Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pronunciation: don't panic!

Pronouncing English well is quite difficult, especially for Spanish speakers. Sometimes the spelling of words has nothing to do with how they sound. There is a famous joke that says that the word "fish" could actually be written like "ghoti". Here's how:

  • "gh" would sound like an /f/ (as in "laugh")
  • "o" would sound like /i/ (as in "women")
  • "ti" would sound like /sh/ (as in "dictation")

  • So, yes. Pronouncing English can be hard. Fortunately there are lots of websites these days that can be of help. Here are some of my favourites: is a nice and easy to use pronunciation dictionary. is great for all kinds of words, but especially for proper nouns like names of surames, cities or words that aren't usually in the dictionary. is great for contrasting pairs of phonemes (sounds), which will help you notice the difference between different sounds. This will definitely make you pronounce things better.

    BBC Learning English has a great section for pronunciation. It has got videos, quizzes and radio programmes, so it is very useful and complete.

    But the most important thing is to listen to a lot of English and never be afraid to make a mistake!

    Update: You can learn the different phonemic symbols through this interactive chart at

    Tuesday, February 21, 2012

    Visiting Aranjuez

    We are also preparing a visit to Aranjuez for next month. I like this video particularly because it is very easy to follow and the vocabulary is not too difficult. The speaker mentions a few dates --what are they related to?

    15th century
    18th century
    19th century


    You can  find more videos about Spain on the Spanish Tourist Office Offcial Channel . Enjoy!

    Friday, February 17, 2012

    A trip to El Escorial

    We are preparing a visit to El Escorial next month. It takes a lot of work since the students need to research all the monuments and write texts about it, but all that effort really pays off. Here is one of the videos we have seen in class:

    Rick Steves is famous in the US for his travel show on APT (American Public Television). He has taught at the university, worked as a tour guide and written travel books. There are plenty of other travel videos from Rick Steves here: