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jueves, 11 de octubre de 2012


The day that I was born
Which aster reigned over the world?
Just forsaken and forlorn
My star makes me be always hurt

Actually, this is not what Imperio Argentina used to sing, as she used to sing in Spanish. It's just my own English version, in case you want to sing it in a different way. Why not? The easiest ones out of which to make an English version are, precisely, those by the so-called 'folclóricas', including Rocío Jurado's. Ms Argentina actually sang it like this:

El día que nací yo,
¿qué planeta reinaría?
Por donde quiera que voy,
¡qué mala estrella me guía!

Would you like to see her? 

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Whether you believe in astrology or not, pop music teems with lines referring to one’s birth and fate: I was born to be alive, I was born to love you, I was born in 1981 / And to me / My life has just begun / We are the 80s …

Well, I was born on 25 March, 1962, and not many people can boast of having been born on the same day as Espronceda con diez cañones por banda, viento en popa a toda vela, or rather, on the same day exactly 154 years later, lucky me! Well, but then again exactly 20 years earlier than David Bustamante, which means that while he was in hospital because he had this important task to do, I was also in hospital … recovering from a car accident!

So, this is the truth and nothing but the truth. Who was born on this day in history?  On March the 25th, these less relevant people – than good old Busta, I mean – started to cry, sleep, suck, burp, and make their mothers busy:
Which means that I share my birthday with the singer of some songs you know very well (The moment I wake, before I put on my make-up, make-up, I say a little prayer for you, forever and ever …), as well as the man who played Starsky in Starsky and Hutch, Sir Elton John, S. J. Parker and Busta! As regards my exact date of birth, however, I share it with an actress that very few Spanish people know, and a handsome, tall Spaniard (like myself) who died in a car crash (unlike me) and you may not have heard about.


Talking of dead people, Spanish flamenco guitarrist Fernando de la Rosa  passed away at the age of 30 the day my grandfather commented I looked like a gypsy after his daughter (my mother) showed me to him, while my father was attending customers in the ‘shop-section’ of the very old house …  at 7 a.m. on a Sunday!

What else? Well, nothing much. I mean, yes, of course, one of the major events was an attack carried out against Algerians by the OAS (Organisation de l'Armée Secrète), at the time when Algeria was involved in getting its independence from France. 110 people died and 147 got injured that day.

What about your date of birth? What about famous people whose birthday is the same as yours? Please share your info! Oh, and sign your comment, please.

viernes, 5 de octubre de 2012



The British Medical Association has weighed in on Prime Minister David Cameron's health care proposals. The allergists voted to scratch it, but the dermatologists advised not to make any rash moves. The gastroenterologists had a sort of a gut feeling about it,  but the neurologists thought the Administration had a lot of nerve. The obstetricians felt they were all labouring under a misconception. Ophthalmologists considered the idea short-sighted. Pathologists yelled, "Over my dead body!" while the paediatricians said, "Oh, grow up!" The psychiatrists thought the whole idea was madness, while the radiologists could see right through it. The surgeons were fed up with the cuts and decided to wash their hands of the whole thing. The ENT specialists didn't swallow it, and just wouldn’t hear of it. The pharmacologists thought it was a bitter pill to swallow, and the plastic surgeons said, "This puts a whole new face on the matter...."  The podiatrists thought it was a step forward, but the urologists were pissed off at the whole idea. The anaesthetists thought the whole idea was a gas, but the cardiologists didn't have the heart to say no.

In the end, the proctologists won out, leaving the entire decision up to the arseholes in London.

domingo, 30 de septiembre de 2012


·       How many of these 20 jokes do you understand without using a dictionary?
·       And if you use one?
·       Which one(s) are you going to try to remember?
·       Which one do you think is the funniest?
·       On the whole, do you prefer the blue ones, or the green ones? I won't ask you why?
·       Unlike jokes for children – or that children love – this kind of jokes don’t usually depend on understanding puns (i.e. playing on words). Which are the two here which most obviously contain puns? By the way, jokes relying on puns tend to be more difficult for a non-native speaker to understand, and, needless to say, they’re hardly ever translatable into another language.
·       Another reason why you may not understand a joke is that you think you know the meaning of a particular word in it but it simply has another meaning that you don’t know (and you don’t know that you don’t know). This may easily happen happen in number 14 below.
·       Do you know what joke is supposed to be ‘the funniest in the world’? And the second funniest? And do you know what factors make a joke more or less funny according to many researchers? You’ll be able to read the answers to these questions soon! Mind you, not that I think the answers are ‘true’!

Unable to wait? OK, I’ll just tell you that the answers are ‘LaughLab’ (a book, a website, etc that you should’n take too seriously J!); and that if you want thousands of jokes like these, the book I read a couple of years ago was called ‘Man Goes into a Bar’, and, of course, it’s extremely easy to find more than that in the Net – they’re naturally meant for everybody (natives and non-natives) and you will understand so many!

Now just let’s read for fun.

How many honest, intelligent, caring men in the world does it take to do the dishes?
Both of them.

What is the one thing that all men at singles’ bars have in common?
They're married.

Why don't women blink during foreplay?
They don't have time.

Why does it take 1 million sperm cells to fertilise one egg?
They don't stop and ask for directions.

How does a man show that he is planning for the future? 
He buys two cases of beer.

What is the difference between men and government bonds? 
The bonds mature.

Why are blonde jokes so short?
So men can remember them.

How many men does it take to change a roll of toilet paper? 
We don't know - it has never happened.

Why is it difficult to find men who are sensitive, caring and good-looking?
They all already have boyfriends.

What do you call a woman who knows where her husband is every night?
A widow.

When do you care for a man's company? 
When he owns it.

Why are married women heavier than single women?
Single women come home, see what's in the fridge and go to bed.
Married women come home, see what's in bed and go to the fridge

How do you get a man to do sit-ups?
Put the remote control between his toes.

Man says to God, 'God, why did you make woman so beautiful?'
God says, 'So you would love her.'
'But God,' the man says, 'why did you make her so dumb?'
God says: 'So she would love you.'

Man : You remind me of the sea.
Woman : Because I'm wild, romantic and exciting?
Man : NO, because you make me sick.

Wife : You tell a man something, it goes in one ear and comes out of the other.
Husband : You tell a woman something, it goes in both ears and comes out of the mouth.

Mary : John says I'm pretty. Andy says I'm ugly. What do you think, Peter?
Peter : A bit of both. I think you're pretty ugly.

Woman : How can I ever repay you for your kindness and consideration to
Man : By cheque, money order or cash.

Peter : Mom, does God use our bathroom?
Mother : No, Peter. Why?
Peter : Because Daddy bangs on the door every morning and yells, "Oh god, are you still there?"

Sam : I hate to see a girl standing in a bus when I’m comfortably seated.
Lily : So what do you do?
Sam : I close my eyes.

domingo, 19 de febrero de 2012


[This post is really intended as a help for speaking communication, but of course there are things here that you can use in writing, provided you are aware of some facts: Is it expression or interaction? Are you sure you aren't using something informal in a writing formal context?]

These language functions are basic and (almost) always come up in your oral exams. So let’s see whether you can use more variety little by little. But I suggest that you don’t try to memorise all of this!

Note: I have used a different approach in each section.


Making suggestions

1) WHAT ABOUT/HOW ABOUT ... + Base form + -ING

What about going to the pictures tonight?// What about a drink?
How about going to the pictures tonight?// How about a walk?

2) WHY + Negative

Why don't we go to the swimming pool tomorrow?

3) IMPERATIVE: Let's + Base form

Let's go to the restaurant now!


We could visit Paris next week.


Couldn’t we invite my cousin to the party?

I suggest you/ we go to a movie// I suggest we should go to a movie.


Shall we have a cup of tea?

What would you say to a cup of coffee?


Don’t you think it’s a good idea to do the washing up?


We might as well stay home tonight.

Accepting suggestions

·  Ok. Yes, let's do that.
·  Yes, I'd like to.
·  Yes, I'd love to.
·  What a great/ fantastic/ good idea!
·  Why not?
·  Yes, with pleasure.
·  Yes, I feel like taking a walk/ doing that.
·  That sounds like a good idea.  
·  Sounds great to me!

Refusing suggestions
  • No, let's not do that// No, let’s do something else.
  • No, I'd rather not// What about doing something else, is that ok?
  • I don't feel like it// I don’t feel like doing that, sorry.
  • I dislike going for a walk.
  • What an awful / bad idea!
  • I’m not too keen on that, sorry.


Asking for opinions

·     What do you think of X?
·     What’s your opinion of X?
·     How do you feel about X?
·     I was wondering what your opinion of X was? [tentative]
·     I was wondering where you stood on the question of X? [formal]
·     What about X? [informal]
·     What do you reckon to X? [informal]

Expressing personal opinions

·     I (really) (don’t) think (that) (+ SENTENCE)
·     In my opinion, (+ SENTENCE)
·     From my point of view, (I think) (that) (+ SENTENCE)
·     Personally, (I think) (that) (+ SENTENCE)
·     I’m absolutely convinced that (+ SENTENCE)
·     As far as I’m concerned, (+ SENTENCE)
·     I may be wrong, but (+ SENTENCE)
·     It would seem to me that (+ SENTENCE) [tentative]
·     As far as I’m able to judge, (+ SENTENCE) [tentative]
·     As I see it, (+ SENTENCE) [direct]
·     Frankly, (I think) (+ SENTENCE) [direct]
·     To be perfectly honest, (+ SENTENCE) [direct]
·     I don’t believe for a minute that (+ SENTENCE) [strong]
·     If you ask me, (+ SENTENCE) [informal]
·     I reckon (+ SENTENCE) [informal]

Expressing agreement

·     (Yes, I think) that’s right.
·     I’d go along with you on that.
·     I’d go along with you there.
·     I take your point.
·     I tend to agree (with that). [tentative]
·     (Yes,) I’d tend to agree with you on that / there. [tentative]
·     Yes, definitely. [direct]
·     I quite / completely / strongly agree with you on that / there. [direct and strong]
·     I couldn’t agree more! [direct and strong]
·     I’m with you on that / there. [informal]

Expressing disagreement

·     Do you really think so?
·     Maybe, but (+ SENTENCE) *
·     I wouldn’t go along with you there / on that. [tentative]
·     I’m not sure about that. [tentative]
·     I’m not sure I agree with that. [tentative]
·     I’m not really sure if I would agree / go along with you there / on that. [tentative]
·     I wouldn’t agree. [direct]
·     I can’t accept that. [direct and strong]
·     I quite / completely / strongly disagree with you on that / there. [direct and strong]
·     You can’t be serious. [strong; informal]
·     You must be joking. [strong; informal]
·     Are you kidding? [strong; informal]

* This is one of the cases where you can add ‘For one thing, (+ SENTENCE); for another, (+ SENTENCE)’, to at least give two reasons.


If you’d like to get a basic, sound start, it may be a good idea to basically concentrate on the blue structures (subjectively, they sound to me broadly commoner and/or easier).

When you say something tentatively, you soften your view and don’t express strong feelings.

Of course there may be similar combinations. Thus, you tend to leave out ‘that’ in informal English and not to do so in formal English.

At exams, don’t use really formal English when the situation is neutral or, of course, informal.


What kinds of topics can you expect at the speaking exam?

Common everyday things not requiring specialized vocabulary. Therefore, the variety of topics is, in principle, very large. In practice, we examiners and teachers don’t usually think up many new or original topics - well, partly because we want to assess your everyday-life communication rather than your knowledge of very specific matters.

NOTE: We often use cards that show a heading or title (e.g. Keeping fit, Friendship, The time machine) that may be misleading. What you’ll have to talk about is the instructions, not necessarily this heading or title, which is normally more general and which, in any case, is rarely exactly the same as what the instructions tell you to deal with.

In the interaction a common instruction is to reach an agreement on something. Make sure you do that before you finish. As a matter of fact, in this task you usually have to do one or more of these: exchanging opinions, reaching an agreement, making decisions together, making plans together.

Sometimes it’s based onn real life. Sometimes you have to pretend to be someone that you are not or be in a position where you are not (a role-play). I tend to prefer the former, but roleplaying can be useful if one wants to test some specific things: “at a hotel reception (host and receptionist)” and “advice to a child, etc” (a parent and a child) are just two examples so I do use it, more often in Basic in than Intermediate, and more often in this than in Advanced.

The following is a list of topics (a sample, not a complete list!) that may give you an idea about what to expect (based on previous years). It’s important to realize that these are not the real instructions. You’ll be asked more specific things in relation to these topics! There’s usually a situation and a few specific instructions. For example, the first given in the random list was actually:

Cheap holidays. You and you English-speaking flatmate(s) want to travel around Spain on a low budget. Talk about the following points: places to visit; where to stay; how to travel.


Deciding about holidays
Planning a relaxing weekend
Advising a friend who’s coming to live in Madrid
Advising a friend with health problems
Deciding about your school’s cultural activities
Deciding about your town’s summer festival
Deciding what to include in a guide of Madrid
Deciding on what to spend some money won at the lottery
Your English course past experience and new course expectations
Planning a year off together
Going to a wedding
Deciding ways of keeping fit together
Discussing different family matters
What pet to get
What to do for a week away
A present for a friend
Sharing an appartment
A mutual friend is having a baby
Helping a mutual friend
Going to a concert together
Spending 300,000 euros in one morning
Improving the working atmosphere
Organising a dinner party at home

In the monologue, you can expect to have to (especially) describe, narrate and give opinions, argumentation …

Again, Reading newspapers, for example, in the list below is not very specific: it might be what newspapers you/people read and why, or how, or when, etc. In the case of the first in the list below (as an example), the real instructions were:

Education. Describe your early school days. Talk about this subject, taking into account the following points: your happiest memory; your most unpleasant memory; someone who made an impact on you.


Your early school days
Your dream job
Summer festivals in little towns
New technologies for learning languages
Hobbies as a way to relax
Sharing a flat
Your first long journey
Family, workmates/classmates, friends
Your eating habits
Your neighbourhood
Your house or flat
Your job
Your favourite place
Reading newspapers
Mobiles phones
Your country
When you talked to a native speaker
Someone you really like
Eating habits nowadays
The first time (you drove a car or fell in love or …)
Education today
A teacher (from your past)
Your favourite type of accommodation
Your favourite means of transport
The role of grandparents today