The Girl on the Train: the bestseller everybody is speaking about! by Patricia

Do you like thrillers? If so, The Girl on the Train is the book for you!

Although it is not a page-turner from the beginning, it won’t be long before you are hooked!


The Plot
The main character, Rachel, is a woman in a very hard situation due to her divorce. First thing in the morning every day, she takes the commuter train to London where she sees a neighbourhood with different houses and different neighbours. While she imagines that life is perfect there, she finds herself involved in a crime which she tries to solve.

Nothing is what it seems in the Girl on the Train …

Why is this book good for learning English?
As well as enjoying the novel, you learn a lot of phrasal verbs and colloquial expressions from the dialogues that allow you to speak much more like a native person.

The book is written in the first person and the chapters are quite short… things that make a book easy to follow.

And finally, once you have finished the novel, you can also watch the film to see how it compares!

Happy reading!

Thanks to our student Patricia for this great review!

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 

Review of Speak Up Magazine by Raúl Millan

Raúl Millan, one of our English students, has written a review about Speak Up. Thanks a lot Raúl!

When learning English it’s very useful to have access to resources of authentic written and spoken language. Nowadays the Internet provides countless resources online. However, for those of us who still enjoy reading on good old-fashioned paper, I would recommend the Speak Up magazine.

Speak Up is a monthly magazine designed for Spanish speakers who are learning English. It first came out 25 years ago and since then has been adapting and renewing its content and style to keep up-to-date.

The magazine’s articles cover different topics; current affairs and news, English-speaking travel destinations, music and literature releases and short fiction stories. Colourful pictures bring light to the topics and the magazine’s CD provides authentic spoken English.

I would personally recommend this magazine for English learners for the following reasons:

  • It is easy to acquire. You can purchase each issue for less than €6. However, if you don’t want to
  • It covers almost all English-learning levels, from pre-intermediate to advanced. As each article is identified by its language level you can focus on the articles that fit your language capabilities or on those that you are more interested in.
  • The topics covered are interesting and up-to-date so you don’t have the feeling that you’re reading old English material.
  • The magazine’s CD helps you to improve your listening skills, especially if you try to understand it before reading the transcript. You can even purchase or borrow a DVD option where an English film is provided together with the magazine as well as a short booklet in which the film and its language is explained in detail.
  • Key words and fixed expressions are explained and translated into Spanish.
  • Finally, I would like to point out that the magazine has a smart and attractive design.

Learn English with the Media (Part 2)

Aprender o mejorar nuestro nivel de inglés es uno de los propósitos que muchos nos marcamos al inicio del año. De hecho learning something exciting es uno de ellos, según el ‘top ten New Year’s Resolutions’ que cita Matthew Ray en su artículo. ¿Y acaso no esexciting aprender inglés?

Para mantener contacto diario con un idioma es esencial incorporarlo en el día a día y, sobre todo, en actividades que nos apasionan. Tal y como explica Olga Campoy en ¿Tus metas te apasionan o te obsesionan?, es vital disfrutar de cada paso que das para lograr tu meta final. En este caso, si lo que deseas es mejorar tu nivel, no debes desanimarte, ya que es un proceso largo y que requiere constancia pero que si lo disfrutas lograrás excelentes resultados.

En post anteriores, hemos visto cómo aprender mirando series en versión original, siguiendobusiness realities anglosajones o leyendo diarios digitales en inglés. A continuación, otra opción para incorporar el inglés en tu día a día: magazines in English.

• Entrepreneur
• Forbes

• PC Magazine
• Info World

• Men’s Health
• Natural Health

• Rolling Stone
• Guitar World

• Scientific American
• Discover Magazine

• Cosmopolitan
• Glamour

• Sports Illustrated
• The Sports Network

• The Hollywood Reporter
• The Oscars

• Hello Magazine
• World of Celebrities

Una vez leídos los titulares y contenido de cada uno de los artículos que más atractivos encuentres, te recomendamos que:

  1. escojas diez palabras (no más) que no conozcas
  2. busques su significado en el diccionario
  3. lo incorpores a tu Word Bank (
  4. utilices dos de las nuevas palabras durante el día

Si a lo largo de la semana consigues recordar dos palabras diarias, podrás aprender 14 semanales…
¡Imagina el resultado anual si logras crear el hábito de hacerlo cada día!

Learn English with the Media

Internet facilita, hoy en día, miles de recursos con los que se puede aprender inglés. Lo más importante a la hora de mejorar el idioma es mantener contacto diario. Además de mirar programas (o realities) de televisión, series y películas en versión original, leer novelas en inglés o seguir lecciones como la Daily Vitamin también se puede aprender utilizando los medios de comunicación online.

A todos nos gusta saber qué pasa en nuestro país y en el extranjero y muchos utilizamos Internet para ello, por tanto, ¿qué mejor manera de hacerlo que en inglés? De este modo, haremos dos actividades a la vez: informarnos y aprender.

Por la mañana, por ejemplo, puedes visitar algunos de los diarios británicos y/o americanos más leídos. Todos aportan noticias de Europa, ya sean de sociedad, economía o política. Asimismo, es interesante leer qué está ocurriendo en tu país desde el punto de vista extranjero; así verás cómo perciben ellos los hechos.

United Kingdom
• The Times
• The Independent
• The Guardian

United States
• The Wall Street Journal
• U.S.A. Today
• The New York Times
• International Herald Tribune
• Los Angeles Times

Y aunque no seas un fanático o fanática de la prensa generalista, puede que encuentres interesante leer algo de prensa rosa y cotilleos. Quizás puedas aprovechar algunos momentos de descanso para ello.

United Kingdom
• The Sun
• Daily Mail

United States
• People
• Cosmopolitan

Una vez leídos los titulares y contenido de cada uno de los artículos que más atractivos encuentres, te recomendamos que:

  1. escojas diez palabras (no más) que no conozcas
  2. busques su significado en el diccionario
  3. lo incorpores a tu Word Bank
  4. utilices dos de las nuevas palabras durante el día

Si a lo largo de la semana consigues recordar dos palabras diarias, podrás aprender 14 semanales… ¡Imagina el resultado anual si logras crear el hábito de hacerlo cada día!

Improve it, don’t lose it

Summer is a time to relax, to “disconnect” from the stresses of everyday life and to “charge your batteries” (cargar las pilas), as they say in Spanish. What it should NOT be is a time to put your English objectives on hold; summer should be a time to improve your English, not lose it.

As I said, summer is a time to relax and disconnect, so whatever you do with English in the summer should be fun, relaxing and/or entertaining. Things that immediately come to mind are reading in English, listening to the radio in English, watching television, DVDs or films in original version or travelling to an English-speaking country. Following are some other suggestions of things that you can do to maintain or improve your English this summer:

  1. Pronunciation: Read aloud for two or three minutes per day. This will help you to improve your pronunciation and fluency. It can be any text (online or offline), as long as it was written by a native (a novel, a magazine, a newspaper, etc.).
  2. Listening: Watch two or three short videos per week. This will help you to improve your listening skills. We suggest TED, Newsy or the BBC. Remember that you can also listen to hundreds of Daily Vitamins on our website. All of these sources have subtitles or transcripts, so you can also use them to work on pronunciation.
  3. Reading: Read something that genuinely interests you, in English, five to ten minutes per day. Reading regularly in English will help you to improve your vocabulary knowledge and will make you more aware of grammatical structures in English.

These simple activities will guarantee that you at least maintain your current level of English during the holidays, although it is likely that if you are consistent you will actually improve your English while on holidays.

And finally, below we include a few more documents (written in Spanish and English) that might be helpful to you.

If you have your own ideas about how to maintain and/or improve your English during the summer, please post in on our Facebook page for others to see.

Have a very relaxing English-filled summer! We’ll see you in September!

Do you want a kidnap? I put my foot in it too!

Es interesante conocer las meteduras de pata de otros alumnos de inglés, para no aprender nuevas palabras y saber qué no debemos decir a alguien. Aquí os dejamos una nueva entrada para el concurso I put my foot in it too!

My colleague Aitor arrived back last week from Canada. He came to the company yesterday to say hello to everybody with an incredible quantity of stories to tell, but one of the most hilarious was one that happened to him in a bar.

He was having a coffee with his friends one afternoon when a young woman tripped next to him, spilling some drops of her ice-cream on her blouse. He immediately rose up wanting to offer his help like only a gentleman can do. He quickly helped her to recover her balance and gently offered her a napkin from his table asking with a big smile on his face: “Do you want a kidnap?”

The young woman stared directly at him, hesitating between running away or staying frozen, when they heard all his friends roaring with laughter and shouting: “Not a kidnap! A NAPKIN!!”.

Aitor blushed realizing his mistake and the young woman neither ran away nor stayed frozen. She politely thanked him for his support and gave him a huge smile that remained on her face as she left the bar.

I think Aitor will no longer forget the difference between a kidnap and a napkin, and I will always remember to walk carefully while eating an ice-cream!


P.S. I love you. Book Review

Haven’t you read ‘P.S. I love you’ yet? 8 years later chick lit lovers all over the world are still moved by this successful novel. We would like to share the following book review with you.

«Are you one of those people who is keen on romantic novels? Do you love to identify with the characters? With ‘P.S. I love you’ you will break down in tears, at times, and burst out laughing at others.

About the novel
‘PS. I Love You’ was written by the Irish writer Cecelia Ahern in 2004. The book was the number 1 bestseller in Ireland, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany and the Netherlands for almost 20 weeks. 3 years later, the novel was adapted for the big screen, but with some changes.

The plot
Holly and Gerry are happily married. She is head over heels in love with her husband but, unfortunately, death snatches Gerry from Holly’s side. Holly is devastated, she isn’t able to leave the house or look for a job. She completely isolates herself!

However, Gerry comes back to her on her 30th birthday. During the last months of his illness, he had prepared some letters for her, which she will have to open monthly; all of them signed ‘PS, I Love You’. His instructions will help her to find a new lease of life. She will laugh, sing, dance and be more courageous than ever.

The characters
As you can imagine, Holly is the main character in the story, although we meet other people along the way who have an important role such as Daniel, her friends Sharon and Denise or her close family.

My opinion
I wholeheartedly recommend reading this amazing story about love and the way to come to terms with the death of a close one. Personally, as the plot develops I got more engrossed in the story and I could not put the book down until the end. However, if you do decide to read it, make sure you have Kleenex with you! ».

I put my foot in it too!

Concurso de relatos breves en inglésSant Jordi matando al dragón. Pati dels Tarongers del Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya (Fuente:

¿Alguna vez has metido la pata con el inglés? Muchos estudiantes de inglés han vivido situaciones anecdóticas, divertidas o incómodas, por un malentendido con la lengua inglesa. Como se diría en el mundo anglosajón they put their foot in it (han metido la pata).

Para celebrar el Día Internacional del Libro y la celebración de la Diada de Sant Jordi en Catalunya, lanzamos el Concurso de relatos breves en inglés: I put my foot in it too! que tanto éxito tuvo en su primera edición de 2010.

Si eres seguidor de Ziggurat en las redes sociales (Facebook y Twitter), si eres uno de los 7.000 suscriptores de la Daily Vitamin o alumno de Ziggurat, te animamos a participar y divertirnos con tus historias y anécdotas relacionadas en inglés (¡qué seguro que tienes alguna!). ¡Solidarízate y di I put my foot in it too!

Cualquier situación anecdótica que hayas protagonizado hablando inglés es válida; ya sea por una mala pronunciación, por temas culturales, por no entender a tu interlocutor, por una mala lectura… ¡cualquier historia que desees compartir con otros estudiantes de inglés!

En la última edición, tuvimos los siguientes relatos ganadores: A funny story in Ireland ganador del 1r premio,  Sheet and shit; please clean! que obtuvo el 2º puesto y Little Garden que quedó en 3r lugar. Y en nuestro blog podrás consultar también el resto de artículos que participaron.

A medida que vayamos recibiendo las redacciones las iremos publicando en el blog; abriremos también un sistema de votación a través de las redes sociales y entregaremos un premio a los artículos más populares.

¡Consulta las bases del concurso y escríbenos ya!

The White Tiger. Student’s Book Review

One of our students has sent us the following Book Review, which she wanted to share with the rest of you. We would also love to recieve your Book Reviews!

The White Tiger was written by Aravind Adiga, who was born in Madras in 1974, and it was the winner of the Man Booker Prize 2008. The novel consists of a long letter that the main character, “The White Tiger”, writes to the Chinese Premier on the occasion of his visit to India. The White Tiger wants to show the truth of his country and tell Wen Jiabao how to be an entrepreneur. To do this, he is going to explain his life.

For 7 days, Balram Halwai, the real name of The White Tiger, also known by his alias Munna, explains his story: his childhood (in school and in his 1st job), when he worked as a driver (the main part) and, at the end, his present situation and his plans for the future.

Balram Halwai learnt a lot about how to be an entrepreneur working as a driver (in fact he was a servant) for a rich business family. His master was Mr. Ashok, who was living in the USA and had an American wife, Pinky Madam. Because of his American influence, sometimes Mr. Ashok doesn’t agree with his brother and his father but in fact he isn’t capable of changing.  What were they using the car for? Mainly for two things: to go to pay bribes and to go to the shopping malls.

Throughout the novel, we can see the contrasts between the darkness (the poor country) and the rich city and also between the master and the servant class. Important subjects such as political corruption, globalization, religion, morality are shown with critical opinion, irony, humour but also sometimes with all their cruelty. You can laugh, feel tenderness or be in shock.

I totally recommend this book. I like it because I’ve learnt about India. It makes me think about important subjects and all of this with humour through a special character who is difficult to forget, The White Tiger.