Paraty-featured image
A2, B1, Blog, grammar, travel tips

Practice making English questions about “Paraty”

Paraty is one of my favorite cities in Brazil. It’s an old, colonial city that makes you feel you are traveling back in time.

Today we’ll do both, practice making questions in English at the same time we learn a little about this picturesque town.

Read the questions and answers below and notice the verb tense and kind of question. Is it a yes/no question? a wh-question? is it in the present, past tense? is it in the active or passive voice?

How long were you in Paraty? (simple past with “be”)

I spent a whole week there.

Where did you stay? (simple past)

I stayed in a Posada run by Doña Martha, an Argentinean lady who fell in love with the city and decided to move there and start a business. Her breakfasts are delicious!

Having breakfast at the posada

Had you been to Paraty before? (past perfect)

No, I hand’t. It was my first time in that city.

Why are all the houses painted white? (simple present with “be”)

Because there was a law that said all the houses had to be painted white.

What happened to the people who didn’t follow the law? (simple past, subject question, that’s why there are no auxiliary verbs like “do” or “does”)

They were fined.

Is this law enforced in the present? (simple present, passive voice)

The historic center was named UNESCO heritage, which means home owners can’t change the structure or color of the construction.

What are those symbols? (simple present with “be”)

They are masonry symbols.

Why do the houses have many doors? (simple present)

For easy access.

Can the doors be changed into windows? (simple present with modals, passive voice)

Yes, they can. Some people wanted to convert the doors into windows, so the government allowed them to make the change provided that they show the new window used to be a door. As you can see in the picture below (on the right), those two yellow lines that go down to the floor signal that that window used to be a door.

Who lives here? (simple present, subject question, that’s why there are no auxiliary verbs like “do” or “does”)

Prince John does.

Whose house is that? (simple present, question using a possessive pronoun)

Prince John’s.

What’s this church called? (simple present, passive voice)

It’s called Santa Rita, it’s the oldest church in Paraty. You can find a museum of the catholic church inside.

What activities can I do in Paraty? (simple present with modal verb)

You can go Kayaking, take a walking tour downtown, go on a boat tour, go shopping (there are very nice clothes, especially for women), go to bars, restaurants, go on a cachaça tour and much more!

Why are there so many pink boats? (simple present with “be”)

According to my tour guide, the first gay elected mayor in Paraty painted his boat pink, then everybody started doing it.

What’s Paraty’s signature drink? (simple present with “be”)

Paraty’s signature drink is called Gabriela, which unlike the regular cachaça, contains clove and cinnamon. Gabriela is what is used to prepare Jorge Amado, a Brazilian caipirinha with passion fruit and lime juice, my favorite!

(question I asked my tour guide) How long have you been doing the cachaça tour? (present perfect continuous)

“I’ve been doing it for a year, it’s a new project. I noticed nobody was doing it and thought, would people be interested in a cachaça tour led by a local”? This town is known for producing the best cachaça in Brazil, so a cachaça tour made a lot of sense.

When did Paraty become known? (simple past)

Paraty became known when the locals started growing sugar cane in the region. Later on, after the discovery of the world’s richest gold mines in 1696 in the mountains of Minas Gerais, Paraty became an export port for gold to Rio de Janeiro and from there on to Portugal.

B1, B2, grammar, listening practice, Recorded class

Useful expressions in conversations

Whether you are speaking or writing, it is important to learn how to express your opinion on different subjects. If you are thinking about taking an international exam, for example, this could be particularly helpful, since you will be asked to write an essay or record your voice expressing your opinions on a given topic.

Expressing opinions

Here’s a conversation where two people give their opinion on the police and the use of body cameras, they agree and disagree with each other’s opinions, used expressions for persuading and clarify what was said.

Listen to the audio and identify the new expressions being used in conversation.

A: In my honest opinion cops shouldn’t be able to turn their cameras on and off.

B: Why do you think so?

A: Everybody has seen cases of police brutality and racial discrimination on social media. Many police officers use excess force when they arrest people, so it’s my belief that if their cameras are always on, they would be more accountable for their actions.

B: That may be true but some citizens are also concerned about privacy. Innocent bystanders, including minors, may be videotaped without knowing it. Can you see where I’m coming from?

A: I see your point but, from where I look at it, the police would be more accountable for their conduct if they wear body cameras at all times and I honestly think that’s the biggest concern for citizens, not being videotaped.

B: Put yourself in the shoes of a civilian that may be inadequately dressed or recorded at a location where an officer is rolling the cameras. Don’t you think we have the right to privacy?

A: So, let me get this straight, you think that officers shouldn’t wear body cameras at all, right? Is that way you’re saying?

B: You misunderstood what I said. It’s not black and white, I’m just saying being recorded when you are not aware of it is unfair on civilians.

A: Yeah, I agree with you there but a video footage could be used to solve a crime, maybe in court to back up somebody’s testimony, nobody would be looking at the civilian who wasn’t properly dressed.

B: I guess you’re right.

Why is expressing your opinion important when learning English?

As you can see, A and B disagree on whether the police should wear body cameras and have them on at all times. They, however, have a civilized conversation about it and debated this topic with useful expressions to express their opinions in a strong, assertive way without hurting the other person’s feelings. The ability to express yourself and defend your points of view using proper language is valued highly in conversation and can turn you into a great conversationalist! which is why I recommend learning at least a couple of expressions from each of the categories above (to give an opinion, to agree and disagree, to persuade, to clarify a point, to interrupt someone, etc) to incorporate to your conversations and debates.

More often than not I hear students using the worn-out expressions “in my opinion” or “I think”, but today I want to challenge you to stop using those expressions and start using expressions like In my honest opinion…, It is my belief that…, As far as I am concerned…, To my understanding… These expressions are more advanced and will surely give you extra points in an international exam when you are asked to give your opinion on a given subject.

Do you want to be ready to use these expression in English class? Download and print the document below and have it on hand when doing speaking activities.

How do I practice using these expressions?

You can practice with a classmate, a friend who is interested in improving his/her language skills or you can do it like we do it at WeSpeak Idiomas, in our conversation workshop 🙂 Whichever way you choose, just keep practicing!

Click on the video below to watch a segment of one of our live classes where we discuss this very same topic.

Happy learning!

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.

B1, B2, writing

How to write a good body paragraph

When we write essays we need:

  1. An introductory paragraph
  2. One or two body paragraphs
  3. A concluding paragraph

Body paragraphs are like the meat in a sandwich. The introductory paragraph is the top bun of a sandwich, it provides direction for the paragraph. The body paragraphs support statements, provide details and mirror the meat and ingredients within the sandwich. A concluding paragraph summarizes or ties up the content within the paragraph in the same way the bottom bun holds the sandwich together.

Main idea

Each body paragraph should focus on a single main idea or controlling idea. Each main idea is a subtopic of your thesis, which means they should be mentioned in your introductory paragraph.

Components of a body paragraph

Transitions

How do we make a smooth transition? Well, one of my favorite ways of making transitions is by highlighting a point that I previously made in my writing. Doing this helps the reader make connections between already known knowledge to new information.

Example:

Even though the advantages of being a digital nomad outnumber the disadvantages, there are also a number of disadvantages you might want to consider before decided to travel the world while working remotely.

In this example, I am telling the reader that the information that follows is about the disadvantages of being a digital nomad. I use the connector even though in the sentence “Even though the advantages of being a digital nomad outnumber the disadvantages,…” to make a smooth transition between my previous paragraph (about the pros) and the new paragraph (about the cons of being a digital nomad).

Topic sentences

Your topic sentence identifies the main point of each paragraph. A topic sentence is usually a declarative sentence. Ask yourself this question before you write it: What point am I trying to make in this paragraph? For instance, Am I going to talk about the advantages or disadvantages of something? I am going to compare or contrast information? Your answer is your topic sentence.

Remember this: Sometimes we assume that the topic sentence is the first sentence in a paragraph, but that’s not necessarily the case, our topic sentence may come after a transitional sentence. Just remember that each topic sentence is always connected to your main thesis, so if you can successfully identify the thesis statement (which is in the introductory paragraph), you won’t have any problems finding the topic sentence.

Watch this video where our WeSpeak students identify the topic sentence in two different paragraphs.

Evidence

How can you back up your claim? Easy, with evidence. That is facts, testimonials, statistics, quotations, or real-life examples to prove your point to your reader.

Even though the advantages of being a digital nomad outnumber the disadvantages, there are also a number of disadvantages you might want to consider before decided to traveling the world while working remotely. Sometimes moving from one city to another constantly can prevent you from building friendships. In 2019 I spent four months island hopping in Thailand and never stayed longer than 20 days on a single island. I found it incredibly hard to connect with people and make friends and that’s coming from a highly sociable individual! It was impossible to make plans far ahead because by the time my potential new friend and I agreed on what to do, I was already making plans to move to my next destination.

In the previous paragraph I mentioned a real-life example to prove my point to my reader. You might be associating evidence with statistics, since they usually show more objectivity. However, it is also be objective to write about your life. In my paragraph I explained how even with my effective social skills, it was impossible to build friendships due to the fact that I was always on the move. The fact that I am a social butterfly makes this information believable.

I hope this blog post was useful to help you improve your writing by identifying and using the different components of a body paragraph.

Final tip: Always remember make smooth transitions, the list of transitional phrases below can help you achieve this!

A2, B1, pronunciation, Recorded class

Pronunciation of irregular verbs

It’s easy to learn the simple past and past participle form of regular verbs in English. Learning irregular verbs, however, is no easy task!

But why? Well, irregular verbs are not formed with -ed endings, the simple past and past participle forms usually have different endings. Some examples are the verbs: break-broke-broken or begin-began-begun.

In this video you will learn how to pronounce them all!

Step 1: Watch the video

Listen and repeat after me, write down the verbs that are difficult for you to pronounce.

Step 2: Do the exercises

B1, B2, grammar, Recorded class

Comparisons with as…as

If you’re a basic English learner, you must already know how to make comparisons using -er or more, sentences like “Brazil is bigger than Peru” or “Accommodation in Mexico city is more expensive than in Playa del Carmen”. That’s a basic way of expressing comparisons. In this video, however, I’ll teach you a different way, using as…as.

Step 1: Watch the video

Step 2: Do the exercises

B1, B2, vocabulary

Science verbs

How many science verbs do you know in English? Learn new science vocabulary by following two simple steps.

Step 1: Watch the video

While you watch listen and repeat after me. I recommend taking notes of each new word to practice spelling. In this video you will learn 19 science verbs in English.

Step 2: Do the exercises

Now is time to test your knowledge. Do this 10-question quiz and see how much you’ve learned. How many did you get right?

Try going back to this quiz in a week or so to see how many words you remember. When I was an English student I would go back to the content I’d learned in the past and test myself again and that’s how I memorized vocabulary. It worked for me, try it and see if it works for you too!

B1, vocabulary

Money

For some reason we are always talking about money. On a daily basis we say sentences like How much is this?, I’m short of money, I need to save up to go on a trip, My friend asked if he could borrow some money. Money is part of our daily lives so knowing words and expressions around this topic will come in handy.

How much money vocabulary do you know? Learn 10 new words/expressions related to money management and then test your knowledge!

Now go ahead and do the interactive exercises on Quizlet to test your knowledge. Never used Quizlet before? It’s extremely simple. Just follow these steps:

  1. go to the flashcards section and review vocabulary, click on the listen icon to practice pronunciation
  2. go to the learn section and test your knowledge!
B1, B2, Podcast

Episode 4: Condiments around the world – Condimentos alrededor del mundo

Hi English/Spanish Learners! Ayleen here, your teacher from wespeakidiomas.com

In today’s episode Chris and I talk about condiments around the world. Not only will this episode help you improve your listening skills, but it will also help you learn a few new words since we’ll be using different words to describe condiments and sauces in English and Spanish.

Episode 4: Condiments around the world – Condimentos alrededor del mundo

We discussed different types of sauces:

  • Brown sauce
  • Apple sauce
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Mint sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • Chilli sauce
  • Sweet and sour sauce

In this podcast Chris used different adjectives to describes sauces:

Word in English Definition in English Spanish translation
thick almost solid, and therefore flowing very slowly, or not flowing at all espeso
mild not very strong or hot-tasting suave
smooth a liquid mixture that is smooth has no big pieces in it OPP lumpy sin grumos
spicy food that is spicy has a pleasantly strong taste, and gives you a pleasant burning feeling in your mouth SYN hot picante

 

I used a couple of words that might be new for you:

Word in Spanish Definition in Spanish English translation
empalagoso demasiado dulce (no en un buen sentido) overly sweet
paladar gusto con que se percibe el sabor de los alimentos palate
arándano rojo arbusto de la familia de las ericáceas que mide entre 10 y 40 cm de altura, con hojas alternas, aovadas y aserradas, flores solitarias de color blanco verdoso o rosado y frutos en bayas negruzcas o azuladas cranberry
arándano azul blueberry
icónico representativo de la cultura iconic

These are the condiments in Thailand I mentioned in the podcast.

The one on the left corner is known as chilli flakes. Next to it, you can see the white sugar. At the front, fish sauce and chili and vinegar and chili.

condiments

Oh! and of course, the peanuts!

padthai peanuts

Then I asked Chris a question he didn’t understand:

  • ¿A qué crees que se deba eso? ó ¿cuál crees que sea el motivo por el que…? The translation to English is very simple, Why do you think…?

Now you know different words in English and Spanish to describe your favorite sauce!

By the way, what’s your favorite sauce?

B1, B2, Podcast

Episode 3: Back to Thailand – De regreso en Tailandia

Hi English/Spanish Learners! Ayleen here, your teacher from wespeakidiomas.com

Today I want to share my happiness with you. I’m back in Thailand! Yayy!

In this episode Chris and I talk about what we missed the most from this beautiful country. Tune in to practice your listening skills and learn some new vocabulary related to foods and the grammar point of the day-using “although” and “even though”.

Episode 3: Back to Thailand – De regreso en Tailandia

You can learn more about the new vocabulary used in this conversation below:

  • Consecutivos, seguidos: in a row
  • Row: fila
  • Readily available: a tu disposición
  • Watermelon: sandía
  • Mango: mango
  • Guava: guava o guayaba
  • Papaya: papaya
  • Dragon fruit: pitaya
  • Lime: limón o lima

*La traducción depende de tu proveniencia. Si eres de Perú, se va a traducir como limón, lime significa limón. Si eres de Argentina, se va a traducir como lima, lima significa lima. Recuerden la descripción de la fruta, lime hace referencia a la fruta verde, pequeña y más agria. Si esa fruta verde pequeña y agria en tu país se llama lima, entonces lime significa lima. Si a un peruano le dices la palabra lima, va a imaginar una fruta totalmente diferente. Nosotros le llamamos limón, uno de los ingredientes para preparar ceviche es jugo de limón.

  • Aunque: although, even though
  • Servilletas de papel: paper napkins
  • Rubbish: (AmE) Garbage, basura
  • Turquesa: turquoise
  • Dañar: hurt
  • Pebbles: piedritas