Thursday, 27 December 2012

Learning Spanish Language: Spain, Argentina and the rest of Latin America

One question that many people ask when they are about to learn Spanish, is where should I learn Spanish?

Firstly, we must dispel the concept that if you learn Spanish in one country you will not be understood elsewhere. Generally, if you gain a good level of Spanish you will understand all types of Spanish, bar the occasional regional slang word. Therefore, this question has no right or wrong answer, as there are positives and negatives within each country, region and city. You should choose the place that suits your personal needs, why do you need Spanish and where will you use it?

Nevertheless, there are certain centres in the Spanish speaking world that are popular.  


For Europeans, Spain is the most popular destination. If it is the case you need Spanish language in order to operate in Spain, the Spanish spoken in Spain will be most useful. It is possible to draw a distinction between Latin America and Spain, due to geography. Some slang will only be used in Spain and some words have a different meaning in Spain compared to Latin America. Spanish cities have numerous excellent Spanish Language Schools. Generally speaking you will be perfectly understood in Latin America, but don’t use the verb ‘coger’ outside of Spain. Things to be aware of in Spain are that the national language is from Castile (Castilian) and some other provinces speak another language as their first language. This can be confusing for Spanish Language learning, if you hear languages that are similar to Spanish. Also, the accent in some provinces is hard to understand, but this is an issue in most large countries.


Argentina is hugely popular and has many great language schools in its major cities; Buenos Aires, Cordoba and Mendoza have numerous schools. The standard of education in Argentina is high, so people in general will use good grammar in speaking and writing. The country has a wonderful culture. However, you should be aware that the Porteno Spanish (in Eastern Argentina and Uruguay) has an unusual pronunciation, which is somewhat unique. Argentines also use ‘vos’ for you instead of ‘tu’, which again is unique to Argentina and Uruguay. Nevertheless, Argentinean Spanish is understood all over the Spanish speaking world and these issues should not be deterrents, just something to be aware of.


We have selected two major countries which are popular with people learning Spanish. However, the majority of Spanish speaking countries offer language schools and each have their advantages and disadvantages. Just choose the place that you would like to visit and the type of Spanish that you will use the most. There is no correct place to learn the language, just ensure you choose the place that is relevant to yourself and will be interesting and enjoyable for your visit.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Christmas Markets of Germany: Berlin

During December, the towns and cities of Germany open wonderful Christmas markets. They may vary from region to region, with the opening days and the food that is available.

In Berlin, the Christmas markets are open before Xmas and after. Whereas, other regions of Germany pack up the Christmas market before Christmas day. Berlin is Germany’s Capital and largest city. It is also widely regarded as the most lively and artistic city in Germany.

Gendarmenmarkt Christmas Market

Gendarmenmarkt is a very popular Christmas market that is open at night. It is a very busy market, although you may have to pay an entrance fee of 1-2 Euros. Here you can enjoy all the specialities of a German Christmas market and more. There are stands selling Bratwurst, Gluwein, Feuerzangenbowle (an alcoholic drink) and much more.
There is also a whole range of shops selling arts and crafts products, which is common across Germany.

The Gendarmenmarkt market is very popular and busy and has some outdoor music and stage, aswell. If you are in Germany over the Christmas period, you should try to get to Gendarmenmarkt.

This area also has a large La Galerie Lafayette, with a great food court and building design. This shop then merges with a high end shopping mall.

Other markets

There are also major Christmas markets in Spandau, which is quite a cosy and attractive Christmas market. Potsdamer Platz also has a large Christmas market, which is great for children, as it has many rides for children and some indoor bars for the adults. The surrounding area is also very interesting.

Charlottenburg Castle Christmas Market and Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church Christmas Market have two other major Christmas Markets. However, Berlin possesses between 50 and 60 Christmas markets, so it is always possible to find one and they can all possess they own magic feel.


Berlin is one of Germany’s most eastern cities and possesses a very continental climate, with extremely cold winters. You need to be prepared for extremely cold conditions and remember that the majority of Christmas markets are outside events.

Buenos Aires: Restaurants and Foods

Argentina is famous for lots of good quality beef, but actually there is much more to food in Buenos Aires. Nevertheless, on any visit to Argentina you must visit a good quality parrilla. A parrilla is a grill or steakhouse. A popular one in San Telmo, which is in Estados Unidos, is La Brigada. This restaurant possesses numerous cut of beef and the waiter will be able to present it to you by cutting large cuts of beef with a spoon. Not surprisingly, the meat melts in the mouth. Another great accompaniment is the Malbec wine list. All the fine wines (approximately AR$ 100+ a bottle) are decantered.

Argentinian Parrillas / Steak

However, Buenos Aires is full of parrillas and some of the cheaper end can make for a great night out. Be aware of some of the language; Bife de Chorizo is a Sirloin Steak, Entrana is a skirt steak, Bife de Lomo is a Fillet Steak and so on. However, parrillas also stock a great line in Pork (Cerdo) and Lamb (Cordero). Popular pork cuts are Bondiola (Tenderloin), Morceja (Sweetbreads) and Argentine Morcilla (Black Pudding) and Choripan (Argentina’s Chorizo). The desserts in a parrilla will focus around Dulce de Leche, Argentina’s pride, and ice cream. Starters and side dishes to be aware of are Empanadas, Humitas, Tamales, salad and papas fritas (french fries).

Italian Food

Buenos Aires is a centre for immigration from all over the world. Therefore, Spanish and Italian food is available, as is Peruvian from the more recent migration to Buenos Aires. Italian influence is apparent all over Argentina, but especially in Buenos Aires. This has led to some great ice cream parlour and coffee, all over Buenos Aires. However, fine Italian dining can be found at Sette Bacco in Aguero, Recoleta. This is a smaller, quaint restaurant with excellent carne, pasta and fish. There are more impressive Italian restaurants in Recoleta and in the other barrios. If you are self-catering in Argentina, you should visit Pasta Fresca shops for some fresh pasta. This is great quality, often produced by family recipes, and very cheap.

Spanish Food

Spanish immigration to Argentina was primarily from Galicia and Basque country, which are two regions with a strong food culture. Gallego (from Galicia) cuisine is famous for great fish. In Belgrano, there is a fantastic Gallego restaurant in the lovely tree lined street of Olleros. They have truly excellent fish. In fact, this street also has an excellent Greek restaurant and some delightful cafes.

 Peruvian Food
For me, Peru is one of the last great cuisines that have not been fully discovered by the world. Peruvian cuisine is a mix of influence from African slavery, Japanese and Chinese immigration, Spanish colonial influence and the indigenous cuisine of Peru. Therefore, there are flavours and ingredients to suit all people. Ceviche (citrus marinated fish), causa, tacu tacu and some excellent spicy dishes list only a few of the Peruvian delights. The alcoholic cocktails of Pisco Sour is also delicious, although can be quite strong and does contain egg white, in case you don’t like eggs. Astrid y Gaston is a premier restaurant in all South American Capitals and Madrid. In Buenos Aires, it is within a large 19th century house in Palermo Chico and certainly worth a visit.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Travelling in Spain: Seville and Ronda

If you are looking for some winter sun, the south of Spain can offer just this and so much more. Aer Lingus, German Wings, Ryanair and Easyjet all offer cheap and frequent flights to Malaga and Seville during the winter months from Northern Europe. What are the attractions to this area?

There are many attractions and we will focus on the attractions of Seville, the largest city, and the historic town of Ronda. However, firstly the entire region has an excellent climate. In the summer months, it is hot and dry and generally consistent. In the winter, it can still be relatively warm. In November, temperatures in the 20s are reasonable in the day, but it may dip down at night.


Ronda is a truly remarkable spectacle and it has attracted international tourists for centuries. The South of Spain was conquered by the Moorish Kingdom in Northwest Africa for several hundred years. Therefore, the Moorish Kingdom of Andaluz has numerous signs of its heritage. Ronda has three sites that truly catch you eye:

1.       The three bridges that span the canyon that divides the town into two. The canyon in Ronda is truly remarkable, as it is quite narrow but more than 100m deep. Buildings surround the canyon. The three bridges that are built are called Puente Viejo (Old Bridge), Puente Nuevo (New Bridge) and Puente Romano (Roman Bridge).

2.       Ronda also possesses the oldest bullfighting ring in Spain. Whether you like or do not like bullfighting, it makes for interesting viewing due to the architecture.

3.       The Arabic baths that date back to the later period of Arabic rule can also be seen.


Seville is the capital and largest city in Andalusia. It therefore, has been the historic, cultural and economic centre of this region. Therefore, it has great sites and entertainment that symbolises its present and past. Here are some recommended sites, but they are far from a comprehensive list.

1.       The Alcazar of Seville. This is the oldest royal palace in Europe, dating back from the days of Moorish Spain. The mix of architecture in the palace pays homage to both Spain’s Moorish and Christian heritages and is a marvel to witness.

2.       The Cathedral of Seville is an excellent example of Gothic architecture and is a very imposing building indeed.
Flamenco shows. This is a classic tourist activity in central Seville. El Arenal is one of the principal sites to see professional flamenco dancer perform, whilst dining. This is truly a spectacle of Andalusia culture.

Business English Courses: What You Should Look To Gain From Them

Business English-getting started

A lot of people whose first language is not English often arrive in English Language countries with some knowledge of English and develop reasonable oral and aural English skills by day to day involvement with the local community.

Many new arrivals tend to mix with their own native speakers from Spain, France, Brazil or whatever origin they have; this type of mixing does not generally take place in English and is therefore not particularly developmental for their English skills.

After a while by default however these skills improve for day to day communication etc.

Business English

Day to day English ability is not however sufficient to establish a career where English must be used commercially.

These skills are more focussed and need further development if the newcomer is to communicate in Business as effectively as native English speakers.

If the person is ambitious and hopes to move swiftly into well paid employment in an office or in media etc. It is generally advisable to take a Business English course.

Whilst there are beginner level courses available, it has to be said that if the learner has reasonable normal English speaking and writing capability they may well be able to start with an intermediate course moving on to an advanced course if the learner is hoping to be employed at managerial level.

Business English Courses can be made available on a one to one basis but this will tend to be more expensive although it can be convenient for learners with heavy work commitments.

Scheduled public courses are the most cost effective way of developing these skills and have the advantage that you can develop network  contacts from other  language communities as well as inter-communicate in class with people of different backgrounds and industry backgrounds.

A well constructed classroom environment will encourage this type of communication whist keeping focus on the job in hand such as the creation of quality business emails, memoranda , formal and informal letters, essays etc..

Classes will vary in time and length; some colleges will have fast track full time courses where accelerated learning is needed for reasons of employment or employability. Many courses will be structured over several weeks on a part time basis allowing he learner to continue to work and earn income whist developing improved English language skills for later upgrading of job eligibility and probably industry change resulting from better written English skills.