Top Spain and Expat blogs: Brexit in Spain, food to try before you die, and Eurovision 2017.

Here’s this months top blogs I’ve read about life in Spain and being an expat.

jamoncito-bueno

Jamoncito bueno…Photo by Andrea Terzini

Food you should try before you…

Die. Or maybe just in a weekend while you’re on holiday. Check out this article on Matador Network titled 11 food experiences you should have in Spain before you die.

Brexit affecting Spain?

Not really according to this article on The Local ES which states that Brits still love Spain, and so they should!

A picture paints a thousand words

I usually browse a few pictures of Spain before I write, just for some inspiration. So, check out this post on Doran Erickson Photography which has a great selection of photos of Spain from December 2016 to January 2017.

Being an Expat

There’s an interesting post by Mariana on Life with an Italian about What no one told her about being an expat. I think every expat could relate to her experiences in one way or another.

Spain in Eurovision 2017

My god, it’s already here. Have a look at this post of you’re a Eurovision fan for the possible candidates for Spain’s song. I’m going for Mirela.

That’s all for this month. Cheers.

 

 

Poor Spanish Kids…and why you should see the Cabalgatas!

I feel sorry for Spanish kids. They break up for Christmas around about the 20th of December, and have to wait almost 3 weeks until they get their presents on the Dia de los Reyes Magos, which falls on the 6th of January.

reyes-magos-sevilla

Give us a sweet, mate! Photo by alqalat

Imagine having to wait that long during your Christmas holidays to get your presents, not to mention the minimal amount of time they have to play with them before going back to school. It’s like being off from work during the summer, but having to wait until the last day until you’re allowed in the pool.

Some years are worse than others. This year fell pretty well for Spanish kids because they got a whole weekend to play with their presents before going back. For the last four years they’ve returned the day after, on the 7th. Trust me. I’m a teacher and have seen their miserable faces in my classes on the 7th , and it’s not a pleasant sight.

On a religious side, receiving presents on the 6th of January makes sense, as this was when the three wise men gave gifts to baby Jesus. This explains why they do it like the do in Spain, and also why they have the Cabalgatas. Continue reading

Until next year…

This is my last post for 2016, and there’s just a couple of things I’d like to say.

navidad

Have a good one. See you next year. Photo by Christinaesteriero

Firstly, thanks to all the new subscribers to my blog and email list. If you haven’t signed up to my newsletter already then I send one every two weeks and add links of my latest two blogs, plus details on book deals, and a short anecdote on what I’ve learnt in Spain recently.

Secondly, just to let you know that I’m working on my third and final edit of Falling for Flamenco, which should be out early next year. I’m aiming for before Easter. To get more of an idea about my novel have a look at this post title A Novel Spain is nothing without a novel.

Finally, have a great Christmas. I’m looking forward to having a break as usual. I’ll be back in January with some more posts. Have a good one!

Gas canisters don’t cry

This is quite an embarrassing story, but sod it, I’m going to tell it anyway. If you live in Spain then you’ll probably be familiar with the old-fashioned way of getting gas (and I’m not talking about eating lentils).

gas-in-spain

Maybe I should just get a van, photo by Daquella Manera

Unfortunately, we still use the traditional method of the butano. Which means we have to call up the local gas company and get a bloke to bring round a new orange, or sometimes silver, gas canister.

We probably should have changed to natural gas by now, where they come round and install a new boiler and fit in gas tubes somehow, but we haven’t got round to it. After this little episode, I think it might be time.

Anyway, the problem with my local town is that the company who deliver the gas canisters only come to where we live on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Since no one has worked out a way of putting some sort of indicator on the gas canister to tell how much gas is left, the only way you know when it’s running out is when the boiler makes an extra loud bang when it ignites, as if it’s sucking out the gas a little bit harder.

So, last weekend, confident of having a shower as I hadn’t heard much banging with the boiler recently, I jumped in before nipping off to work, on a Saturday, and found that the gas had indeed run out. As it was the weekend, I had to pop up the road and get a new canister.

Easy, for anyone with a car, but we don’t, and the petrol station is about a ten minute walk away. The canisters weigh about 15kgs, so the only way I can get an emergency one is by using an old double pram we have lying about in the patio. It’s one of those huge ones which can carry two babies. It’s perfect for propping a gas canister on. So, off I went, not the first time on a Saturday, with my orange gas canister in the pram.

I was about halfway on my journey, when I heard someone shouting behind.

Killo,” he said, in the Andalucian way. (Mate, in English).

I turned round and nodded as a skinny guy whizzed past on his bike.

Esta no llorar.

Como?” I said, confused about what he’d said.

Llorar killo, no llorar,” he added, laughing to himself. Then it clicked. “Mate, that one doesn’t cry, does it?” he’d said.

I laughed, it was about time someone made a comment about me travelling with a gas canister propped up in a pram. It didn’t stop there though.

As I got to the petrol station, and it must have been the 5th or 6th time in recent months, one of the younger guys working there greeted me.

Killo,” he said, nodding to the pram. “Where are you taking the baby?”

“Just getting some air.”

He laughed and shook my hand. I left the buggy outside the shop and walked in. Inside I stood in the queue, waiting for more comments to come. As I got to the till, I greeted an older guy I’d spoken to on several occasions. We both looked out the window and saw the younger guy pushing my pram, with the canister, over to replace it with a new one. The older guy winked at me and picked up his walkie-talkie.

Killo,” he said to his mate outside. “Be careful with the baby.”

The younger guy looked over, laughed,  and waved. I spoke with the older guy about the rise in the price of the gas canister, as usual, and watched my new baby appear outside.

Outside, I shook the younger guy’s hand.

“My house is over there if you fancy dropping it off?”

“Nah, you’re all right,” he replied. “Take care of that one, she’s quiet at the moment, don’t wake her up,” he added.

As I walked home with the new canister, I started to wonder if maybe it was time to get a car, or just sort out the boiler to get natural gas, like we used to have when we lived in the centre. But I think I’d miss those walks with the pram and chatting to the petrol station blokes. At least it gets me out of the house at the weekend, away from the real screaming babies.

Do you use gas canisters where you live? What do you do if it runs out at the weekend?

Top 5 Spanish Christmas songs, with videos…

Not long now till Navidad comes along and wipes us all out with loads of jamón, packets of turron, and powdery mantecados. Are you excited? Can you feel those jingle bells running down your leg?

There’s no way that Spanish Christmas songs are better than British ones. There’s just no comparison with quality, quantity, and romantity. Saying that, there are a few that I’ll sing along too, mainly when we’re putting up our Christmas tree, which we’ll be doing in this puente.

It’s a bit of a tradition here that we get the in-laws round, ply them with wine and anis, and see who can throw the most amount of balls at the tree without it toppling over. Now with my kids running around, I’m sure it won’t be long untill the balls are on the floor, the tinsel is round the dog, and the Star ends up in the washing machine.

So, if you want to get some Spanish festive spirit in your home while you put up the tree, or any time this Christmas, then chuck on these songs and have a happy Navidad. These are in my order of favouriteness, ending on my mostest favouritest.

5. Feliz Navidad

Make sure you don’t missay the año without the ñ…and confuse it for a simple n.

You see what I mean about how English songs are better though, even this Spanish all time greatest hit has English lyrics.

4. Rodolfo the Reindeer

Poor little Rudolf gets the mick taken out of him no matter which country he’s in. Worth having this on, just to scare away the real one.

3. Mira Qué Bonita – Cameron de la Isla

There’s just no escaping flamenco in this country. They can even squeeze it into Christmas somehow. I’m suprised one of the wise men isn’t playing the flamenco guitar in this video.

2. En Navidad, Rosana

Got fond memories of this song. Prancing about with funny Christmas hats and trying to sing along. The only part I can normally get out is the bit about the donkey. That’s why I’ve put the one with lyrics.

  1. Bell on bell action…or Campana sobre campana..

Whoever dares to name their child Belen after hearing this song is just cruel. Whenever it gets near Christmas and I have to ask Belen, whoever she may be that year, a question in class, I normally end up whistling or humming this tune.

So, Feliz Navidad, have a prosperous año, and all that malarky. Next week I’ll no doubt be blabbering on more about Christmas too. Have a good one.

Best 10 websites for learning Spanish

Following on from my blog last week of the Best ways to learn Spanish, I thought I’d make up a blog of all the websites I’ve used over the years to improve my Spanish. So, here goes.

learn-spanish-websites

Photo by Maruisza

Spanish Listening

This is really useful for, you guessed it, listening in Spanish. You can click on various videos and watch and do vocabulary activities too. You can search by level and topic as well, so it narrows down your search.

Spanish Verb Forms

Nightmare, just a nightmare. Who the hell decided to change the ends of all the verbs depending on the tense? Well, this website is as good as any for a detailed definition, plus each of the verb forms.

Lingus TV

This is an entertaining way to improve you Spanish with various mini clips, soap opera style. They also have a range of levels and you can select the topic of the video. The clips are a bit of fun, and also have subtitles. Continue reading

Best way to learn Spanish? Tried talking to yourself?

Having problems getting to grips with the Spanish language? Pulling your hair out because your level just isn’t improving? Well, you’re probably not the only one. I battle hard every day with Spanish. I get laughed at because of my accent, use the wrong words which lead to embarrassing situations, and make silly mistakes which give the impression I’ve only been here for 11 weeks, not 11 years.

Saying that, I do have a few tips on ways to raise your level. The following tips are mainly for those people living in a Spanish speaking country. If you’re not, then just use your common sense on whether they can apply to you.

learn-spanish

Try describing that in Spanish, in your head though. Photo by J Salmoral

Talk to yourself

I do this all the time, and no, not out loud, and yes, in Spanish.

It’s something that the average human being does 90% of the day. If you think about it, you’re probably chatting with yourself most of the time. You might be having a shower, eating your breakfast, on your way to work walking through the city, or stuck on the metro without your kindle or mobile. All the time you’re more than likely having a chat in your head. So, why can’t you just do that in Spanish?

These are some things you could do:

  • Go through what you have to do in your day.
  • Plan a conversation you might need to have in Spanish later on.
  • Describe what you can see; people, places, objects, funny looking characters.
  • Think about your life, or tell yourself your life story.

The possibilities are endless, but what I normally do is just speak to myself in Spanish. It sounds a bit nuts, but it’s free, you can recap vocabulary, and also improve fluency.

I used to do this a lot when I first got to Seville, especially if I had an important conversation coming up with a friend, my girlfriend, or with my students’ parents.

Try it, what have you got to lose? No one really knows what’s going on in your mind anyway.

Make / buy some friends, or find a partner

I definitely did not get a girlfriend so I could practise my Spanish. That would be a cruel, selfish, and horrible way to start a relationship, but it could work for you.

Communicating in Spanish is your aim, objective, and goal, and if you want to make some decent friends, or find a loved one, then you’ll have to communicate by using words and phrases, eventually. The quicker you get some local mates or a girl/boyfriend, the better.

Why don’t you check out the internet for some arranged intercambios in your local town or city, as there will certainly be plenty of people out there wanting to learn from each other. I did this when I first came to Seville. It was a great way to meet people, practise Spanish, and also get to know more about the culture.

One word of advice. Try to get someone who has a similar level to you in the other language though. I tried this with people who had a high level of English, so the conversations just went to English most of the time because it just felt silly me struggling on in Spanish. If you have a similar level, you’ll also have the same level of patience, in theory.

Watch films and series in Spanish

This is probably my main way of widening my vocabulary at the moment. I pick up a lot of Spanish at work, listening to students speaking, but these days I get more from a decent film or series. Unfortunately there aren’t many decent films in Spanish, so I prefer series. It’s not only entertaining, but also adds to your knowledge of the Spanish world and you get to become more cultured.

I tried to watch Isabel, a series about the Reyes Catòlicos here in Spain. I gave up though as it got a bit complicated, plus I found the old way they spoke in the series a bit useless for me in everyday life. But if you like Spanish history then it’s a great series to watch.

Watching a series will also help you get exposure to a range of accents as the series will be based in different parts of Spain, or even South and Central America.

Here is a list of series that I’ve watched over the years with links.

Isabel

As said above, this is about the Spanish Queen and King, Isabel and Fernando

Alli Abajo

This is a funny series showing cultural differences between Sevilla and Pais Vasco.

El tiempo entre costuras

This is a historical drama series about a Seamstress.

Velvet

This is a humorous, but also dramatic and romantic series based on a clothes company.

Los Hombres de Paco was my favourite series, but I can’t find it anywhere officially, maybe you’ll have more luck than me.

Alternatively just watch the TV in Spanish. The news is normally a great way to gain more vocabulary and practise your listening.

Keep a vocabulary notebook

I force this issue with my English students, but it’s only the best ones who really make an effort and record notes on new vocabulary.

Since living in Seville, I’ve had to learn vocabulary with so many different areas in life. I’ve had to learn how to rent flats, go shopping, get married, buy a house, and bring up children. Each life event provides you with obstacles where you’ll have to learn, and pick up the vocabulary.

It’s so easy to forget new words though, so unless you have a system of writing them down and studying, there’s no way you’re going to convert the new knowledge to memory.

I even think widening your vocabulary is more important than perfecting your grammar. The best way, if you have time, is to jot down any new words in Spanish, with a Spanish definition, and also maybe an English translation to begin with, but the less English the better.

Listen to music

Another entertaining, free, and fun way to learn Spanish is by listening to music. Nowadays you can just search for Spanish artists on YouTube, Spotify, and even get up the lyrics on the screen to help you. Lyrics training is also a useful website to practise listening.

I picked up a lot of vocabulary and improved my listening skills from Spanish music. You can also heighten your experience abroad as you’ll build up memories connected with certain songs.

Spanish lessons

Notice this is my last on the list, mainly because I’ve only done a 2 month course. I’m not a massive fan of learning Spanish in a class. Firstly because of the cost, but also because I found everyone ended up speaking in English a lot of the time.

The best way is pure emersion. Get involved in the Spanish society in some way and make it difficult, force yourself with a way of picking up Spanish as the only option, and you should have more motivation to learn.

I’m not saying they are not useful for preparing for official exams, or for people who need well-structured guidance, but they weren’t for me. Obviously they are the first thing to do if you’re not in the country as well.

So, those are my best ways to learn Spanish. My level is okay, but I could always improve. I’ve finally managed to pronounce the rolling ‘r’ after loads of practise, and I’d like to be more fluent.

What about you? What do you think are the best ways for learning Spanish?