Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Light of Mafasca (Fuerteventura lore)

 (Editor's note: the stories of the mysterious Light of Mafasca are popular all over the island of Fuerteventura. Our star student, Fefi, wrote this personal account of the Light, as told to her by her dad. Enjoy!)

At the time when I was a youngster, my father used to tell us some stories. The most mystifying was about the strange light of Mafasca. Many years ago, there was no bus service on this island but only a few cars. Thus teenagers used to go on foot to parties.
One time my father and his friends were walking to the village of Casillas del Angel from Tindaya. In the darkest hours of the night they saw a light that was following them. First, they thought it was someone else and they had decided to wait to find out who it could be.
Suddenly, the light had stopped. This happened a few times but they reached the party. Then, my father told an older man everything that had happened. The gentleman showed no surprise, he slowly explained to my father that the light was the soul of someone who had been buried in the mountains and someone had burned his cross.
He told my father that if this happened again, he should pray for the soul to be quiet. That was the most frightening tale that my father ever told me.

(Fefi from Gran Tarajal)  

Monday, November 26, 2012

A card from England. Thanks, Sara!

One of my former students, Sara from Utiaca (San Mateo) is working for a year in England as a Spanish teacher. Sara sent us a lovely postcard from her adopted home of Margate on the south coast. Her biggest challenge is trying to get the English to speak Spanish. "Their level is so low," Sara reports. "That I have to speak in English in class, but I will keep trying because we should make hay while the sun shines."

Friday, November 23, 2012

Vicky at the Wheel

 We have talking about the changes in the British driving test. NA1 Vicky J recalled her driving test and the preparation classes with her husband. 

During my pregnancy, I finally decided to take up driving lessons. My first teacher was my husband. I had been begging him for a very long time to take me out in our car and teach me how to drive. As it was my first time behind the steering wheel, it was essential for us to pick a smooth, desert road so I could learn without fear. I have always had a healthy fear of driving. I am not one of those back-to-nature freaks who believe that all progress is bad. On the contrary, I enjoy being behind the driver´s seat. Also, my husband said  “you can do it” and encouraged me throughout this adventure.
In a few days I was be able to drive a car very well. Despite this the day of my driving test I felt real terror, my hands immediately broke out in cold sweat for fear of running over an innocent and I could not do it. After all, being able to drive was one of the cornerstones of independence and would mean that I had developed my own wings right? In the second time I was more relaxed and I could do a very good test.
Eventually with a lot of effort, my dream came true. When I got my driver license it was one of the happiest days of my life.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My Granny's Tale by Rita NA1

I am writing a composition based on an actual true story, which I have heard from my Jewish granny a long time ago when I was child.
On Sunday morning a man disappears on his way to the bakery. His wife liked her bread with butter, so every Sunday morning at 10 o’clock he went to buy it. 
The husband always comes back into the house at 10:10 o’clock. However, this morning, he did not come back. Twenty minutes after his wife got up and decided to go out, too.  If Wellington is speaking with that silly neighbour again, I will be quite annoyed, she thought. She walked quickly through the streets which were unusually empty at that  time. Faraway a dog’s bark had broken an uncomfortable silence when she arrived at the opened bakery door.  
There was nobody in the bakery; the baskets were full with ready-backed croissants and cakes, which smelled especially tasty for Gudrun. It seemed that no one bought any bread or anything else that morning. She shouted, but got no answer.  On the left of the bakery the neighbours’ houses were completely calm. Gudrun thought that the village was like a ghost village now, but in her mind found this idea absurd. So convinced she went to ring the doorbell next house, the Murphy house. She waited while she listened whether a noise in the house indicated that somebody was inside. The silence was deep and icy so that she could hear only her heartbeat. Scared, Gudrun went from house to house and knocked at the door and shouted her neighbours’ names. If they had heard her broken shaky voice, they could have answered her. But nobody answered.
Suddenly Gudrun saw several footsteps on the early snow, some big and some little, leading away from the village.  The woman began to run desperately following these footsteps. They were the only evidence of living human beings.  However she did not catch up to anybody and the early snow had melted and the footsteps had vanished, so that Gudrun exhausted and hopeless came down.
In brief, this is a story about a ghost village, whose people disappeared and nobody knows until now, what is really happening with them. Gudrun felt really terrified after this experience, said my granny, and she hid in the mountains where she lived alone without human contact until she shuffled off.  So, if truth be told, that was the most frightening story that I have heard in my life.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Specialized English: Courses for Journalists

I was asked to teach a short EFL for some journalists a while back. Here is one activity we did that I like a lot. It is taken from a more general English language learning page but can be used in the context of interview preparation, an essential part of a journalist's work. 

My dad always wanted me to be a sports writer, perhaps because he hoped to get free tickets to see his beloved Boston Celtics. So this is dedicated to his memory. 

Reporter A’s QUESTIONS (Do not show to Reporter B)
What images spring to mind when you hear the word ‘sport’?
Why do so many people like sport?
Why are some people not interested in sport?
How often do you read sports news?
Do you prefer playing or watching sports?
Do you have good or bad experiences with sports at school?
Do you think sports stars have the best life?
Who is your favourite all-time sport star?
Richard M. Nixon said: "I don't know anything that builds the will to win better than competitive sports." Do you agree?
George Orwell said: "Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence. In other words, it is war minus the shooting." Do you agree?

Reporter B’s QUESTIONS (Do not show to Reporter A)
What’s your favourite sport?
Do you prefer watching sports at the stadium, at home on TV, or in a bar on a giant screen?
Would you like to play sport for a living?
How many hours of sport a week should children do at school?
Is European football (or soccer) THE world sport?
What is your country’s national sport? Do you like it?
What are blood sports? Do you like them?
What are extreme sports? Have your ever tried any of these sporting activities? Describe your experience.
Howard Cosell said: "Sports is the toy department of human life." Do you agree?
John Wooden said: "Sports do not build character. They reveal it." Do you agree?

This activity is adapted from a useful ESL web site, see
for further details.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Commenting politely

If you would like to make a comment or make a remark in a conversation, it is polite to acknowledge what someone has just said before stating your own ideas.

     Here are some phrases that you might find useful:

  • That's interesting. I think that...
  • Interesting point. I would add...
  • Hmmm. I hadn't thought of that before.
  • Questions can also be a useful way of bringing new ideas into a conversation:
  • What do you think about . . .
  • Have you considered . . .
  • What about . . .                                     Sometimes a more direct approach is appropriate: 
  • Can I add something here?
  • (Do you) mind if I interject something here?

Prepositions Query

Anra, a NI 1 student, asked about prepositions. So as she is a superstar volleyball player and a great student of English, here is a useful link. I hope it is useful in your studies. Please note that it was taken from the University of Victoria in Canada.

The Cat Came Back, the Very Next Day!!!!!

I love cats! But I love this song, too. Some of my classes have enjoyed singing it, too! Thanks to Ian Tothill and Delmar Lemming for sharing this home-cooked version of this old ditty.

Simple past vs present perfect: some rules and examples

Some students find it difficult to decide when to use the simple past tense or the past perfect. Here are some rules and examples. Remember if you specify a time in the past (a date, an hour of the day, etc), you use the simple past. 

1 Has the time period finished?
The present perfect is used when the time period has NOT finished.
I have seen three movies this week.
(This week has not finished yet.)
The simple past is used when the time period HAS finished.
I saw three movies last week.
(Last week has finished.)
2 Is it new information or old?
The present perfect is often used when giving recent news.
Martin has crashed his car again.
(This is new info.)
The simple past is used when giving older information.
Martin crashed his car last year.
(This is old info.)
3 Is it a specific time?
The present perfect is used when the time is not specific.
I have seen that movie already.
(We don't know when.)
The simple past is used when the time is clear.
I saw that movie on Thursday.
(We know exactly when.)
4 Has the action finished (sentences with “for” or “since”)?
The present perfect is used with for and since, when the actions have not finished yet.
I have lived in Victoria for five years.
(I still live in Victoria.)
The simple past is used with for and since, when the actions have already finished.
I lived in Victoria for five years.
(I don't live in Victoria now.)

Reference; University of Victoria, Canada
For more practice: