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Conversation strategies: “Vague” expressions

Episode 4

You can use “vague” expressions in conversations when you don’t need to give a long list of things because the other person understands what you mean:

  • … and things (like that)
  • … and stuff (like that)
  • … and everything

Examples:

What’s Glastonbury?

 It is a five-day festival of contemporary performing arts that takes place in England. In addition to contemporary music, the festival hosts dance, comedy, theatre, circus, cabaret /kæbəˈreɪ/, and other arts.

Now listen to how I’ll include a vague expression in the last sentence:

In addition to contemporary music, the festival hosts dance, comedy, and things like that.  (everything we understand about other arts, comedy, theater, circus /ˈsɜːrkəs/, etc)

  • What’s the carnival in Rio like?

It has lots of parades, people dancing samba and stuff (like that).  (= everything we understand about a carnival, dancing, playing music, drinking, etc)

  • What can I get in the Mexican market?

You can get all kinds of tacos, quesadillas, burritos…

You can get all kinds of tacos, and things like that.

We can say and things like that, and stuff (like that) when we want to avoid listing a lot of things because we think that the listener has an idea of what we are talking about. We can also use

“and everything”.

  • What do people do for Halloween?

People wear costumes /ˈkɑːstuːm/ and make-up, some people visit haunted attractions, tell scary stories and watch horror films.

People dress up in costumes and everything, some people visit haunted attractions and things like that.

“Vague” responses to answer questions.

You can use a vague response if you are not sure about your answer to a question:

  • I don’t know
  • I’m not sure.  
  • Maybe.   
  • It depends.

Examples:

A:  Are you going to the festival this weekend?

B:  I don’t know. It depends.

A: Are you joining us for dinner?

B: It depends. If I’m done working before you leave, I’ll join you.

*Careful here, I’ve listened to many of my students say “it’s depend”.

It’s depend (incorrect)

It dependS (correct) Remember to use the third person singular with the subject pronoun “it”, so add ad “s” to the verb “depend”.

A: Are you watching Stranger Things today?

B: I’m not sure, I’m swamped with work.

A: When are you coming back?

B: I’m not sure. I’m thinking about changing my return flight.

A: which ones are better, individual lessons or group lessons?

B: It depends. Individual lessons are more flexible, they give you the change to schedule lessons at different times of the day. On the other hand, group lessons give you the change to interact with other English learners, which is very motivating.

Uncategorized

Conversation strategies: Saying more than just “no” and using “really” for emphasis and to soften statements

Episode 2

To say more than just “no”, you can use the following strategies.

Strategy 1: Saying more than just no

When someone asks you a question and you want to give a negative answer, it’s not nice to just say no. saying more than just no is friendly and polite:

  • No, not really.
  • Well, no, actually…
  • Well, no, I mean…

A: Do you enjoy watching sports?  B: Um, no, not really. I mean, I’d rather play sports than watch them.

A: Do you like walking? B: Um, not really. I prefer running.

A: Do you have any hobbies?  B: Well no, I mean, I guess I don’t have time for hobbies.

A: Would you like a dessert? B: No, thanks I’m fine for now. I mean I’m trying to watch my weight.

A: Would you like something to drink? B: No, thanks. Maybe later.

A: Do you enjoy cooking?  B: Um, no, not really. I mean, I cook every day but I’m not really into it.

A: Do you have any hobbies?  B: Well no, I don’t really have much time.

Strategy 2: Using “really” for emphasis and to soften our statements

The second strategy is to use the word “really” for both making your statements stronger and making your statements softer.

You can use really to make statements stronger:

I’d really like to visit Thailand in the near future. (really before a verb). I’ve seen photos of the beaches, islands, Buddhist temples. I’ve heard of the Thai massage, Thailand’s rainforest and of course, it’s cuisine.

Remember the first part of my sentence “I’d really like to…”. We can use “really” to make statements stronger. The pattern is REALLY + VERB

  • I’d really like to go hiking sometime. (really before a verb).
  • My boyfriend really wanted to hike the Rainbow Mountain in Cusco, after the ordeal he realized hiking is not for him.
  • I’d really like to take some time off work. I’m a bit stressed out.
  • I’d really enjoy running a marathon.
  • I’d really like to live in a different country for a few months. I think it would really make me understand other cultures. She’d really hate to be stood up.

You can also use REALLY + ADJECTIVE

  • I’m really good at photography. (really + adjective).
  • I’m really good at computer design. (really + adjective)
  • My best friend is really good at creative writing.
  • My mom is really good at baking.
  • My dad is really good at telling jokes.
  • I’m really fond of cats.
  • My sister’s really fond of dogs. She’s recently adopted a dog called Lily.

*fond of: to like someone very much, especially when you have known them for a long time and almost feel love for them. Example: Over the years we’ve grown very fond of each other.

You can also use really to make negative statements softer:

  • You can use really with adjectives

The pattern is NOT + REALLY + ADJECTIVE

I’m not really interested in photography. (not + really + adjective)

I’m not really interested in politics. (not + really + adjective)

I’m not really good at cooking. (not + really + adjective)

I’m not really good at video games. (not + really + adjective)

  • You can also use really with verbs:

The pattern is DON’T + REALLY + VERB or DOESN’T + REALLY + VERB

I don’t really have much time for hobbies. (really after don’t or / doesn’t)

I don’t really have much time for hobbies. (really after don’t or / doesn’t)

  • Not really can also be a polite way to answer no:

A: Do you work out a lot?  B:  Not really. Actually, I don’t work out at all.

To listen to this episode click here:

B1, B2, Podcast

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

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
B1, B2, Podcast

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.

B1, B2, grammar

The passive voice in Spain

Level: Upper basic, intermediate

If you don’t love grammar but love traveling, this lesson is for you. Why? Well, I used to be a student like you and as a student I got bored reading textbook examples that were neither memorable nor related to my life at all; thus, they didn’t stick in my mind and by the next day I’d forgotten everything I’d learned. Today I bring you a lesson based on my trip to Spain. All the examples you will see here are from the notes I took while I was going on walking tours in Barcelona and Granada, so they are all real examples you can relate to if you have been there, plan to visit these cities or are just curious about historic buildings! I hope you like this explanation of “The passive voice”.

City: Barcelona

On my first day in Barcelona I went on a free walking tour where I learned about the old, impressive buildings located downtown, which were ideal to teach a grammar lesson. So pay attention to how the following buildings are described. Do you recognize the grammar being used?

La plaza real or “Royal square”

This square is in the Gothic neighborhood; however, the architecture isn’t Gothic but Neo – classical.
If you take a look at the photo you’ll see Palm trees in the background. A few are originally from the area but most palm trees were imported from California and Florida.

The passive voice – Use

Let’s analyze this sentence:

Most palm trees in the Royal square were imported from California and Florida.

This structure is called “The Passive Voice”. The Passive voice is used when the focus is on the action. It is not important or not known, however, who or what is performing the action.

Do you know who imported the palm trees? No                                                                          Is it important? Not really.

In the example above, the focus is on the fact that the palm trees were imported. I do not know, however, who did it.

Active voice: The Spanish imported palm trees from California and Florida.                Passive voice: Palm trees were imported from California and Florida.

The passive voice – Form

How do you form the passive voice?

the passive voice

When rewriting active sentences in passive voice, note the following:

  • the object of the active sentence becomes the subject of the passive sentence
  • the finite form of the verb is changed (to be+ past participle).
  • the subject of the active sentence becomes the object of the passive sentence (or is dropped)

Regular verbs in the passive voice

Remember that the past participle of regular verbs is the same as the simple past.

regular verbs

La Sagrada Familia

The most amazing building I saw in Barcelona was La Sagrada Familia and the fact that caught my attention is that this church is still being built! When I went there, I saw the construction workers and machinery. It has been 137 years since its construction began and they’re still building it! Being in an old historic city, I expected to see old churches that were started and finished hundreds of years ago but never did I imagine I would see an old church that is still being built.

Renowned Gaudí took over the project one year after its construction began and worked on it until he died. According to my tour guide, this church will be finished in 6 years, so I guess I’m going back to this city once it is finished.

Spanish architect Gaudí

The passive voice in different tenses

Look at the chart and see how the passive voice is used in different tenses.

The passive voice - tenses

You must be thinking “Ayleen, you forgot to include the other verb tenses in the chart. Aren’t there other tenses?” And the answer is “Yes, there are”. However, these are the most common tenses used to describe buildings and constructions, so for now I don’t want to mix you up with more grammar that you won’t need to use in this context. As you can see in the descriptions below, I didn’t really need to use the present perfect or past perfect to talk about these constructions.

City: Granada

Santa Ana church

The Church of Santa Ana in Granada was built in 1501 in place of the mosque of Almanzra. This means that Santa Ana Church is located where an ancient mosque once stood. Unlike other Christian churches, this one is made of bricks. It was designed by renowned local architect Diego de Siloe. The church was constructed according to the architect’s specifications. De Siloe wanted to create a heavily decorated, spectacular building which combined elements of Arabic architecture with Christian imagery, that’s what makes this church so unique. An example of Arabic influence in this church is the ceiling. It is made of carved wood. Carved wood in ceilings is representative of the Moorish craftsmen.

The passive voice when you mention the “doer”

Let’s analyze these sentences:

Santa Ana church was designed by renowned local architect Diego de Siloe.

In this sentence we mention the doer of the action, the person who designed the church. If you want to mention the doer, use “by”. Don’t use “for”.

Active voice: Architect Diego de Siloe designed Santa Ana church.

Santa Ana church was designed by renowned local architect Diego de Siloe. (correct)

Santa Ana church was designed for renowned local architect Diego de Siloe (incorrect)

Cathedral of Granada

It is known as the Catedral de Granada, or Santa Iglesia Catedral Metropolitana de la Encarnación de Granada in Spanish. This church was built after acquisition of the Nasrid kingdom of Granada from its Muslim rulers in 1492.This cathedral was built over 181 years between 1523 and 1704. The first collapsed after an earthquake so they didn’t even start the second one, unfortunately, the second tower wasn’t finished. In its place there is a smaller tower, which is called Tower of San Miguel.

In the first and second examples the verbs are irregular, that means they don’t end in “-ed”. To form the passive sentences with these verbs you just have to memorize the verbs.

Irregular verbs in the passive voice

Base form Simple past Past participle
make made made
know knew known
build built built

The Alcaicería Market

Alcaicería is a name which was used all over Moorish Spain and parts of the Middle East. Granada the city with the biggest Arabic influence in Spain and this market is important because it was one of few Moorish traditions to survive the Christian conquest.

In the past this place was bursting with stalls, Arabic silks, spices and other precious goods were sold here. Nowadays the place is half the size it used to be but it is still a rich area with history and local culture, still packed with interesting, exotic things to buy.

Warning: Take care when walking around this area; it is popular with pickpockets and local gitanas (gypsy women) offering to tell your future or read your palm, for a price. I was stopped by a gitana who tried to give me a sort of plant “for free”, but I’d already heard about them and what they do is first give you something “for free”, next take your hand, read your palm, tell you your future and then ask for money.

Asking questions in the passive voice

What was sold in the market?                                                                                                  Arabic silks, spices and other precious goods were sold here.

What name is used to name this kind of markets?                                                       Alcaiceria was used to name this kind of markets.

To watch a short clip of my visit to La Sagrada Familia, click here.