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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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

A1, Recorded live class, vocabulary

Instructions at the doctor’s office

What are the doctor’s instructions when you have a check-up? Today one of our basic students, Rodrigo, will help you learn some new vocabulary used at the doctor’s office.

Step 1: Watch the video

Step 2: Do the exercises

Podcast

Are you already following our podcast? 🎙️

There are many ways to increase your exposure to English even if you don’t have time to sit in front of a computer and watch a screen. For example, you can listen to music or podcasts!

In our WeSpeak English Podcast you’ll listen to recorded classes on conversation strategies that will help you improve your speaking skills. You will also listen to segments of life classes I have with my regular students, where we will tackle pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary mistakes.

Come join me!

A2 – The Present Perfect to make comments WeSpeak English

Welcome to another episode of my series "A sneak peek into an online class". In this episode, we will learn how to use the Present Perfect to make comments about movies we've seen. Class details: This is a A2 level class (upper basic level). My students' mother tongue is Spanish, they're both from Perú. — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/wespeakenglish/message
  1. A2 – The Present Perfect to make comments
  2. Collocations with "party"
  3. Grammar: Using "prefer" with gerunds
  4. Vocabulary: Savage or wild?
  5. Asking for favors
  6. Reacting to a story
  7. Asking politely
  8. Responding to suggestions
  9. Checking information
  10. Correcting the things we say

B1, vocabulary

Money

How much money vocabulary do you know?

Learn 10 new words related to money management and then test your knowledge!

Podcast

Collocations with “party”

What is a collocation?

“Collocation” refers to the way in which some words are often used together, or a particular combination of words used in this way. For example, you “make your bed” not “do your bed”. In this episode, we will learn collocations with the word “party”.

Class details: This is a B1 level class (intermediate level). My student is from Perú, she’s a Spanish speaker.

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Conversation strategies: Reacting to a story

Episode 9

You can comment on things other people say to show you’re listening and interested in the conversation.

  1. You can use expressions of surprise like Oh, no!, Oh, . . . , Really? or You’re kidding!

A: When I came out of my bedroom there was smoke everywhere and the fire alarm went off.

B: Wow!

A: When I came out of my bedroom there was smoke everywhere and the fire alarm went off.

B: Oh, no!

A: When I came out of my bedroom there was smoke everywhere and the fire alarm went off.

B: You’re kidding!

2. You can give personal information or your opinions:

A: We were making Jerk chicken for a bunch of people . . .

B: Oh, I love Jamaican food.

A: We were making Jerk chicken for a bunch of people . . .

B: Oh, I love Jerk chicken.

3. You can use expressions with that’s + adjective:

A: Then I hid the burnt pan under the sink and started spraying perfume in the kitchen.

B Oh, that’s hilarious.

A: Then I turned on the diffuser and added a mix of lavender, orange and peppermint oil in it.

B: That’s resourceful.

4. I bet . . .

You can use I bet in different ways.

• You can start a statement with I bet . . . when you are pretty sure about something:

A: I get distracted so easily and forget I have appliances on….

B: I bet your family is used to that.

A: Yes, they are. My dad actually gave me a nickname Katrina, after the hurricane. He says whenever I’m in the kitchen a disaster happens.

• You can use I bet as a response to show you understand a situation:

A So the chicken was Ok but the rice was burnt and I remember my mom used to tell me to put a piece of raw onion in the rice maker when that happened. It’s supposed to fix it, or at least remove the smell. It didn’t work.

B: I bet.

A: Yeah, after a while the essential oils did the trick and the smell wasn’t a problem anymore, but the rice didn’t taste too good. I freaked.

B: I bet.

Let’s put everything we learned today into practice. I am going to give you some news. You have to think of how to react to the following statements following my instructions.

Now, think of how to react to the following statements.

  1. I was going down the stairs, tripped over my shoes and fell. (Use that’s + adjective) That’s terrible!
  2. I go to the gym every single day, even on Sundays. (Use “I bet”) I bet you’re fit.
  3. Last week I was in Thailand for a work conference. (Use “I bet”) I bet you loved the country.
  4. My aunt Sam is pregnant with her fifth child. (Express surprise) You’re kidding!
  5. My boss told me today she was giving me a big pay rise. (Use that’s + adjective) That’s great! That’s amazing!
  6. Did you know that she’s getting married next week? (Use “I bet”) I bet she’ll have a big reception.
  7. I’m going to start working on that new project in India next month. (Express surprise) Wow!
  8. My company has started laying people off because of corona virus. (Express surprise) Oh no!
  9. Mark didn’t get the job as human resources manager. He’s still looking for a job. (Use that’s + adjective) That’s disappointing.

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Conversation strategies: Responding to suggestions

Episode 7

Picture this, you meet with your friends and would like to go to a coffee shop. One of them suggests: Why don’t’ we go to Starbucks? How do you respond to that suggestion?

  • Suggestions that we like

You can use these expressions to respond to suggestions that you like:

A: We could go to a bar.  B: That’s a great idea.

A: Why don’t we have Chinese? B: Sure

A: Let’s go to that coffee shop that serves coffeetails. B: That sounds great!

By the way, there is a coffeeshop that sells coffeetails, like cocktails but with coffee. It’s a little hole in the wall in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I was actually going to another coffee shop but I kind of got lost and ended up going to this little café called “Graft café”. If you ever go to Chiang Mai and are a coffee lover, I highly suggest you check out this tiny, unique coffee place.

So, if someone suggests going to Graft café, I will always say That’s a great idea! Or That sounds great!

  • Suggestions we don’t like

You won’t always want to accept a suggestion. For example: There’s a Peruvian dish I hate called “Olluquito”. If someone suggests having Olluquito for lunch, I would probably say: “I don’t know. I don’t really like that dish”.

To respond to suggestions that you don’t like you can use these expressions:

Suggestions we don’t like

A: We could have a pizza or something. B: I don’t know. We had pizza last weekend.

A: Why don’t we have an early dinner? B: I guess we could but then I’ll get hungry again by midnight.

A: Let’s have vegetarian. B: Maybe, but you know it’s hard to find good vegetarian restaurants here.

A: Why don’t we have pasta? B: I guess we could, but we’re in Thailand you know? Thai food makes more sense.

If someone suggests going to a vegetarian restaurant in my city, I wouldn’t be so excited about it because there aren’t really good vegetarian restaurants and the few good ones are kind of expensive. Chiang Mai, on the other hand, is well-known for offering good and affordable vegetarian food. Here I had the best Pad Thai made with papaya noodles; it was absolutely delicious.

After making a negative response, people usually offer an explanation or excuse:

 A:  We could just work remotely and go backpacking for a few months.  B: I don’t know. I’d like to, but it’s not that easy. I doubt my boss would agree to that. (a little dosis of reality there).

I guess

You can use I guess when you’re not 100% sure about something or if you don’t want to sound 100% sure. It can make what you say sound softer:

 A:  We could just work remotely and go backpacking for a few months.  B:  I guess it’s not that easy.

A: Let’s go window shopping. B: Maybe. It’s actually kind of risky, though. I guess I could end up buying something I can’t afford.

To listen to this episode click on the button below.

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Conversation strategies: Checking information

Episode 6

In a conversation, you may need to check something that you didn’t hear or understand. Now, think about ways you check for information you didn’t hear in your mother tongue, what do you say? Are there any phrases you say to ask someone to repeat something? Well, in English there are different ways we can do that.

Now, let me tell you a little about the examples I’ll be using in this podcast.

All these examples are true for me. They are contextualized with my recent trips. The reason why I use real examples is because I want to show how these conversation strategies could be used in real conversations. When I recorded this podcast, I was in Spain. Barcelona was my first stop, then I went to Granada and finally, Seville, so all these examples are about these amazing cities.

Today I’ll show you 4 strategies to check information.

You can:

  1. use the expression Did you say . . . ? or What did you say? to check information

A:  There’s usually about a 13-minute wait for the bus.

B: Did you say thirteen or thirty?

A: I said 13, so you can cross the road and get that ice cream you want before the bus comes.

2. repeat words as a question to check information. Just say the same you heard, or what you think you heard.

A:  Well, there’s a Moroccan estaurant within walking distance.

B:  Within walking distance?

A: Yes, it’s around the corner.´

3.  use the expression I’m sorry? or Excuse me? to ask the speaker to repeat what he or she said

A:  Are there any markets to shop around here?

B:  Excuse me? Did you say markets to shop?

A: Yeah, I mean, local markets.

A: Which bus should I take to the Alhambra?

B: I’m sorry? Did you say to the Alhambra?

A: Yeah

B: Oh, you should take the C32.

4. Ask an “echo” question, which is to repeat something you heard and add a question word to check the information you didn’t hear:

A: There’s a Turkish tea shop on the Main Avenue.

B: I’m sorry. There’s a tea shop where?

A: On the Main Avenue, it’s right in front of the bank.

In this case the question word is “where”, other question words are what, who, when and how. Before you ask a question word you need to know what the question is about, for example if someone says “There’s a Turkish tea shop on the Main Avenue.” And the focus is the place, my question word is going to be “where”. There’s a tea shop where?

Another example:

A: Is there an ice cream place around here? 

B:  I’m sorry, a what?

A: An ice cream place. I heard about a famous Italian ice parlor on Gran Via Avenue.

In this case if the information I didn’t hear was ice cream parlor, the question word should be “what”, I’m sorry, a what?

Now think about how to ask an echo question with a question word after the following statements. I’ll give you some time to think about the question and then will give you the answer. Here we go:

A: The sandwich that sells the Iberian ham opens at 11:00am.  (The information you missed is the time.)

B:  Excuse me? It opens at what time?

A: After Granada, I’m headed to Seville. (The information you missed is the place where I’m headed after Granada)

B: I’m sorry, you’re headed where?

A: Breakfast and dinner is included in this hostel? The information you missed is what is included)

B: Excuse me? what is included?

A: We’re flying to Amsterdam the day after tomorrow. (The information you missed is the time)

B: You’re flying to Amsterdam when?

A: I’m meeting Giannina in Miami next year. (The information you missed is the person I’m meeting)

B: You’re meeting who?

Let’s summarize

  1. Use the questions Did you say . . . ? or What did you say?
  2. Repeat words as a question to check information. Just say the same you heard, or what you think you heard.
  3. Use the expression I’m sorry? or Excuse me?
  4. Use echo questions plus a question word.

To listen to the episode, click the button below.