advice, Blog, listening practice, pronunciation

Cómo mejorar tu entonación en inglés

Como alumno (a) de inglés quizá piensas que suenas raro o gracioso cuando imitas la entonación de un nativo hablante, quizá piensas que la entonación es un elemento decorativo y que no carga consigo significado. Éstas son ideas ERRÓNEAS. Y soy consciente de que no se deben usar mayúsculas en un artículo, pero lo hago apropósito porque necesito que sientas el impacto de esa palabra.

No es la intención de un profesor “imponer” un acento a un alumno; sin embargo, es absolutamente vital prestar atención a la entonación para aprender a decodificar un mensaje. Así es, decodificar, lo que quiere decir que con sólo comprender las palabras y no la entonación podrías captar un mensaje distinto, completamente distinto.

Mira este ejemplo. En una clase de inglés el profesor va a administrar un examen oral al inicio de la siguiente sesión. Un alumno no podrá asistir a clase puntualmente y le pregunta a su profesor si puede asistir a la clase 30 minutos tarde.

Alumno: I know there’s an oral quiz next class but I will get off work late that day. Can I join the class 30 minutes late?

Profesor: You can. (enfatizando el verbo modal “can”)

El alumno entiende que sí puede llegar 30 minutos tarde a clase y se va feliz. Llega el día de la clase y el alumno obtiene un 0 (la mínima nota) por no presentarse al examen. Él, muy fastidiado, le dice al profesor “pero usted me dijo que podía llegar tarde”.

¿Qué ocurrió aquí? Claramente el profesor le dio permiso para llegar tarde, ¿verdad? Pues no, el profesor en ningún momento le dio permiso. Las palabras fueron afirmativas “You can” pero el mensaje fue negativo. ¿Cómo así el alumno no entendió el mensaje? Pues el alumno ignoró la entonación por completo y no se dio cuenta de que después de “You can” sigue la palabra “but”:

– You can but you’ll miss the oral quiz.

– You can but I won’t be able to give you a score.

– You can but….

¿Es necesario completar la oración? ¿Fue culpa del profesor no completar la oración? No. No es necesario completarla y no fue culpa del profesor. Comprender un mensaje implica no sólo comprender las palabras en una oración, sino el “propósito”. En este caso el significado de “You can” lo carga la entonación y no las palabras en sí.

Cómo mejorar tu entonación en inglés

Y la pregunta del millón, ¿Cómo mejoro mi entonación? Te cuento cómo lo hice yo, es el método que me funcionó y siempre se lo recomiendo a mis alumnos (aunque no es el único método y puedes encontrar otros que sean más apropiados para ti). Cuando yo era alumna del nivel básico, utilizaba los audios de las conversaciones del programa de inglés que estaba llevando y los escuchaba como mínimo 5 veces.

5 Pasos para mejorar tu entonación

  1. Primera escucha: Escuchaba el audio para entender la idea general
  2. Segunda escucha: Escuchaba el audio para para entender detalles.
  3. Tercera escucha: Escuchaba el audio y lo pausaba al final de cada oración, luego repetía la oración.
  4. Cuarta escucha: Escuchaba el audio y ponía acentos en las palabras que eran enfatizadas. La entonación del inglés no es plana, hay altos y bajos así que identificar que palabras tienen mayor fuerza de voz (como sustantivos, adjetivos o verbos) es vital para entender y hacerse entender. En mis tiempos yo usaba material impreso, así que ponía tildes sobre las palabras con un plumón. Si tienes el guión de una conversación en material digital como en PDF, también puedes hacerlo usando herramientas que te permitan editar un PDF como KAMI.  
  5. Quinta escucha: Escuchaba el audio mientras leía el guión de la conversación a la misma velocidad del hablante. Ésta era la parte más difícil.

Incontables veces me han preguntado, ¿Cómo mejoro mi entonación? y siempre doy el mismo consejo. Es gratificante cuando un alumno regresa a las semanas y me cuenta como su entonación mejoró al seguir estos tips, o cómo su profesor lo felicitó durante la práctica de una conversación en clase. Por otro lado, a veces veo caras sorprendidas después de haber compartido mis tips, ¡Wow! hay que hacer todo eso? ¿Tanto trabajo? No tengo tiempo para eso.

Hay alumnos que de manera natural adquieren la entonación correcta con tan solo escuchar. Si eres de esos alumnos, ¡qué suerte tienes! Quizá eres muy joven (los alumnos menores de 15, 16 anos tienen una habilidad innata para esto) o quizá simplemente tienes dotes para los idiomas. Pero si no es así, tienes que ser consciente de que no hay una metodología mágica que te haga mejorar tu producción oral. Hay que trabajar, toda habilidad requiere de tiempo y esfuerzo para ser desarrollada. Pretender mejorar sin hacer el esfuerzo es como pretender hacer crecer tus músculos sin hacer ejercicios o ir al gimnasio.

Espero que sigas estas recomendaciones y me cuentes sobre tu progreso. Funcionaron para mi y estoy segura de que funcionarán para ti también 🙂

B2, Blog, story

I didn’t have health insurance and this happened to me in Brazil

I started coughing one evening. Being a teacher, I’m always talking and I usually get sore throats or even laryngitis. In Peru I would always get antibiotics or a shot of Megacilin and that was enough to stop the cough and itchy throat.

I was in Sao Paulo and went to a drugstore on a mission to get antibiotics. “Antibioticos, por favor.” I assumed the word would be the same in Portuguese. The clerk said something in Portuguese, which I didn’t understand, then I started using sign language (not the real sign language that deaf people use, just moving my hands in an attempt to get the message across). I touched my throat, tos, antibioticos, duele, algo fuerte, por favor. The clerk showed my a piece of paper and I understood that I couldn’t get them without a prescription. “I should have bought some in Lima”, I regretted.

I still needed to alleviate the pain so I got over-the-counter medicine knowing it wouldn’t really help. I bought a bottle of cough syrup, lozenges and antihistamine, as the clerk suggested. After two days of taking that medication, my cough hadn’t stopped (as expected). It got worse, my throat was tomato red and I would always wake up coughing in the middle of the night. Lying down was an impossible task for me to perform since every time I tried to do it, the cough would come back stronger.

“Should I go to the hospital?”, I wondered. I’d heard the horror stories about people going for a cold and leaving with COVID. “What if I get infected with COVID?”, “What if it IS COVID”?, “How will I communicate with the doctor if I don’t speak Portuguese?”, I pondered for a while. I’d read about clinics trying to take advantage of tourists by charging more than they’re supposed to for simple procedures. I decided not to go.

The funny thing was I felt great during the day and terrible at night. My cough seemed to have a biological clock that activated after my body got ready for deep sleep. Every morning I thought “why go to the doctor now?, I’m feeling better!”. Every night I would be like “I’m going to the doctor now, it’s getting worse”.

By the fourth night I couldn’t take it anymore, I regretted not going in the morning, it was three in the morning and on top of all my other reasons for not going to the hospital, I added the risk of bumping into drug addicts, prostitutes or thieves, I’d seen them from my balcony, they always came out at night.

Off we were, my husband and I walking down Republica Avenue heading to a hospital that had good reviews. After walking for about five blocks, we finally saw the building. It was a private hospital and looked fancy and reliable… too bad it was only for people who had insurance there. The security guard pointed at the corner and said there was another hospital within walking distance.

This other hospital looked like a public one, it reminded me of Hospital Loayza in Peru, it was old and the furniture inside it looked that it’d been there since the place was built. Little did I care about the furniture or the building, I needed a doctor, so I went in. There was a lady at the reception. I asked where I could get a doctor and she said no with her hands and closed her little window in front of her all without making eye contact. Not a good sign.

The guy next to her was assigned to note down my clinic history. I wrote my name and last name in a piece of paper and handed it to him. He was much nicer and had a smile on his face. He wasn’t wearing the mask properly-he had it under the nose-and I thought how crazy that was coming from a staff member in a hospital.

He handed me a paper slip and sent me to another area to wait for a doctor. There was only one other person waiting in the same room, I scanned her carefully waiting to see if she had COVID symptoms. I didn’t want to get infected. She never coughed, apparently she was waiting for someone who was already been seen by a doctor.

What do you do when you’re waiting? Of course, you torture yourself and watch the clock every few minutes, and that’s exactly what I did. The ticking of the clock was a constant reminder that I had a bus to Rio de Janeiro at 6:30am and that if I wasn’t called in the following 10 minutes, I would surely miss my bus. I’d waited for 45 minutes before a doctor finally said my name out loud. I jumped out of my seat immediately and said the only phrase I know in Portuguese No falo Portuguese.

The doctor led me to the consultation room. Some of the words were similar to Spanish and I understood instructions like open your mouth, breath in, breath out, say ah. The doctor was a nice young man who made sure I understood what he was doing and why he was doing it. “Now I’m going to take your pulse, now I’m going to use a pulse oximeter to measure the oxygen saturation level of your blood, now I’m going to do such and such in order to detect such and such”. He made me feel at ease and looked like someone I could trust.

He prescribed Amoxicillin, Loratadine, Prednisona… and a COVID test. He said the symptoms I had might or might not be related to COVID, that the new variant had totally different symptoms compared to the other variants and that taking the test was an extra measure just to rule out the virus.

The tough part, paying for the service

Me: How much is the consultation?

Doctor: (frowning) What was that?

Me: How much, money, how much do I have to pay? where do I pay?

Doctor: Ohhhh, no, no, no. You don’t pay, the government pays.

(Maybe I wasn’t listening well. Maybe the language barrier didn’t help him get the message across.)

Me: You mean I don’t have to pay?

Doctor: No, you don’t have to pay anything (using body language to make sure I got it). As a matter of fact, the medicine is also free provided that you go to this specific drugstore.

I wanted to hug the doctor, the receptionist who didn’t use his mask properly, the angry receptionist who ignored me, the security guard and all the staff in the hospital. I thought I was a tourist who had no right to health care. Little did I know. I was deeply moved by the way I was treated in that hospital in Sao Paulo, like a human being. I imagined a scenario where the same had happened to me in another country, like in the US, where they would have happily stripped me from all my life savings in exchange for a consultation… so much for a first world country.

I started this trip thinking Sao Paulo was an incredibly dangerous city that I could get robbed anytime but the city decided to prove me wrong, it showed me it has kind, good hearted doctors devoted to helping people when they need it the most. It’s a relief to be living in a country where health care isn’t denied to anyone, I am profoundly grateful to Brazil for having helped me when I needed it the most. Thank you Brazil.

B2, Blog, story, travel tips

My first impressions of Sao Paulo 

We landed in Sao Paulo at 9:30pm. After a five-hour flight I was ready and excited to get to know a new city. Unlike the process to get into other countries, like the USA, passing through security and immigrations was incredibly smooth. I wasn’t even asked the reason for my trip or where I would be staying. The immigration officer just looked at me, made sure my face matched the photo on my passport and that was it.

By 10:15pm Chris and I were ordering an Uber. By 11pm we were still waiting for an Uber.
Here’s how the conversation went.

As you can see, we didn’t want to cancel. It’s the person who doesn’t want the service the one who should cancel, right? But he kept saying that he wasn’t able to do it and that there was no fee for me if I did it. Of course there’s a fee! I’ve canceled before and been charged a penalty for it. We kept playing this game for 15 minutes. I even thought about having dinner at the airport to kill time until he canceled… But he never did, we had to cancel.


Then we got another Uber… Or so I’d thought until he asked “which neighborhood are you going to?”. Wait a second, didn’t the first driver ask the same question? Don’t they know where they’re taking you before they accept the ride? A thought crossed my mind, maybe the neighborhood we’re going to is dangerous, that’s why nobody wants to take us there. I decided not to reply-I didn’t want to risk losing this ride too-so I waited. Fortunately, our driver arrived.

We drove past a park full of tents. Are they camping? What’s going on here? A man on bear foot emerged from one of the tents, he was scruffy and looked like he hadn’t had a shower in a long time. They weren’t camping, they were living in the tents. A few blocks away I saw the not so lucky people who didn’t have tents and were sleeping on mattresses on the street. Who would have thought, there is also a social status in the homeless community. The high class homeless people own a mattress, a tent and some even enjoy luxuries like stoves, radios and pillows! The middle class only own a mattress, sometimes a shopping cart and the poor ones don’t even own shoes and sleep on the floor.


Our driver took us to our apartment, which we booked through Airbnb, and my first thought was “I’m going to get robbed in this neighborhood”. Shady people everywhere! The receptionist of the complex didn’t let us in right away. He was asking questions through the intercom and we don’t speak a word of Portuguese “no falo Portuguese, do you speak English? Spanish?” . Deep down I was praying to different gods that he open the door soon. There was a shady individual  scanning us as we waited by the gate with our luggage. I was ready to put my hands up and say “please take everything, don’t hurt us”. Later that night my husband confessed he was having similar thoughts, even though he looked calm at the time. He did a great job pretending!


There was a buzz and the door opened. We walked in and waited for the second door to open. Yes, there’s a second door that only opens when the first door closes. I loved the security measures! I was relieved, only for a second before I came to the realization that there’s only this kind of security in a place where it’s needed.
Well, this is my first impression. I am sure I have a lot to explore to have an objective opinion about Sao Paulo.

New vocabulary

  • fee: an amount of money that you pay to do something or that you pay to a professional person for their work
  • mattress: the soft part of a bed that you lie on
  • ride: a journey in a vehicle, when you are not driving
  • shady: probably dishonest or illegal SYN suspicious
  • scruffy: dirty and untidy
  • tent: a shelter consisting of a sheet of cloth supported by poles and ropes, used especially for camping
B1, Blog

My older friends

People often hang out with people their same age, that makes sense since people your generation tend to have similar interests, but since I can remember I’ve always had friends who are older than me.

When I was in my 20’s I befriended a lovely lady, who was first friends with my parents. Sol was in her 50’s and somehow we hit it off and became friends. One day I was using the title “usted” (in English “you”), which we use in Spanish to address people who are older than you to show respect and the next day I was using “tu” (also “you”), which we use with friends and people our age. She used to sell make-up and I became her client, then somewhere along the way we started texting and we even went shopping for clothes together once when we lived in Lima. She moved to New Jersey and we lost touch for a few years but reconnected recently and I’m so happy we did.

This year I befriended two adorable guys who are at least 30 years older than me. Bertran and Gaytan were my neighbors in Playa del Carmen, where I was staying for a couple of months earlier this year. I would see them on the rooftop sunbathing or having what I thought were healthy smoothies (I found out later they were smoothies with rum haha). Once we got talking at the pool and I found them to be very sweet and easy-going and after I realized that we had a lot in common—like our desire to travel the world, living like nomads and not making plans for the following day—it only felt right to have them home for dinner. I’m not a great cook but did my best to cook ají de gallina (a Peruvian typical dish) for them. They brought wine and had a nice chat, we got to know them better and they also offered to cook dinner for us! Our relationship is not like the kind of small-talk interaction you have with a regular neighbor you bump into at the supermarket, it’s rather a let’s-get-together-in-Portugal-to-celebrate-our-anniversary kind of friendship. My two lovely brand-new friends and I got along so well that they invited my husband and I to meet in a different country, Portugal, where they were going to be celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. It’s a pity we won’t be able to go but I’m sure we’ll find the way to meet again.

Well today I just wanted to share that with you. Have you tried befriending people older than you? If not, you might me missing out!

In this blog you’ll find both, stories and learning materials. You have just read a story and can check out similar ones below.

advice

Por qué Duolingo NO funciona

Duolingo no funciona para aprender a hablar inglés fluidamente. Muchos alumnos que empiezan a llevar mi programa de inglés con clases en vivo me preguntan ¿Por qué no he logrado hablar inglés después de practicar meses con Duolingo? No aprenden por muchos motivos, pero en éste artículo me enfocaré en dos principales razones: la falta de contextualización y la falta de retroalimentación. En la primera parte te explicaré cómo Duolingo carece de contextualización y de qué manera trabaja con vocabulario y en la segunda ejemplificaré cómo carece de retroalimentación y listaré las razones por las que el feedback es vital para el aprendizaje del inglés.

Falta de contextualización

En aplicaciones como Duolingo sólo aprendemos palabras o frases sin mucho contexto. Podemos llegar a ganar un repertorio amplio de frases o preguntas que no podemos conectar de forma lógica en una conversación para comunicarnos en el idioma meta. Es cierto que Duolingo ofrece un vocabulario extenso incluso en temas básicos, sin embargo, prioriza el aprendizaje de léxico en vez de las funciones comunicativas. La funciones comunicativas son el uso que se le da a ciertas expresiones y formas gramaticales de un idioma para responder con propiedad a situaciones particulares como saludar a alguien, hacer una sugerencia, pedir direcciones, ofrecer una disculpa, brindar información, dar un cumplido, etc.

En lo personal, a mi me gusta mucho practicar un idioma con funciones comunicativas en conversaciones del día a día porque nos permiten ponernos en un contexto. Todas las preguntas y respuestas de esa conversación giran en torno a un tema, entonces aprendemos qué decir en dadas circunstancias, es decir, en el futuro podemos aplicar lo aprendido cuando se nos presenta la oportunidad de hablar en inglés en una circunstancia parecida. Por ejemplo, si vamos a aprender vocabulario sobre enfermedades, más útil que saber treinta y cinco nombres de enfermedades es saber en qué contexto se presentan esas palabras. Cuando te encuentras con un amigo en la calle y le preguntas cómo está y él te responde “no muy bien, tengo dolor de espalda”, ¿cómo continúas esa conversación? tener un vocabulario extenso sobre enfermedades no te ayudará de nada en esta situación, necesitas una “función comunicativa”. En este caso es mucho más útil saber como ser empático en inglés con una persona que está pasando por una dolencia o un momento difícil, necesitas aprender a decir “hay que pena”, “espero que te mejores pronto”, en inglés I’m sorry to hear that or I hope you get better soon o saber cómo dar una sugerencia “¿Por qué no visitas a mi quiropráctico?” Why don’t you see my chiropractor? Ésas son funciones comunicativas, algo que Duolingo y aplicaciones similares no incluyen en su sistema.

Falta de retroalimentación

La segunda razón-y no menos importante razón-por la que Duolingo no funciona es la carencia de retroalimentación, más conocida como “feedback”. Un profesor en vivo te acompaña en tiempo real, un docente especializado en la enseñanza de una segunda lengua creará el ambiente ideal para desarrollar tu producción oral en clase y te brindará retroalimentación inmediata. Sin duda la tecnología ha avanzado mucho y hoy en día encontramos aplicaciones que nos permiten grabar nuestra voz y compararla con la pronunciación de un nativo hablante. No obstante, incluso las aplicaciones que te permiten grabar tu voz y compararla con una computadora, no pueden ayudarte a corregir errores de pronunciación o decirte como debes poner la lengua para producir cierto sonido.

¿Entonces, no vale la pena usar Duolingo? Sí, vale la pena, pero no como herramienta principal para aprender un idioma sino más bien como una herramienta “adicional”. De hecho yo recomiendo su uso para repasar vocabulario pero si lo usas como única fuente de aprendizaje, es bastante limitante. Si quieres aprender inglés-o cualquier otro idioma-y hablarlo fluidamente, considera llevar clases con un “humano” que pueda brindarte contexto y corregir tus errores de forma inmediata, en otras palabras, un docente especializado en el aprendizaje de una segunda lengua. Aunque no puedas hacerlo de forma regular, o no cuentes con los recursos económicos para contratar a un profesor particular de forma diaria, por lo menos trata de hacerlo una vez por semana para que puedas tener una experiencia de inglés real donde apliques lo aprendido en estas aplicaciones.

Espero que éste artículo te haya servido de ayuda si aún estás indeciso sobre cómo proceder en tu proceso de aprendizaje del inglés. Aprovecho esta oportunidad para invitarte a una clase en vivo gratuita para que pruebes la metodología con nosotros, en WeSpeak Idiomas y tengas una idea de cómo trabajamos.

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Si deseas probar nuestra metodología solicita una clase gratuita.

B2, Blog, story

Beto, the pot-headed crazy chef

Level: B1-B2

One night in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

  • Let’s call Beto!
  • I texted him but he didn’t reply.
  • This guy… he’s playing with our feelings.
  • I know… he’s turned us into pasta addicts and then he ghosts us.

Who is Beto? Beto is this guy who makes amazing pasta dishes and lives around the corner from our apartment.

One Saturday evening…

Hungry and desperate Chris and I were walking down the road looking for a restaurant. We’d seen Beto’s restaurant before but it was closed then. The guy living next door said “take a brochure, he cooks Italian food and also delivers!” We put the brochure away and decided to call him the next day.

And so we did. We texted him and ordered an Amatriciana (a tomato-based pasta dish with bacon, onions and chilies) and a Four-cheese pasta (I think there’s no need to explain this one). The food was mouthwatering, it smelled and tasted delicious. We made a promise to ourselves to have it at least 3 times a week, I mean, $4 dollars for home-made, fresh pasta? Why in the world would I cook ever again?

Three days later…

We texted Beto. He didn’t reply. I insisted and texted again, called him twice, I was acting like a drug addict desperate for a fix. He didn’t reply until the following day “I apologize, I had to handle some family matters and couldn’t work yesterday. I’ll open again tomorrow”, it turns out he was lying! He didn’t open the day after, either.

The following Thursday…

Trying not to keep our hopes up, we texted him again but this time he was cooking! We got Amatriciana and Carbonara this time. Again, he had lived up to our expectations. Happy that he was back, we decided to fulfill the plan of getting his food delivered every day I had to teach back to back with no time to prepare dinner.

The Thursday after that…

We texted him again. Fifteen, thirty, forty-five minutes later, no reply. Hopeless, we left the house and embarked ourselves on a journey to get good food for a reasonable price, which wasn’t tacos or anything with a tortilla in it. As we were walking past Beto’s house, we saw him smoking weed with his friends in the living room of his house—doors and windows wide open. I stopped and demanded my pasta.

  • Why haven’t you replied to my messages? (with a sense of entitlement)
  • I’m sorry, you really don’t want me to cook right now. (holding on to a lamppost to keep his balance)
  • How about tomorrow? Will you open tomorrow?
  • Tomorrow I’ll definitely open. Sorry again!
  • Ok, Beto. I’ll text you tomorrow!

So, he was busy smoking weed, I get it, the guy has his own business and works when he wants to… I guess it’s his right. You should have seen me demanding my pasta from a guy that was totally high. Never in my wildest dream did I imagine I would be begging for food from a pothead. A very humbling experience, I have to say. I couldn’t help it, though. It’s like he gave us heroine to get us addicted and then left us wanting more (I’ve never tried heroine but I’m pretty sure it’s like that)

The following day…

  • Text him.
  • I just did.
  • (10 minutes later…) He hasn’t even seen the message.
  • I’ll try texting from a different number.

I had been texting Beto from Chris’s phone, thinking maybe he was overwhelmed by us, I tried contacting him from a different number. The message got through but he never replied.

The next day he had seen both our messages, two blue checks, yet, no response from him.

We’d been totally ignored, but we didn’t care, we were hungry and wanted his pasta. I swallowed my pride and called him again, he didn’t pick up the phone.

Three days later the brochure had been removed from the door… Why, Beto! why did you have to go? To this day we still dream of Beto’s pasta. I’m sure we’ll be reminded of this when we go back to the US and fail to find reasonably priced, fresh Italian food.

We’ll miss you, Beto the pot-headed crazy chef.

Vocabulary:

  • mouthwatering:food that is mouth-watering looks or smells extremely good
  • pothead: a person who smokes marijuana, especially habitually
  • demand: to ask for something very firmly, especially because you think you have a right to do this
  • entitlement: the official right to have or do something, or the amount that you have a right to receive
  • get through: to succed in speaking to someone on the telephone
Blog

Elections in the USA – The basics!

Would you like to be able to talk about the presidential elections that are being held in the US? Well, you will need a lot of new vocabulary! In this blog post I’ll show you the basic concepts you need to know:

An election for president of the United States happens every four years on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

What are the requirements to run for office?

You need to be:

  • A natural born citizen.
  • At least 35 years old.
  • A US resident for at least 14 years.

Political parties

Political parties are  organized groups of people with similar ideas or ideology about the function and scope of government.

These are some examples of political parties in Peru.

In the US, there are two main political parties, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. Democrats are donkeys and Republicans are elephants.

The democrat and republican candidates campaign around the country to get more supporters.

You have probably heard people talk about the House of representatives, but what is it?

The United States House of Representatives is one of the two chambers or Houses. The House of Representatives shares equal responsibility for lawmaking with the U.S. Senate. As conceived by the framers of the Constitution, the House was to represent the popular will, and its members were to be directly elected by the people. In contrast, members of the Senate were appointed by the states until the ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment (1913), which mandated the direct election of senators.

Who are the representatives?

They are also referred to as a congressman or congresswoman. Unlike the president, who is elected every 4 years, representatives are chosen every 2 years to serve the people of a specific congressional district. Among other duties, representatives introduce bills and resolutions, offer amendments and serve on committees.

Each state gets as many electors as it has members of Congress (House and Senate). There are currently 538 electors. Each state’s political parties choose their own slate of potential electors.

How is the population represented?

Well, although there are 50 states, there is not one representative for each state. In the US the population of the 50 states is represented proportionally.

For example, California has 53 districts, that means there is a representative for each of them, 53 representatives. The estate of Alaska is large in size but has a small population, therefore it has only one district, which means there’s only one representative for Alaska in the House.

What does a candidate need to win?

To win, a presidential candidate needs to get at least 270 votes.

Let’s compare!

I’m pretty sure elections are done in a different way in your country (because the way the US does it is pretty confusing and I don’t think it happens anywhere else in the world), so here’s an example of a comparison between the US and Peru.

More about electronic voting

There are three types of Electronic voting in USA :

  • The Paper based E vote system has a touchscreen added for the voter’s use. This system will print a hardcopy of the ballot once the voter is done. This ballot needs to be passed out the election officer so it can be counted.
  • The Direct recording electronic system has a touchscreen with digital swipe card buttons which will be used in order to make the choices. All votes are stored in a physical memory device which are sent to a special voting station for their results.
  • Internet voting is the type of vote that is done in remote locations. This type of voting service is not supervised by governmental representatives. The most common devices to used for this type of vote are: Personal computer, Television via Internet also known as i-voting and mobile phone.

Other related words:

absentee ballot (voto en ausencia), ballot, candidate, Election Assistance Commission, electoral college, electronic voting, runoff, paper ballot, paperless voting, poll, voter registration

Blog

Flying in times of COVID

I arrived at the airport alone and a little sad because I couldn’t have the “after check-in coffee” with my parents. They would always come with me to the airport and wait until I checked in my bags to head to a coffee shop on the second floor where we had coffee and desserts before I passed through security.
I was already kind of anxious because I had to take connecting flights before my final destination: Playa del Carmen in México.
But before I continue, let me tell you a little about how this journey was planned.


I’d bought a direct flight from Lima to Mexico City and was looking forward to my trip until the Peruvian government decided that Mexico wouldn’t be on the list of countries we could fly to because it didn’t meet the new requirement, the flight had to be four hours long tops. But why? I don’t know, it doesn’t make sense to me, what’s the difference between four hours and six anyway?
Well, the most reasonable thing to do was to have a stopover in Quito, so I had to change my flight Lima-Mexico city to Quito-Mexico City and then buy my ticket from Lima to Quito. So my itinerary was scheduled as follows:
Lima-Quito
Quito-México City
México City-Cancun
On top of the new ticket I had to buy–which cost me about 220 dollars–I had to comply with another requirement “a COVID test”. Local policies require you to be tested for COVID-19 before you’re allowed to enter some countries, another expense! I had to get that test, and not the cheap one—because there are two, a fast, useless, cheap test and a reliable, expensive one, the one I had to get.
Another 100 dollars later, I was walking out of the clinic hoping I tested negative. Even though I’d been careful, worked from home and limited my interactions to my parents and fluffy Rabito (my cat), I still thought that the virus might have managed to break into my home. The experience was disgusting, I sort of knew, though. Nobody explained the procedure as accurately as my good friend, Brigitte, who warned me, “they are going to stick a gigantic Q tip into your nostrils until they reach your brains, then they’ll slowly take it out”, and that’s exactly what they did.

Not only was the result of that test what kept me anxious, but also the possibility of the result not being sent on time, since the test had to be taken within 72 hours prior to my flight. I took it exactly three days before but I’d never relied on businesses to get things done on time in Peru.


OK Ayleen, now you have taken the test and bought the new ticket, you are ready, right?
No, not ready, not yet. They won’t let you in Mexico unless you show evidence that you will leave the country after your vacations, and that evidence comes in the form of… another ticket!
Really? Leaving Perú suddenly became a menace to my life savings.
The problem was I didn’t want to come back to Peru. So I had to get another ticket to a different destination, the new plan was:
Lima-Quito
Quito-Mexico City
México City-Cancun
Cancun-Atlanta
Atlanta-The Netherlands
Why the Netherlands? No idea, I just needed a ticket that said I would leave the country, I could change my plans later.

Back to the airport. There I was, looking for the LATAM check-in counter. I naively placed myself at the end of what seemed to be the line to check in my bag, well, it wasn’t. The line was so long that it continued on the opposite side. It’s OK Ayleen, you arrived on time, there’s nothing to worry about. One hour and thirty minutes later, there was a lot to worry about. I still wasn’t in the front and my plane was leaving in 40 minutes.

I didn’t remember the last time I felt sorry for so many people in one day.
I felt sorry for the girl in front of me, who was told she couldn’t board the plane because she didn’t have the face shield, until I overheard her say “I didn’t know, nobody told me”, then I didn’t feel so sorry. Was she trying to give an excuse? or had she been living in a cave? I felt sorry for the nun who was handing her phone to the ticket agent in an attempt to have the person on the other line explain what she couldn’t explain herself. They were speaking Spanish, but the nun didn’t seem to understand what the agent was saying, to the point that she needed a Spanish-Spanish interpreter. The agent gently said “we are not allowed to take calls” and tried to explain in an airport-for-dummies sort of fashion that she couldn’t check in that bag. Finally, I felt sorry for the new naive guys that, like me, placed themselves at what they thought was the end of the line not noticing that the line was so long that it was broken into two. I remember thinking “I’m so happy I’m not you guys” and gave a sigh of relief, which only lasted until I turned around and faced reality, I was nowhere near the front. Missing my flight became a possibility. Then I felt sorry for myself, too.


I finally got to the check-in counter and the person in charge demanded my covid test, which I had, and the entry immigration form to be turned in in Mexico, which I also had. And then she asked for my return ticket. This is how the conversation went:
Me: What do you mean by return ticket—knowing exactly what a return ticket was but denying the fact that I missed a requirement to get on that plane.
Her: A ticket that shows you’ll come back to Peru
Me: But I don’t know when I’m coming back.
Her: How can you not know
Me: I am a digital nomad, I only buy one-way tickets.
Her: I don’t understand.
Me: I don’t want to come back.
Her: You have to come back.
Me: I’m not staying in my destination, Mexico, if that’s the problem (I knew they had sent people back from Mexico under suspicion of overstaying). I continued, I know I can’t stay in Mexico, I’m going as a tourist for a couple of weeks, in fact I have plans to go to Amsterdam afterwards (I showed her my ticket to Amsterdam).
Her: It says Atlanta here.
Me: That’s the connecting flight.
Her: So you don’t know when you’re coming back.
Me: I have no idea when I’m coming back! (this time breathing heavily and getting a little impatient). What’s the problem?
Her: Let me consult it with my boss.
Me: It’s late and I’m going to miss my flight!
Her: OK, it’s fine, you can go, and run! You don’t have much time left before your flight departs.


Now I’m on the plane writing this. I’ve just realized I hadn’t written on my blog during isolation, I guess I had little or nothing to write about, life happens outside!

Blog, travel tips

Dining in the dark

I should have written this the day after it happened when the textures and flavors were still imprinted on my mind but it’s never too late to tell you about my best culinary experience in Malaysia.

He didn’t tell me where we were going, every time he looked at his phone for directions to guide the taxi driver, he was careful not to show me the name of the restaurant. It was a surprise!

He was anxious, he thought we weren’t going to make it—we had a reservation for 7 o’clock—we were only 5 minutes late, though. Did I mention he’s British? Time is important to him, five minutes late to a Peruvian is “only five minutes late”, to a Brit it’s “OMG we’re already five minutes late!”

We arrived and I walked in without reading the name of the restaurant. I found out what it was called once we were inside, “Dining in the dark”. The place was dark as advertised, “a romantic dinner with dim lights”, I thought. Little did I know…

We were greeted by our host, who explained to us what the procedures were… procedures?

While most restaurants try to overwhelm you with sensory stimulation, this one does the total opposite, it requires you to temporarily lose your sight to be able to explore your other senses.

When you go to a regular restaurant, you know pretty much what your dish is going to taste like by reading the description on the menu and looking at the photos, which help you avoid foods you don’t like.

For example, I don’t like cauliflower, so I wouldn’t order any dishes that have cauliflower in the photos, it makes sense. Why would I order cauliflower if I know I don’t like it? to see if I still don’t like it? After all, however it is cooked, it will still taste like cauliflower, right?

Well, this was no ordinary restaurant, there was no menu, food descriptions, or photos that could warn me against ordering something with cauliflower.

After a test that involved blindfolding us to try to find three paper clips in a bowl of rice, we were introduced to our “darkness expert” and led to a pitch-black room that made it impossible to make out any shapes with the naked eye. Having your eyes open and not being able to see anything triggers your imagination. You wonder what color the tables are, who is sitting next to you, what the foods look like…

IMG_20191106_212720
Before entering the pitch-black room

Akay, our darkness expert, walked us through the procedures for the night and made sure we felt comfortable and ready to explore our sense of taste. He is a great conversationalist—I bet the job requires waiters to have good people skills to help customers reduce anxiety. He told us how a few people don’t make it to the main course and leave the room because they can’t handle the darkness.

He brought the starters, four different foods with different flavors and textures.

The dishes were four little bowls that fit in a tray like a jigsaw puzzle—to avoid accidents I suppose—so it was easy to grab them and create a tactile memory of where they were placed.

Akay told us to start clockwise and, since we weren’t allowed to know the name of the dishes, we labeled them with numbers. The first starter was kind of bland, it tasted like a pastry with a mystery herb I couldn’t recognize. Starter number two was salad-like, I could have sworn I was eating fish with onions and parsley, maybe tuna? Number three tasted like the Peruvian Jalea, fried seafood. Yes, it was seafood, I could taste the crunch of the fried squid and shrimp.

Next, we were served two soups, a cold one and a hot one. The cold one had the distinctive flavor of beetroot, it tasted like an extract my mom would make me drink as a child. It was OK, I guess, but poor beetroot soup was no match for the delicious, hot soup next to it. I’d never had anything more delicious in my life.

– Asparagus?

– No, it tastes like something else, it’s got to be a vegetable…

–  Mushrooms!

The main course blew up my mind. Mashed potatoes with a meat I couldn’t guess, it wasn’t chicken, it wasn’t pork, it definitely wasn’t turkey—it would have been a bit dry. It wasn’t lamb because there was a side dish with the distinctive flavor of lamb and the meat on top of the mashed potatoes didn’t taste anything like it. “Could it be rabbit?”, I thought to myself. The thought of it scared me a little, I probably have no right to feel sorry for rabbits when I eat other animals, but still…I think of the pet rabbit I had when I was a child, all I picture when I think of a rabbit is cute long-eared Daisy having alfalfa :/

Maybe it was goat, I’d had Curry goat once (a famous Jamaican dish) but it was hard to remember the taste of the meat when it came soaked in an overwhelming curry sauce. Maybe the meat was an animal from Malaysia I’d never heard of? I gave up and ate the meat praying to God, “please don’t be rabbit”.

I was already kind of full but there’s always room for dessert so that was next. The desserts kept me guessing for a while, Akay would laugh at our inaccurate guesses every time we told him we had finally guessed what we were eating.

– Akay, we know what this is! It’s lemon ice cream!

– Haha it does taste like lemon, doesn’t it? Sorry, keep guessing.

It tasted like lemon—or vanilla or something white. It’s funny how even though I couldn’t see anything, I was so sure the ice cream was white. Maybe I was biased by the chocolate mousse next to it. Who eats chocolate mousse with dark-looking ice cream? It had to be white.

We left the dark room with a dozen questions about the foods we’d eaten. Our host led us to another table—this one in a well-lit room—and asked questions about our experience. We said we absolutely loved challenging our taste buds and that we couldn’t wait to see whether we were right about our guesses.

She left us with the menu. I carefully opened it and… What???

The first starter was a Mushroom quiche and the mystery herb turned out to be thyme. The second one was Salmon tartare with cucumber, celery and shallots… Wait, no onions? But I tasted onions! No, Ayleen, you did not.

I turned to the next page to see starter number three. What I thought was crunchy fried seafood was actually broccoli! Deep fried broccoli with cheddar fritter. I couldn’t believe what my eyes were reading.

It was time to see the soups. I was right about the first one, it had beetroot, yay! I finally got one right. However, it was the second soup that made me realize I had unfairly labeled a vegetable as “bland and boring”. Cauliflower cream! What! No, it couldn’t be. “You must have that wrong, I don’t like cauliflower and that soup was mouthwatering. These people are teasing me, they’re lying to me.” —I was in denial.

Or… had I been living a lie all my life and cauliflower was actually delicious? I almost felt ashamed of having advertised my hatred to cauliflower all these years. That soup was one of the tastiest I’d had in my entire life. The main ingredient, “cauliflower.”

The meat that came on top of the mashed potatoes was duck!

Time to reveal the desserts. I got the color of the ice cream right, it was white! But my taste buds failed miserably, it turned out to be Olive oil ice cream! But wait, isn’t olive oil, a kind of “oil” that you use for salad dressings? Isn’t ice cream made with fruits or nuts? Not at this restaurant.

This experience helped me realize how we categorize foods unfairly. If you ate something once and didn’t like it, if your parents made you eat it as a child and you didn’t like it, guess what! There’s a chance you could actually like that food. Having tried it once or twice is not enough to ban it from your diet forever. Maybe they were not good at the restaurants where you had them. Let’s be honest, the fact that you didn’t like it as a child only means you didn’t like the way your parents prepared it for you. I adore my mother but boiling the cauliflower did very little in her attempt to make me like it—sorry mom, no hurt feelings.

The chefs at Dining in the dark tease your senses by cooking foods in an unconventional way. For example, not many people like broccoli, so they fry it to give it a crunchy texture and make you believe you’re eating something else, a few people I know don’t consume olive oil because its flavor is too strong, but they would surely have eaten that ice cream!

Giving in your sense of sight can really make you “see” the world in a different way. If you are visiting Malaysia, I highly recommend you visit this restaurant.

Level: B2

Vocabulary

  • Imprinted on my mind (literary) to become fixed in your mind or memory so that you never forget

imprint something on your mind/memory/brain etc

The sight of Joe’s dead body was imprinted on his mind forever.

  • Overwhelm /ˌəʊvəˈwelm $ ˌoʊvər-/ ●○○ verb [transitive]

1 EMOTION if someone is overwhelmed by an emotion, they feel it so strongly that they cannot think clearly

be overwhelmed by something

Harriet was overwhelmed by a feeling of homesickness.

  • procedure /prəˈsiːdʒə-ər/ noun

[countable, uncountable] the official or accepted way of doing something, especially something that is done often

We have hired an accounting firm to evaluate our audit procedures.

  • ˌpitch-ˈblack adjective completely black or dark

The lights were off and it was pitch-black.

  • jigsaw puzzle /ˈdʒɪɡsɔː $ -sɒː/ ●●○ noun [countable]

a picture cut up into many pieces that you try to fit together

  • boil [intransitive, transitive] to cook something in boiling water

a boiled egg

  • mouth-watering adjective, food that is mouth-watering looks or smells extremely good

a mouth-watering aroma coming from the kitchen

 

 

 

B1, B2, Podcast, story

Episode 1: Shopping in Indonesia – Compras en Indonesia

This podcast presents everyday conversations in English and Spanish and is hosted by myself, Ayleen, and Chris, from London. What is different about this podcast is that you will listen to a conversation in both languages, I will be speaking Spanish and Chris, English.

Our content will help you improve your listening skills in the language you are currently studying. This podcast is for you if:
a) You are an English speaker learning Spanish
b) You are a Spanish speaker learning English
c) You have a different native language but are studying English and Spanish.

In this episode Chris and I talk about our impressions on shopping in Indonesia. Tune in to learn about the tactics Indonesian people use when trying to sell an item and how we feel about it.

Episode 1: Shopping in Indonesia – Compras en Indonesia.