diario o leer periódicos en otros idiomas son algunos ejercicios que puedes hacer para practicar y mejorar día a día.En los siguientes enlaces tienes más recomendaciones y propuestas:
    6. Para más ideas puedes visitar las distintas categorías de nuestro blog (ver columna izquierda). Y aquí tienes detalles específicos sobre alemán, italiano y francés.