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!

5 Cosas que puedes hacer este verano para mantener tu inglés vivo

La mayor dificultad de aprender inglés es mantener lo aprendido. La mayoría de los estudiantes de inglés 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 en inglés en agosto, 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…o casi cada día, aunque sea muy poco!

Recomendamos que te concentres en las siguientes 4 áreas (listadas en orden de prioridad):

  1. Comprensión oral
  2. Vocabulario
  3. Pronunciación
  4. Estructuras gramaticales

1) Comprensión oral
No hay secretos para mejorar tu comprensión oral; simplemente necesitas escuchar inglés lo máximo posible. Puedes mirar películas o series en inglés. Si te gusta escuchar la radio, escúchala en inglés. O quizá te gustaría ver uno de los cientos de videos fascinantes de TED, escuchar un podcast de la BBC o ver una película corta en la web Short of the Week.

Algunos días puedes concentrarte en actividades largas para mejorar tus habilidades de comprensión global y otros días puedes elegir listenings cortos para practicar una comprensión pormenorizada. Escuchar solamente de 5 a 10 minutos al día es suficiente.

2) Vocabulario
La mejor manera de incorporar vocabulario es leer y crear un Word Bank (un banco de palabras) con los términos que no conoces.

Siempre puedes leer artículos de tu libro de texto, pero te recomendamos comprar una revista o periódico en inglés sobre un tema que realmente te interese y leerlo con regularidad. Google también puede ayudarte a encontrar lo que andas buscando.

3) Pronunciación
Este es el aspecto más fácil de mejorar, aunque muy pocos estudiantes lo hacen. A través de leer en voz alta, durante 2 o 3 minutos al día, notarás un gran progreso en tu pronunciación en poco tiempo. Leer en voz alta ayuda a desarrollar los músculos faciales y bucales necesarios para pronunciar con comodidad el inglés. Si no tienes tiempo para nada más este verano, al menos intenta leer en voz alta cada día.

Si quieres trabajar sonidos específicos o la pronunciación de palabras concretas, puedes leer en voz alta las transcripciones de las listening activities en tu libro de texto y después escuchar el CD para comparar tu pronunciación con la del hablante nativo. También hay muchos websites, por ejemplo: News in Levels

4) Estructuras gramaticales
Mejorar tus conocimientos de gramática no necesariamente mejorará tus habilidades comunicativas; no obstante, si te sientes inseguro/a sobre ciertas estructuras gramaticales, repasar la gramática de vez en cuando será muy provechoso. Puedes hacer alguna unidad o sección de un libro de gramática (English Grammar in Use) También hay muchos websites donde puedes practicar la gramática, por ejemplo esta página alemana: http://www.englisch-hilfen.de/en/exercises_list/alle_grammar.htm.

5) Un plan por escrito
Para cumplir con la práctica de estas cuatro habilidades, hará falta una quinta acción: crear un plan por escrito. Crea un programa sencillo y plásmalo por escrito.  

Mantener el contacto con el inglés durante el verano es más fácil de lo que pensamos; si te propones por escrito un plan para el verano, las posibilidades de aprender y mantener tu inglés serán mucho mayores.

Have a great summer!

5 Steps to becoming a better writer in your second language

In writing, like in speaking, it’s important to distinguish between fluency and accuracy. Usually the biggest problem that learners have with respect to writing skills is a lack of fluency, not accuracy. For example, writing a short semi-formal email can take hours because you’re just not used to writing. The problem is not so much the grammar and syntax, but the vocabulary and lack of experience writing.

Here are 5 easy steps that you can take to improve your writing fluency (and accuracy).

road_8_grandeStep 1: Create a written plan
If you really want to improve your writing, before you start you need to create a plan. And it’s very important to write down your plan. It can be something simple like “for the next 30 days I will write in my journal for at least five minutes per day.”

There’s a good article about setting objectives in Forbes magazine: Why you should be writing down your goals.

Step 2: Write in a journal every day
Practice every day (or almost every day). I recommend writing a daily journal. This can be done in a traditional paper journal or you can write your journal in a Word document on your computer or your tablet.

You should write for a minimum of 5 minutes each day, and not worry too much about grammar. The objective here is to build up writing fluency (=quantity), not writing accuracy (=quality). That’s not to say you shouldn’t try to write accurately, but the quantity should have priority over the quality, at least at first.

Step 3: Incorporate new vocabulary into your writing
Many times students spend time “learning” vocabulary, but they forget to incorporate these new words into their production (speaking and writing) so their vocabulary knowledge doesn’t actually increase. You should incorporate new words into your writing in any way possible; even if they are “crazy” ways. If you have fun with this, it will work better.

Read Use it or Lose it if you want to learn more tips about increasing your vocabulary knowledge

Step 4: Get your writing corrected
The above activities will improve writing fluency (=quantity), but you will also want to have your writing corrected from time to time; that way you will become aware of any serious errors that you might be making and be able to correct them in future journal entries.

If you are currently studying a foreign language formally, you should ask your teacher to correct some of your journal entries. Ask them to only correct the more serious errors. If you do not currently have access to a teacher, you might want to try the website Lang-8.It provides a platform for native speakers of different languages to correct non-native learners’ writing. Simply write something and post it on the platform and a native speaker will correct it for you.

What do you have to do in return? Correct someone else’s writing in your native language.

Step 5: Revise past writing
A great way to see your progress is to go back to journal entries you wrote one, two or three months ago. You will be able to perceive your improvement, which will further motivate you to continue to improve.

When you revise past entries, don’t be afraid to make corrections or changes. Writing is a process and going back and correcting/changing your work is a healthy way to improve and become aware of your weaknesses and strengths.

It’s time to put pen to paper! 🙂

Recomendaciones para aprender italiano

Para los alumnos de italiano, hoy os traemos algunas recomendaciones y recursos para aprender italiano de nuestra profesora  Ornella Bernardi.

Stai studiando l’italiano e hai voglia di scoprire nuove risorse internet? Ecco una serie di siti che fanno al caso tuo!

Devo confessarti che i miei preferiti sono Almatv, Adgblog e Impariamo l’italiano, tre siti che mettono a disposizione numerosi video, letture e attività per tutti i livelli e per tutti i gusti.

Ma andiamo per ordine.

Quanto sono importanti le parole? Molto! Iniziamo quindi con una breve lista di dizionari online:

  • vocabolario Treccani: per leggere la definizione della parola in italiano;
  • dizionario bilingue: per tradurre una parola dall’italiano all’inglese, allo spagnolo, al tedesco, al francese e viceversa;
  • Forvo: come si pronunciano le parole italiane.

Non ti ricordi mai quale articolo mettere prima di s+consonante? Il sito della Loescher, famosa casa editrice di Torino, ti propone 40 schede di grammatica che spiegano in modo semplice e conciso una serie di temi che vanno dai nomi al periodo ipotetico.

Il prof Tartaglione ti aiuterà invece a prendere la grammatica con più leggerezza.

Il mattino ha l’oro in bocca. E perché non iniziarlo leggendo i fatti del giorno in italiano? I due quotidiani più conosciuti in Italia sono il Corriere e La Repubblica. Non farti mancare un po’ di gossip e un po’ di sport: la Gazzetta dello Sport ti aspetta!

Sei un tipo analogico? Scegli la radio della RAI che ti piace di più.

Non ti stacchi mai da internet, neanche quando devi mangiare. Allora mi sa che ti convenga dare un’occhiata a questi video:

Sei un melomane perduto? Allora non perdere l’occasione di imparare l’italiano anche attraverso le canzoni.

Questo è un sito dove vedere alcuni videoclip italiani.

Se invece vuoi fare anche un po’ di esercizi, l’Accademia del Giglio ha preparato numerosissime attività. Clicca su queste 4 pagine à uno, due, tre, quattro.

Alle buone forchette e ai palati raffinati il sito di Giallo zafferano aiuterà a preparare dei piatti da Gambero Rosso!

Infine, se frequenti spesso la pagina di Facebook, ti conviene iscriverti a questa pagina che si autodefinisce “uno spazio per quelli che studiano l’italiano per passione”.

Buon divertimento!

Recomendaciones para aprender francés

¿Estás estudiando francés y buscas más recursos para aprender? Aquí te dejamos algunas sugerencias de Gildas Seité, uno de los profesores de francés de Ziggurat Language Services:

“Voici quelques outils que je peux vous proposer si vous souhaitez pratiquer le français soit à travers Internet ou soit par la lecture, des séries ou des films en français.

Internet possède deux très bons sites sur lesquels je vais très souvent, qui sont le pointdufle.fr et Apprendre le français avec TV5 Monde:

  • Le pointdufle.fr est un site très complet qui propose des activités sur du vocabulaire, des chansons et des vidéos qui vont vous permettre d’assimiler rapidement des bases intéressantes pour progresser en français. Ce site propose aussi des jeux et des mises en situations qui vous permettront de progresser très vite l´oral.

    De plus, lepointdufle.fr possède une partie très importante consacrée à la grammaire avec tous les temps existants en français. Cette partie est composée d’un très grand nombre de fiches de grammaire, d’exercices et de chansons qui feront votre bonheur!

  • En ce qui concerne TV5 Monde, il s’agit d’un site qui propose les mêmes activités que lepointdufle.fr mais qui vous permettra de vous informer de l’actualité francophone dans le monde puisque TV5 Monde est aussi une chaîne de télévision francophone.Pantallazo TV5Monde

En ce qui concerne la lecture, si vous avez le niveau A1, vous pourrez lire ces livres dans la Collection Évasion: Lectures en français facile – Édition Santillana Français.

Voici quelques livres de cette collection :

  • Concert en Bretagne – Cécile Talguen
  • Tempête en montagne – Giovanna Tempesta
  • Dans la maison bleue – Thierry Gallier
  • L’été de tous les dangers – Dominique Renaud
  • Un étrange voisin – Claire Miquel

Et pour finir, vous pouvez bien-sûr vous appuyer sur des séries ou des films pour progresser en français.

Voici quelques séries que je peux recommander :

  • Sous le soleil
  • Plus belle la vie
  • Joséphine, ange gardien
  • Caméra Café (sketchs)


  • Bienvenus chez les Chtis
  • Intouchable
  • Les visiteurs
  • Le dîner de cons
  • Tanguy
  • Le placard
  • Mon meilleur ami
  • Le prénom
  • Les choristes
  • Les trois frères
  • L´enquête Corse

Ces films sont des comédies très amusantes!

Amusez-vous bien tout en apprenant! “