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”



Student’s Review. ‘TED’s App’ by Marta Franco


Como ya sabéis, cada mes publicamos en nuestro blog un pack de actividades self-study relacionado con un vídeo TED. Hoy Marta Franco, una de nuestras alumnas de inglés, os explica qué es la APP de TED y qué beneficios os puede aportar. Thank you very much Marta!

Do you want to a take a journey through ideas, inventions, new ways to think and create, and also learn English at the same time? The official TED App for your phone or tablet allows you to listen to TED Talks from the world’s remarkable minds. With subtitles in over 90 languages, if English isn’t your first language, this may be the best way to improve your English skills.

What’s it about?
The application has plenty of Ted Talks content and offers different ways to access it. The most interesting option is to download talks to watch when you’re offline. You can then watch them every day on your train or bus journey, without consuming mobile data. Among other useful features, there is an option to bookmark talks to watch later on and to build a custom playlist.

Why is the app good for English learners?
The app offers the entire TED Talks video library with subtitle options and the menu itself can be browsed in the user’s preferred language. You also have the transcript of every talk in the language you prefer. Furthermore, most of the talks are given in English so you can feed your knowledge of the language and explore new and innovative topics. What’s more, if you need to give presentations in public you can learn good oral skills from great speakers as they organize ideas logically, focus, incorporate humour, connect with the audience and so on!

Marta Franco

Build a Tower, Build a Team (Tom Wujec)

Hoy queremos compartir con vosotros una de nuestras lecciones para mejorar vuestras habilidades de listening. Después de visionar el vídeo TED ‘Build a Tower, Build a Team’ podéis descargar nuestro pack de actividades y contestar a las preguntas.
Descargar actividades

Tom Wujec presents some surprisingly deep research into the “marshmallow problem” — a simple team-building exercise that involves dry spaghetti, one yard of tape and a marshmallow. Who can build the tallest tower with these ingredients? And why does a surprising group always beat the average?

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!

Student’s Review.’A trip to New York’ by Eliseu Vilaclara

First of all, we want to thank Eliseu for this great contribution to our blog!

new_york_at_nightAfter a first attempt to go to New York with my youngest son, my wife, who had always said that she never would go there, changed her mind and decided to come with us. My younger daughter, obviously, decided the same, whereas my elder daughter couldn’t come with us, and didn’t want to anyway.

So, the summer of 2014, four members of my family took a plane to John Fitzgerald Kennedy Airport after a stopover in Geneva.

The first feeling at the US airport was we were on the trip of a lifetime. My wife was astonished. I suddenly kissed her and an airport worker looked at me and said “love is in the air”. I was happy, not only for his reaction but because I was able to understand the first words I heard in English!

This joy disappeared the first time we went to have breakfast at a Starbucks near our hotel. I didn’t understand anything. It can’t be so difficult to ask for a coffee with milk, but there were a lot of possibilities about the kind of milk, the temperature, the kind of coffee, the size of the cup… and I got lost.

My son was our tourist guide. After a glance at the map, he was able to lead us to Little Italy, the Rockefeller Centre, the Empire State, Central Park, or wherever we wanted to go!

It’s difficult to sum up what we visited, but the three best things we did, in my opinion, were: attending a Gospel Mass in Harlem, feeling the old pain in the World Trade Centre Memorial and crossing the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset, heading to Manhattan when the city lights were gradually coming on.

One of the things which surprised me the most was the lack of investment the authorities make in public services, like the underground. Certainly it’s charming, maybe because it reminds of you a lot of films, but it’s not only “under ground”, it’s also “under-maintained”!

All of us miss that city. When in any series we see the Flatiron Building or the Statue of Liberty, we think about that summer and we are filled with a sudden longing for NY.

And now, from time to time, my wife says “how about going to New York in winter…” and I can’t help thinking “you never wanted to go…”.

Eliseu Vilaclara

#MusicMonday. ‘When We Were Young’ by Adele

Hoy celebramos #MusicMonday empezando con una nueva serie de Daily Vitamins. Como veréis, la lección de hoy es ‘The Music Missing Monday’ y utilizaremos el último single ‘When We Were Young’ de la cantante británica Adele.

Antes de leer la lección, os sugerimos escuchar la letra de esta balada tan sonada en la radio:

Además, para seguir practicando con vuestro listening, os recomendamos este vídeo en inglés para conocer mejor a Adele en tan sólo 3 minutos.

Y ahora, no olvidéis escuchar la Daily Vitamin y buscar la palabra que falta.

Good luck!

Keep Your Goals To Yourself (Derek Sivers)

Hoy queremos compartir con vosotros una de nuestras lecciones para mejorar vuestras habilidades de listening. Después de visionar el vídeo TED ‘Keep Your Goals To Yourself’ podéis descargar nuestro pack de actividades y contestar a las preguntas. Descargar actividades

After hitting on a brilliant new life plan, our first instinct is to tell someone, but Derek Sivers says it’s better to keep goals secret. He presents research stretching as far back as the 1920s to show why people who talk about their ambitions may be less likely to achieve them.

English Daily Vitamin (March ‘16)


Daily Vitamin

Hoy acabamos las Daily Vitamin del mes de marzo con Theme Thursday ¿habéis leído y escuchado ya la lección sobre la palabra RUBBISH? Aquí la tienes. Además, si te has perdido alguna lección este mes, aquí tienes el listado de nuestras publicaciones. Haz clic en el título para acceder a la lección que quieras leer.






¡Pronto publicaremos el pack de actividades de marzo! Mientras tanto, también puedes revisar las todas las lecciones desde que empezó el año académico:

English Daily Vitamin (Feb ’16)

Daily Vitamin

¿Te perdiste las Daily Vitamins del mes de febrero? Aquí tienes un resumen de nuestras publicaciones. Haz clic en el título para acceder a la lección que quieras leer.






¡Y aquí tienes el pack de actividades de febrero!

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!