W e l c o m e

Welcome to this page of English-related links and things. As an EFL teacher I am often asked about resources to help with people's English studies outside the classroom.

  • The net also offers a plethora of other sites focusing on the more complex areas of the language like phrasal verbs, false friends and so on. As internet can be constantly updated (on a virtually daily basis, unlike most dictionaries) new vocabulary and cultural trends in the English-speaking world can also be more readily assimilated online.

  • As I am based in Madrid, sometimes students are curious to discover how British or American correspondents see Spain and Spanish current affairs, and often report facts more impartially than the local media.
  • I try and update the links column weekly if I find any new and potentially "useful" sites!

  • Also, these pages will save me sending out long links by email!

Enjoy it!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Spring cleaning in late summer!

It's been over a year since I last updated this part of the blog (links get added all the time though!), so I thought I'd give the page a tidy up and a virtual lick of pixellated paint. Refurbishments if you like. Everything that was there before is still here, apart from the rather dated colours which have been banished to a time capsule of 20th century web design. I hope you approve of the revamp.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Please Police Me?

If I remember rightly, one of my first posts here some years ago was about some riot or other that kicked off in Alcorcón, a suburb to the south of central Madrid. And, early this month of August, London was besieged by rioting youths in an eruption of violence and looting following an initially peaceful protest following an incident where a twenty-something young man was killed by a policeman in Tottenham, North London. The area is probably best known to non-Londoners as being the home of Tottenham Hotspurs (or simply Spurs) football club, who were knocked out of the Champions League by Real Madrid last season. Juande Ramos was once manager there, and former Madridista Rafael van der Vaart and gangly ex-Liverpool striker Peter Crouch are in the team. Spurs ground White Hart Lane could be seen from helicopter footage surveying the damage, and, although the stadium escaped unscathedplayers were terrified.

Youths excited by the adrenalin of breaking glass, burning buildings, pack mentality and the prospect of free tracksuits, trainers and mobile phones spread the word by text, tweet and Facebook and pretty soon there was "copycat" rioting going on in Croydon (a suburb south of London... the picture above is the before and after image of a Croydon family business going up in flames), Brixton, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Oxford (!) and other cities.

British newspapers being what they are, the victim whose death sparked the riots was alternately described as a loving father-of-four (or father-of-six in some places) and a dodgy drug-dealing member of a family of  hardened criminals whose best pal - a fellow who went by the unsavoury nickname of Smegz - was killed by a broken champagne bottle in rather suspicious circumstances earlier this year.

Here's a BBC news video from the morning after the night before, with some extra "history" on the former troubles in Tottenham that have apparently returned, to shed light on the tension in the area...

...and here is a Sky News interview with a cheery gang of "masked" teenage looters...

...and finally, the unfortunately bumbling Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, "comes to the rescue" with a broom 

Obviously you've already clicked on a number of links in the article (you did click the purple blue links, didn't you?), but let's finish with some of the more interesting analyses of the riots:

Monday, 18 July 2011

Think PIGS?

PIGS. Not a very flattering acronym, is it? 

In case you have been living with your head under a rock for the past couple of years, PIGS is the rather uncharitable short form used by oh-so-witty international economists for Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain. The eurozone countries most likely to need an EU bailout. In fact, the first three have indeed asked for the aforementioned financial assistance, and speculation grows as to whether Spain will or not. Sometimes the word is re-spelled PIIGS to include Italy in that list as well. 

The Guardian have just composed a vaguely-Jamiroquai inspired ditty complete with handy lyrics-video in a brave attempt to make light of the so-called Eurocrisis.

Here it is:

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Top of the world

They think it's all over, it is now!. Yes, Spain have won the World Cup.

The country who have waited longer than Nelson Mandela waited to get out of jail for true international glory for their national side have proved the statisticians and pundits wrong again.

Whether it was true or not, many people (including Maradona himself) claimed that the pre-tournament favourites never went on to win the trophy, while others said that no team had ever won a World Cup after losing the opening match.

David Villa, Busquets, Piqué, Jesús Navas, Sergio Ramos, Xabi Alonso, Xavi, Capdevila, Cesc Fabregas, Marchena, Arbeloa, David Silva, Puyol, Llorente, Pedro, Iniesta, and captain Iker Casillas (yes, that's him giving the world's new favourite WAG Sara Carbonero a kiss live on TV - as reported by Sky News - above) beat a rather "dirty" Dutch team headed by a couple of rejuvenated Real Madrid rejects (Sneijder and Robben) and a bunch of brutal ex-Barcelona bruisers (van Bommel in particular) to bring the cup to Spain for the first time, where the team received a rapturous welcome from an overjoyed crowd of thousands.

Well done lads, and when I've got time I'll post some links to what the world's papers said.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

La culpa de todo la tiene Carbonero?*

First of all, forgive me for heading this post with a line in Spanish, but let me elaborate. 

As I recently discovered, there is an old expression here in my adoptive home country (Spain) used when things go wrong: La culpa de todo, la tiene Yoko Ono. It was even used as a song title. Poor old Yoko got the blame for Lennon moving to America, The Beatles breaking up and for John becoming far more of a hippy than the other three. So, just as we did with Maggie Thatcher in the UK in the 1980s, "it's all Yoko Ono's fault"* is a convenient way to place the blame on a hate-figure when things go wrong. " Thatcher's bloody Britain, no wonder my salary's so low / the weather's so bad / the trains are late / I've got such a hangover" etc...if you don't remember that you're either not British, too young... or David Cameron.

And who would make a better scapegoat than Sara Carbonero, FHM's USA's "sexiest sports reporter in the world" , Casillas' latest conquest. After all many men hate the fact that he is with her, while many women hate the fact that she is with him. And you thought John Lennon (him again) was a "jealous guy". She interviewed him after the game and accused "Saint Iker" of "mucking it up", thus getting the two of them onto the front page of today's Times into the bargain. But don't just take my word for it, the whole of the British press have been scrutinising this interview. Spain's defeat was a surprise, and likewise, nobody expects the Spanish inquisition.
Curiously, on the day of the match, the New York Post named Carbonero WAG of the Day! Before or after the match, I wonder?
I'm just waiting for the tabloids' paparazzi snap of the two of them shopping for flat-pack furniture, just for the priceless caption - IKEA Casillas...

Thursday, 13 May 2010

CNN on "Mrs. Clegg"

Every breath you take, every move you make, they'll be watching you...

US senator Eugene McCarthy (best known for inspiring a band who went on to spawn cult heroes Stereolab... or was that Joseph McCarthy?) once said:

"Being in politics is like being a football coach. You have to be smart enough to understand the game and dumb enough to think it’s important."  

The parallels between football and politics are endless. 

In Spanish, the word for a political party and a football match are exactly the same. Curiously (and curiously appropriately in the case of the current UK administration!), the same word can be translated back into English as "split", "broken" or "cut into two".

Any Spanish-based readers who are remotely interested in the beautiful game and with spare cash to invest in satellite dishes and digiboxes will be more than familiar with the Monday-evening Canal + prog "El Día Despues".

Not to be confused with the 1980s post-nuclear TV movie "The Day After", this is a several-hour long dissection of the weekend's football - formerly featuring my "homeboy" Michael Robinson, no less - where, in addition to analysis of goals, fouls, penalties, near-misses and saves, every detail of a number of important matches are scrutinised in detail with the help of various pundits, some very, very long telephoto lenses and a crack team of lipreaders.

Profanities directed at the referees, bench talk, crowd gurning and on-pitch asides are filmed and occasionally subtitled, leaving little to the imagination.

Now it seems that British journalists have deemed this a good way of dissecting the spanking-new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition that is intended to govern the country for the next five years.

The Guardian - Britain's finest newspaper (IMHO) - started by taking an exclusive snap of Nick Clegg's scrawled notes  for his clinch meeting with David Cameron, and then proceeded to try and interpret it. Now the Guardian journos have sent a body language expert to analyse the... er... body language between the new PM and his deputy

No comment

Friday, 7 May 2010

Did we really want a hung parliament?

Oh yes.

(Graffiti courtesy of street artist T.Wat - not, as one might suspect, the inimitable Banksy. Or not so inimitable, if you see what I mean.)

Post election analysis:
* Newsbiscuit
* Private Eye
* Daily Mirror
* Der Speigel (in English!)
* Time
* The Times
* Financial Times
* Times of India
* Straits Times Malaysia
* New York Times
* LA Times
* Good Times
* Good Times Bad Times
* Daily Mail (humour)

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Election daze...

It's that time again... another General Election.. this time back in dear old Blighty
Don't forget to click on the links!

But unlike in previous years it's not just another predictable re-run where the incumbent gets re-elected because the opposition are even worse. Oh no.

This time it's anybody's game. A few weeks ago outsider Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrat) was seen to be the winner of the first ever UK three-way (!) pre-election TV debate, with some journalists touting him as a British Obama. while Conservative David Cameron has bounced back despite various gaffes and potentially embarrassing accusations.

Even Gordon Brown, Tony Blair's successor as leader of the ("New") Labour Party has apparently regained some lost support following his "bigot-gate" faux pas.

Cartoonist Gerald Scarfe (before Mr. Clegg's stellar appearance at interview) considered that the British voter was "caught between two stools" , stool being the operative word.  You may recognise his style from the Pink Floyd album and film "The Wall".

Meanwhile, at the polls, many punters are putting their money on a hung parliament. Let those nice men at the BBC explain what that's all about by clicking here. Par for the course here in Spain, but something that hasn't happened in Britain since 1974, when everything was still black and white (and read whatever you will into that..).

The unthinkable is happening. Even old Labour stalwarts like "the Bard of Barking" Billy Bragg (remember Red Wedge?) have admitted they're turning their backs on Gordon "Bully-boy" Brown.

The internet (surprise surprise) is transforming this election, with Labour, Tory (that's Conservative) and LibDems all Twittering away... David Cameron has  been showing us what a regular guy he is despite his Eton-Oxford education on his "pioneering" Webcameron (clever wordplay there, Dave) since 2006 or so, when most people thought YouTube was best left to a plumber.

The net has also allowed the public to "get interactive" all over the election... the best example of this featuring the amazing "MyDavidCameron.com" where you can make your own customised mickey-take of any of a series of Conservative election posters, as on the right. Sheer genius... go on, have a go... you know you want to.

Also, YouTube is a great source of information on candidates... Cameron has his own "channel" of course, but you can also scrutinise this revealing clip of Gordon Brown picking his nose. Nick Clegg's Spanish wife Miriam "don't call me Mrs. Clegg" González is featured on this clip comically entitled Leaders' Wives.

Sky News have the best compendium of typically savage and sarcastic election campaign posters while the good old BBC have a great "as-it-happens" live feed. The Guardian have compiled the election morning front pages (of the newspapers, obviously) here, from the former Blarite Sun's "In Cameron We Trust" to the Communist Morning Star's blunt "Vote Labour".

Other election news involves former leader of the (thankfully minority) UK Independence Party (UKIP to its friends) who crashed his light aircraft after it became entangled in a VOTE UKIP banner, the daft banana. Remember Rajoy, La Espe and a helicopter? A bit like that.

As the votes slowly trickle in it seems that Clegg-mania was over-hyped, and that Cameron may be the biggest recipient of votes but that a hung parliament is looking increasingly likely. However it seems that a large turnout has lead to people being turned away from polling stations. Doesn't that happen in places like Iran and Zimbabwe?

As are endless yawnsome jokes about a well-hung parliament.

Here is the first of what I fear may be many.

And finally... a poster to remind us to Vote for Gordon (or not)..

Oh dear... I've just seen Joan Collins on the BBC telling the nation that she believes David Cameron has a "presidential look".

I honestly didn't realise she was still alive.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Tell me what you want, what you really really want...

No-one who uses public transport in the Spanish capital can have failed to have noticed the vast number of posters like the one above, adorning bus shelters and metro stations, from Barajas to Valdecarros and beyond.

A smiling child holding a piece of paper emblazoned with the Comunidad de Madrid's new slogan to promote their bilingual state schools: YES, WE WANT.

Presumably echoing Barack Obama's much-copied YES WE CAN (without the comma).

But, hang on... something looks funny here... er...

Isn't that... wrong?

I mean... you can end a sentence yes you can (without to) because can is a modal verb.

But YES WE WANT (with or without a comma)
is just  plain WRONG.

Unless it is followed by "to"... or a pronoun, or a noun.

As in "Yes, you're right, we at ad agency Adsolut didn't want to hire a professional translator".

Did none of these evidently monolingual admen (or indeed women) ever hear Dr Who sidekick Billie Piper (eyes down) and her 1998 number one hit "Because We Want To"?

Of course the simplest way of answering a question such as "Do you really think it is worth holding the Comunidad de Madrid up to national and international ridicule for the sake of saving a few bob on translators' fees?" is "Yes we do! There's no such thing as bad publicity!" (Not to be confused with bad advertising, please take note!)

One of the things that makes this blooper all the more amazing (apart from the fact that a glaring grammatical mistake is being used to promote bilingual schools... a bit like using a bout of food poisoning to promote a restaurant) is that the Comunidad President - one Esperanza Aguirre, as seen earlier on these pages - does actually speak English fairly well.

Excellently, in fact, when compared to almost any other Spanish politician.

Of course it wasn't long before the bloggers and the British and American media picked up on the story.

* LA - Madrid Files (US)
* The Web of Language (US)
* CampoPulse (Gibraltar)
* An Offshore Account (Spain)
* Ayudation (Spain)
* Don't Confuse The Narrator (Spain)
* Notes from Spain (Spain)
* Living La Vida Loca (Spain.. nothing to do with Ricky "Loca" Martin, thankfully)

The story even made it to Russia!
*Никогда не стой на месте (Russia)

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Rafa vs. Rafa

Majorca's number one son Rafa Nadal was the talk of the town last week following his epic defeat of his great rival and five-time-titleholder Roger Federer in the Wimbledon finals last Sunday. The pros were full of praise for the quality of the match, Björn Borg called it the most nail-biting final ever and both John McEnroe and one-time British hopeful Tim Henman said it was the greatest match they had ever seen.

Rafa's English - despite being still peppered with a handful of unforgivable mistakes - does seem to have improved somewhat since his early attempts to express himself in the language. Although nowhere near as good as Federer's English, Rafa still needs to work out his infinitive / -ing ending confusion, but he has made a fair bit of progress, so credit where credit's due.

Fellow sporting Spaniard and namesake Rafa Benitez seems to have mastered the language more quickly, but maybe several years living in Liverpool may have something to do with it. The Liverpool manager seems a little more relaxed speaking in English than the Wimbledon champ... so let's have a look at the two of them.

This first clip of Rafa Nadal shows him answering a few very simplistic questions about his life on and off the tennis court.

Rafa Benitez meanwhile is seen here entertaining reporters with his slant on that quintessentially English sport of sports... no, not football - cricket!

Oh, and here's what the papers had to say about Rafa (Nadal) and his victory:

... and last Spanish Wimbledon men's champ Manolo Santana speaks to The Times...

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Fernando Torres speaks

After scoring the winning goal for Spain in the Euro 2008, ex-Atletico Madrid and current Liverpool golden boy Fernando Torres is once more the centre of attention for the British press.

Here are a few clips of him and his gradually improving English.

Did you catch that awful "can to" though?

(Is the interviewer Spanish in this final clip?)

Sadly nothing on the Spanish Euro triumph, but here's what some of the papers said:

Finally, as connoisseurs of the great British pun, let us leave you with a selection of Euro 2008 wordplay courtesy of the tabloid press:

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Eurovision: It's That Man Again

It's that man again, Spain's entry for the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest: Rodolfo Chikilicuatre with his cod-reggaeton ditty Baila el Chili-Chiki (click the links for more information - as if most of you didn't know already).

How he made the cover of Nature is beyond me...

Anyway it seems as if the Elvisly-coiffed comedy singer will have a bit of an easier ride in Saturday's final as Ireland's much-trumpeted entry - Dustin the Turkey - was knocked out in the first round. The first round that both Spain and the UK bypass as main sponsors of the event along with Germany and France. However, the BBC has a poll on who could win the contest this year, and Spain doesn't even make the top 30! (Just behind the United Kingdom, cough cough).

For more English-speaking news on Chikilicuatre and this year's contest, try these:
Oh, yes, and don't forget...

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Support Spain!?

As England (and Scotland, and Wales and N.Ireland) have been unable to qualify for the upcoming Euro 2008 football tournament those jokers at Sky Sports have decided that we Brits should support another country this year - Spain! Carefully balancing the Spanish "olé-toro-toro" clichés with similar UK stereotypes (Guinness-swilling Irishman, kilt-wearing Scotsman, Welshman and blow-up sheep etc.) the commentator comes up with a few good reasons why the average Brit should follow la selección:

  • Say no to pie and yes to paella!
  • Now you're Mr. Maracas, Señor Flamenco!
  • Think of the plusses: no chavs, no WAGs and no need for a phrasebook!

Here we go then...

Oh, and an excellent selection of phrasal verbs in that clip!
Can you catch them all?

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

It's that time of the year again...

Once again, Spain - like the USA - is gripped by election fever.

Just as the Americans are being whipped up into a frenzy by the likes of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Oven Chip Magnate John McCain (and remember, their elections aren't happening till November or something) , so here in Madrid the electorate are starting to froth at the mouth with anticipation of a close-run battle between incumbent Socialist leader Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (known as "Thetta-pé" to friends and enemies alike) and conservative PP main man Mariano Rajoy (known as... er... "Rajoy" to friends and enemies alike).

Or are they?

Fully aware of the fact that an unbiased report on a political issue from a Spanish newspaper is probably less likely than Lewis Hamilton being invited to Fernando Alonso's birthday party, we present a selection of English-language links on the subject.



Friday, 29 February 2008

Espe speaking English

Unlike most of her "Popular" contemporaries past and present, in both local and central government, Community of Madrid President Esperanza Aguirre - "La Espe" - is genuinely able to speak English, as she proved on Richard "Mr. Ubiquitous" Vaughan's TV station recently. Her fluency is very impressive, her accent is not too bad (though occasionally - and bizarrely - reminiscent of Björk's English accent), but she does make the unforgivable mistake of using responsible as a noun, as well as using a few unnecessary definite articles.

That's what happens if you don't practice, Espe!

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Bardem: Not Without My Mother

Here he is, in English.... with Mummy watching.

Best Supporting actor for his role as a serial killer in the Coen brothers' No Country for Old Men, which also picked up a few other gongs including Best Picture. Love him or hate him you've got to admire someone who told his director bosses before filming that he couldn't speak English and then only made one mistake in his acceptance speech.

But he still couldn't help speaking Spanish at the end!

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Merry Christmas from Frank Lampard

Mobile phone operator Orange somehow persuaded Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard to share his own pre-Christmas celebrations. Curiously, Lampard's partner Elen Rives is Spanish and so there may be a Christmas Crib hiding somewhere in the background... his daughter is called Luna for goodness sake (isn't that a dog's name?).

More on Frank's favourite Christmas traditions and more:

Oh, and don't think of getting Frank a video camera for next Christmas, eh?

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Cartoons censored, Part II

Remember all the chaos that ensued after a Danish newspaper printed a handful of cartoons of the prophet Mohammed? Well, now we have a Spanish equivalent.

Satirical mag El Jueves - a sort of cross between Britain's Private Eye and America's Mad magazine - has found itself in the dock after a court ordered the seizure of all unsold copies of last week's issue.


Well, the cover featured Crown Prince Felipe and missus engaged in what The Guardian called an ardent session of lovemaking. Under a banner headline that referred to PM Zapatero's one-off €2,500 lump sum handout to parents of newborns (thanks Thetta-pé, virtually a year too late for me to qualify...), the Prince quipped that if he was able to get his wife pregnant (for a third time) it would be the nearest he had come to earning money in his life.

Now, for anyone who has ever browsed this magazine on the newsstands or read the spin-off book "Tocando los Borbones" (the pun doesn't translate very well, so I'll leave the title in Spanish), the aforementioned vignette would not really seem shocking in the slightest (and most "naughty bits" were kept well out of sight), but Judge Juan del Olmo (that's him on the left) seemed to think so and ordered the confiscation of the remaining copies of the mag.

It is curious to think that a moderately witty cartoon on the front of a reknowned satirical magazine could be considered more offensive and embarrassing to the royal family than a national television news report (which I'm sure is still on YouTube somewhere... I'm not linking to it here!) which showed a strong gust of Galician wind blow up Letizia's skirt á la Marilyn Monroe (although HRH was unable to preserve her modesty).

I don't recall any legal action there!

A story of international import nonetheless, and here are just a handful of the reports from around the English-speaking press.