Wednesday, 31 December 2014

How to use the word 'NO' in English - All levels


When do we use the word 'no'? Well, not as often as you would think!

For a start it isn't considered polite in English to say 'No' as an answer to a question... you will usually hear locals say.. "Not really" or "I don't think so" or "I'd rather not"or "No thank you."

'No' can be used to compare  "The weather is no better today than it was yesterday."

'Any" or 'No' different
"This place is no different from any other place I've lived... why is it so expensive?"

'No good' or 'No use'
"The film was no good" "This computer is no use. Its so slow!"

Other examples with 'No'

No doubt; "I have no doubt in my mind... you will pass your exams."

No longer; "I no longer feel the need to go out as often as I used to."

No matter who; "No matter who knocks on the door... do not let them in!"

No more;  "No more sweets for you young man! Your teeth will rot!"

No need for; "There is no need for all this fuss, I'll be fine once I've had a good night's sleep."

No problem; "I'll sort it out for you... No problem!"

iFriendly will be touring New Zealand and Australia for the entire month of January 2015.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

English Christmas Food - B2+

Christmas day is just around the corner... 

If you would like to prepare an English dish for this special occasion, look no further!

Here are some of my favourite Christmas recipes;

Jamie Oliver is my favourite chef, I love this man! He has single handily changed British cooking, not just in your own kitchen but also our school food has been revamped as a result, swapping unhealthy cheap food, for good wholesome food at a low cost.

Gordon Ramsey, he's a dude... a little hot tempered, but he's a cool guy and surprisingly short too!
I saw him once, walking down the street in Brighton.
Feast your eyes on his cooking tips for Christmas day... The Pumpkin Soup looks scrumptious!


Mince pies... 'Sorry? Did you say mince? But isn't that meat from a cow?' Nope, mince pies are sweet and delicious!  I hope I will be able to find them in New Zealand, cause there aren't any in this town!

Take a look at this video...

Coming up next... Christmas Vocabulary!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

A cheerful world - All levels

The word 'cheer' is really quite versatile.... 

You may be currently experiencing some Christmas cheer! Meaning that you must be enjoying the holiday season, or the Christmas spirit, etc.

Phrasal verbs with cheer....

Cheer on; to physically encourage someone by clapping, shouting, cheering them on... "I'll be here to cheer you on when the match starts." Cheerleaders do this for a living!

Cheer up; when someone looks sad, we want them to smile. "Cheer up! It's not the end of the world"

Now, for other forms of cheer

Cheerful; Somebody can be cheerful or happy, or they can sound cheerful.  "Jo, you're always so cheerful these days."

Cheerless; The opposite to cheerful, sad.  "What a cheerless crowd of people."

Homework - B1+

Try and write your own sentences with the above words/ phrasal verbs.

Write them down in the comments section and I will check the sentences for you.

Homework B2 +

Can you find any other forms of cheer? 
Look up some synonyms and try to write some sentences.

Homework C1 +

Exam Tip; Use of English can be tough at this level, why not create a table on excel and list all the nouns you learn and their different forms? i.e Adjectives, adverbs, verbs, etc.

Would you like to improve your listening and speaking skills in English? If so, I am offering online classes... Why don't you try a class? The first one is free! Please contact Lisa

Saturday, 6 December 2014

The puzzling world of idioms -Part 5 C1 +

Expressing anger...

Anger is a powerful emotion, it has the potential to take over your mind and body and transform you into a real life Hulk!
Anger is ugly, it affects you, and others who have had the misfortune to be around when it strikes... Although, from the outside, looking back on all the times I've seen others get angry, it does look rather funny.  And I'm sure if I saw myself have a kind of tantrum, it would look rather silly...

Idioms to express anger

To blow a gasket; This is part of a car engine, which is compressed, the gasket seals in the internal combustion. If the gasket blows then you could probably imagine the size of the explosion!
Example: "Your boyfriend blew a complete gasket when I told him what we did... I'm not going near him again when he gets angry!"
What does a gasket look like? Click on the link.

To have a conniption fit; This has to be my favourite one. I like using this to describe my own situations. Example: "I almost had a conniption fit when I found out they had in fact, robbed me blind!" A fit, can also be used on its own to describe an angry episode or even an epileptic fit (I do hope you don't suffer from epilepsy).


tantrum; (noun) to become very angry and unreasonable.

seals in; (phrasal verb) to close with, lock in.

Further study...

Do you know any angry idioms? What are they?

Have a go at describing an angry person you know or even yourself when you are angry.  Can you do this in English?

Would you like to improve your listening and speaking skills in English? If so, I am offering online classes... Why don't you try a class? The first one is free! Please contact Lisa

Saturday, 29 November 2014

The puzzling world of idioms - Part 4 - C1+

Are you a little bit crazy? 

I mean in a good way... 

Some idioms can be used to describe someone acting crazy or that they could be simply bonkers! You can act crazy, which is of course temporary, but you could also be a crazy person. On one hand, being a crazy person is not necessarily a bad thing, there are people out there who like to have a good time and are fun to be around.  On the other hand we do have expressions which indicate that a person's behaviour is crazy in a bad way.

Here are some examples you could use...

'to lose the plot' - if you have 'lost the plot', you can no longer act normally.  This idiom has a serious side to it, we can use it to describe our brief moments of madness.
"Oh my! For a minute there I thought I had 'lost the plot' completely!"

'off your trolley' - Mostly used in jest. "Your cousin has completely gone off his trolley."

'basket case' - Mostly used in jest, but I have heard it used as an insult. "I want nothing to do with that man, he's a complete and utter 'basket case'!"

'screw loose' - Now this is quite a comical one, as you can imagine the human head as something mechanical, and one of the screws has come loose, meaning that the rest probably cannot operate normally with out it! "Are you sure you don't have a 'screw loose'?"

'taken leave of one's senses' - This is a more polite way of saying that the guys is clearly nuts!  "Have you taken leave of your senses? How on earth are you going to climb Mount Everest with one hand?"


plot; (noun) the main events of a play, novel or film or similar work, devised and presented by the writer.

jest; (noun) a thing said  or done for amusement, a joke.

Some practice

Why don't you try using these expressions this week? 

Think of a person you would like to use these expressions with. Has someone been acting a little crazy this week?

Why not look for some more crazy idioms you like and write them in the comments section.

Would you like to improve your listening and speaking skills in English? If so, I am offering online classes... Why don't you try a class? The first one is free! Please contact Lisa

Saturday, 22 November 2014

The puzzling world of idioms - Part 3. B2 +

Some more idioms and expressions which use food, but don't refer to food...


What are chips, exactly? Well, a chip can be an electronic chip which contains information, for example; My cat has had a chip inserted recently by the vet. Chips, can also be potato chips, or french fries (as the Americans like to call them). Wood chips are chips small bits of wood, especially ones that flake off when you cut into them.

A chip on your shoulder: Someone who has a bad attitude and is usually offended easily. Example; "I wouldn't ask Sandra to help out, she's got a real chip on her shoulder about about the whole event!"

As cheap as chips: Potato chips are usually cheap, except if you order them from an extremely classy restaurant! So, we use chips to refer to something cheap. Example; "The concert tickets were only two 'quid' each. That's as cheap as chips!"

Chip in: This means to contribute something, whether its money or some other kind of help. Example "We're thinking of getting a smart phone for John, would you mind chipping in 10 'quid'?"

A chip off the old block: To take after some one, but this refers more to boys who look like or act like their fathers.  Example "Michael is the 'spitting image' of his farther - That's true, he's a chip off the old block."


Classy; (adj) elegant, stylish.

quid;(noun) slang for pound sterling, referring to money.

spitting image; (noun) likeness, a double, a look alike.

Student exercises:

Why don't you look for some other expressions, that contain the word chip?

If you would like to practise using these idioms, why don't you think of some more example?

Write a letter to a friend, and use all four idioms in the letter.

Would you like to improve your listening and speaking skills in English? If so, I am offering online classes... Why don't you try a class? The first one is free! Please contact Lisa

Saturday, 15 November 2014

The puzzling world of idioms and Expressions - Part 2 - B2 +

Food, we love it... For most of us it's a huge part of our everyday lives.  How many of you plan your meals at the beginning of the week, so that there's a delicious meal to look forward to everyday? I certainly do!

Here are some expressions that we like to use when talking about food...

Fill your boots

I love this expression because you can almost imagine literally filling your boots with your favourite stew...

It really means to have as much of something as you want, to do something to the full.  You can use this expression of many other things too, not just food.

Fran and Paul are at a buffet, Fran can't believe how much food there is!

Fran: "I'm so hungry shall we tuck in?"
Paul: "Go on Fran, fill your boots!"

Here are some expression that mention food, but they don't refer to it...

A piece of cake:  (Easy)  This report was a piece of cake!

Spill the beans: (Tell a secret)  I'll tried not to spill the beans, but I couldn't help it! Sorry.

Small potatoes: (unimportant) We don't need to worry about those people, they are small potatoes.

Sugar coat it: Gloss over bad information.  Please tell me the whole truth and don't sugar coat it.

Go bananas: To go crazy. Make sure you tidy your room, your mum is gonna go bananas when she sees this mess!

Do you know any other expression related to food?
Why don't you share your favourites with us?
Could you share some expression with us in your language?


tuck in; (phrasal verb) eat heartily, devour, consume, to gobble up.

gloss over; (phrasal verb) to cover up something.

Would you like to improve your listening and speaking skills in English? If so, I am offering online classes... Why don't you try a class? The first one is free! Please contact Lisa

Thursday, 13 November 2014

The new wine tasting and language exchange experience...

Chato Grato and ifriendly present .... 

The very first bilingual wine tasting experience in Castilla La Mancha, Spain.

Wine tasting, catas de vino, are very popular. We love wine and La Mancha produces tonnes of the stuff and it's rather good too!

A wine tasting course or session with us, will give you the chance to learn how to really enjoy wine.  Before I learnt about wine tasting, I would order a glass with no idea what I was about to drink! One wine tasting session will change the way you drink wine forever.... Life is too short to drink bad wine! (There are no bad wines, but there will be wines you might not enjoy as much.)

Why bilingual? Well, ifriendly started out as a language exchange programme, to give everyone the opportunity to improve their language skills, whilst meeting new people in a social setting.  Thanks to Eddie, that group is still going strong in Brighton, England.

Now we would like to take it to the next level...

We would like to have an evening with you, where we will present 3 different wines in both Spanish and English languages.  This could appeal to both English and Spanish speakers alike... Would you like a chance to practise your English/ Spanish in a relaxed and social environment? And after a couple of glasses, I can guarantee that your language skills will improve and your confidence in a foreign language will grow.

ifriendly will be teaming up with Chatograto to give you the best experience possible... Here is Chatograto's goal...

CHATOGRATO is a project developed by and for aggrandising the figure of wine. We will try to reflect in it all the passion we have for this liquid art.
In order to help in spreading the culture of wine, oil, cheese and other delicacies of the area, and in order to bring it closer to the general public through our sommelier JosĂ© Carlos RodrĂ­guez, and the experience of other professionals, we have designed a range of courses and activities to help you to enjoy wine and many other artisan food in all its grandeur. (taken from

We hope that you will join us!

*Our first event will be held on the 19th of December, in Ciudad Real, Spain. Location TBC.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Idioms which express love... B2+ (upper-intermediate)

Love idioms...  

When talking about love, we like to express our feelings... Love idioms can help us to express ourselves more!  Here are three very common love idioms...

Absence makes the heart grow fonder...

Have you ever been in a long distance relationship? Do you pine after that person whenever they are not around? It's natural to miss the person we love if they are with us, but absence for a large amount of time makes you think about them more, thus making your heart grow fonder.


Jane: "I haven't seen Alex for two months! I can't bare it any longer, I have to see him now!"

Mary: "awww...that's because, absence makes the heart grow fonder."

Lovey dovey

*Some sources state that this is an idiom, but it could also be defined as slang.

This idiom is used for couples who show everyone how much they are in love, usually by public displays of attention, kissing in public, etc.

Micheal: "Shaun and Irene are so lovey dovey all the time, I can't even talk to Shaun about football any more!"

Love is blind

This is a very common expression, we all can't help falling in love/ lust. But when the feeling disappears abruptly we all blame it on the fact that we were blinded by love!

Monica: "I can't believe I fell for that guy!  He's such an idiot!"

Paula: "What can I tell you... Love is blind!"


pine after; phrasal verb meaning to long for a person or to grieve for someone or something.

thus; (adverb), as a result or consequence of this.

What do these idioms mean in your language?

Please share your favourite love idioms...

Would you like to improve your listening and speaking skills in English? If so, I am offering online classes... Why don't you try a class? The first one is free! Please contact Lisa

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

The puzzling world of idioms.... B2 +

 The puzzling world of idioms...

Idioms, they can be entertaining, but why do we use them? Well, personally I love to use idioms... They make conversations more captivating, compelling, alluring and even amusing! All  languages have their own idioms... but most are lost in translation.  The best way to learn idioms, I find, is to learn about their origin.  But never translate them... they will not make sense in your own language! (but they will make for a good chuckle!)

Nothing to lose...

A person will take a risk knowing that they won't lose anything, or someone convinces them to invest in a product on the promise that they have 'nothing to lose'.

Literally speaking, we all do have something to lose! We could lose our lives... but it's a figure of speech.

"I know that you have fallen out with him many times, but why don't you just apologise? Come on! What have you got to lose?"

To jump on the bandwagon...

This is a fun idiom to use, a bandwagon, is a wagon used to transport musicians.  If you jump on the band wagon you are joining in with the fun! You can use this expression if you want to join any group of people doing an activity or behaving in a certain way.

"Everyone is signing up to go skiing.... I think I'll jump on the bandwagon and sign up too!"

Do you have similar idioms in your language?
Why don't you tell us about them?


captivating; (adj) capable of attracting and holding interest; charming.

compelling; (adj) evoking interest, attention, or admiration in a powerfully irresistible way.

alluring; (adj) powerfully and mysteriously attractive or fascinating, seductive.

chuckle (noun) a quiet or suppressed laugh.

Would you like to improve your English? Are you taking an exam or does your job require you to speak English? I offer classes online, using Skype. Live and face to face. For more information contact Lisa. Email

Friday, 31 October 2014

How to make the perfect Risotto!

B1 + level - Intermediate

How to make a perfect Risotto... For two.

I have it on good authority, that I make a pretty good Risotto!

Before you start prepare a litre of chicken stock with boiling water, this is to add little by little to the risotto as you cook it.

First I pour in a glug of olive oil into the pan, with some finely chopped garlic approximately 3 cloves of garlic.

Then I add a cup of rice, coat the rice in olive oil and stir well to make sure all the rice has been coated. Then I add half a glass of cheap white wine and stir well until wine has almost evaporated.

Start adding the stock bit by bit, whilst constantly stirring on a high heat.

When you have used up all the stock, and the rice is 'al dente'. (this is when the rice is not quite done).

Take the risotto off the hob. Season with salt and black pepper.

Take a packet of grated cheese, preferably with a mix of 4 cheeses and add as much as you like to the risotto and stir.

Then add some Gorgonzola, and stir in. Don't let it melt completely, this way you will be able to taste the Gorgonzola cheese.

Dish out and add a dollop of mushroom pate and grate a generous amount of Parmesan cheese on top and serve.

A nice glass of chilled white wine would go nicely with this dish. I recommend a glass of Ruedo ( Spanish white wine).

Bon appetite!

What are your favourite recipes?
Why don't you try to describe a recipe in English?

Vocabulary - The relevant definition of words in the text.

stock; (noun) liquid made by cooking bones, meat, fish or vegetables slowly in water.

glug; (noun) an amount of liquid poured from a bottle.

chop; (verb) cut (something) into pieces with repeated sharp blows of an axe or knife.

coat; (verb) (cooking definition) to cover with a 'coating' can be wet or dry.

evaporate; (verb) turn from liquid to vapour

melt; (melt) make or become liquified by heating.

dollop; (noun) a large shapeless mass of something, especially soft food.

For English classes on Skype, email Lisa:  Skype name: friendlyteacher14

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Subtle culture differences.... B2 +

Subtle culture differences... 

Comparing Spanish and English customs and cultures 

I've lived in both countries throughout my childhood and adult life. You could say that I have adopted both culture and customs alike. I believe I have kept the best of both... But have I? Why don't you be the judge of that? 

I like to have a cup of tea and a biscuit at around 5 pm (tea time). Friends laugh at me and say "ooh Lisa, you're so English." or "You can take the girl out of England, but you can't take England out of the girl." I have met and worked with people who have lived in Spain for over 20 years, and have remained British to the core! Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's a bad thing. Why should people change just because they move to another country? This is a good question, and I shall address this in my next blog.

I'm so terribly polite all the time... "Would you mind passing me the salt, please." "Thank you, your so kind..." ok well, maybe I don't bother with the  "your so kind" bit. 
In Spanish I would simply say "pass the salt" or even "the salt" accompanied by a small hand gesture to indicate the salt. Obviously it would be said in a polite tone, but without the need for any airs or graces. And I do accept this. However, the only thing that makes me feel a little uncomfortable is when someone says "give me!" (dame) in English, this sounds somewhat rude to me.

Another thing which baffles me is why can't we say a flat "No" in Britain. We say, "not really" or "maybe not, eh" or we come up with a million excuses why it's not convenient to do something. Here in Spain I can just say "no" without the need to excuse myself. I have said this many times, Spain has taught me to say no. And I'm grateful for it. As I feel less pressured, less stressed as a result. 

There are many more culture differences to explore... I'll keep you posted.

What differences have you found when travelling abroad?
Do you have an experiences to share?

For more information about online classes, contact Lisa by email or skype friendlyteacher14. 

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Arriving on time.... B1 +

Punctuality... What's your view?

Is it ok to keep someone waiting?

Would you be late for an interview? No! To meet the Queen or Antonio Banderas or Penelope Cruz? Then why arrive late when meeting a friend?

I don't like being late, it's physically impossible for me to be late. So, why is it so hard for others to keep time?

I live in a country where it's "acceptable " to be late... My students are sometimes late, my friends are late and some even turn up late for Zumba class. Some people do find it a challenge to be on time, especially with kids, etc. But I'm talking about single people.

For me it's quite simple... I know how long it takes me to get ready, I know that it takes an X amount of time to get somewhere (on foot, by car is different because your subject to traffic delays) and I leave enough time to do all this... The result? I arrive bang smack on time!

I try not to take it personally when someone is late.... I take a book and pretend that I'm having some quiet time alone to contemplate life... When really I look like Billy no mates, all dressed up and alone! Why? Cause my so called "best mate" could not be bothered to keep our engagement or simply got sidetracked on facebook and lost track of time! Is that a good enough excuse? I think not!

In my opinion, if you can't make it to the bar/restaurant for 8pm, make it 8.30!

What do you think?
Should people be on time?
Do I sound too condescending?
Maybe I should just chill out and not get annoyed about such trivial things....

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Kissing Etiquette - B2 +

Kissing etiquette

For Skype English classes Contact Lisa by email or Whatsapp 0034
645424237. Skype friendlyteacher14.

A potential minefield


Kissing friends and acquaintances

I have lived in Spain for more than ten years now, and have grown accustomed to cheek kissing as a form of greeting. I do believe that it is a lovely way to greet someone you know or someone you have never met before, in a social setting. It says a lot about a person, it shows that they don't find you repulsive, you don't smell bad! It means that they like you enough to get up close and give you two small pecks on the cheek and you in turn feel the same way.  I do like it when I walk into a room and everyone gets up out of their chairs to greet me.  In the United Kingdom, you would be lucky to get a small wave from someone as you enter, but I'm referring to acquaintances! I am sure if I walked into a pub in my home town and a bunch of friends were waiting for me, most of them would stand up to give me a kiss (one peck, never two) and maybe even a hug.  It makes you feel nice and special, and you also feel welcome.  I sometimes do feel a little awkward in the UK, when I am introduced to someone new, I immediately (as if on impulse) step forward to kiss them, then quickly step back and offer my hand for them to shake. I feel ridiculous!  Why can't I just give them a peck on the cheek? I guess its because I don't want to make them feel awkward either. Most of the time I get accused of being 'Oh, so continental!'

Kissing at work

Now, this is something I don't feel comfortable with, perhaps its the English in me, but I would prefer a good old handshake any day!  Why do I have to kiss my boss or colleague when I meet them?  I usually offer my hand straight out. I've asked a few of my students about this, and they agree, kissing has no place in the office! Men aren't expected to kiss at work, why are women expected to do this?

Who makes up these these rules?

It's probably a case with most customes, they evolve over time... Maybe one day women won't be expected kiss in the work place.

How to avoid embarrassment!

Make your actions clear to avoid embarrassing situations.  In Spain it's usually right cheek first, then the left cheek.  If you are just giving one kiss, pull back decisively, don't hover! You don't want the other person to go in for a second kiss only to be shot down! Very embarrassing indeed! Humour can cover this up, just laugh a little and pretend that it's funny, this will relax you both. On one hand, if you really object to being kissed, then Spain isn't the country for you! But if you insist on living in Spain and not joining in with the customs, then I suggest that you stand back hold out a straight arm and offer to shake their hand, which should give a clear message. On the other hand, if you are in a social situation where kissing prevails it is more polite to go along with everyone else... When in Rome and all that!

Other kinds of kisses



minefield; This an expression, meaning that something is very difficult to understand or confusing.

repulsive; disgusting, offensive. Tending to repel.

straight out; Phrasal verb meaning - with out hesitation or deliberation.

makes up; Phrasal verb meaning - to invent something.

For Skype English classes Contact Lisa by email or Whatsapp 0034
645424237. Skype friendlyteacher14.


Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Freindly News B2 +

Invasion Friendly News

Ever thought of having a career in tourism? This could be your opportunity to start one!

Dear bloggers, facebook users, twitters and students,

I would like to tell you all about an exciting course I will be teaching next Wednesday 6th of October 2014.
The course will be held in Toledo (Spain), at the Escuela Superior de Gastronomia y Hostaleria. The course, is a BA(Hons) in Travel and Tourism Management.  After two years students will receive a diploma, but if they continue on to year three, upon graduation they will be awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree.

In Britain we pay at least 5000 pounds sterling per year for a degree course, but this course will cost a mere 1500 per year! Also accommodation and food is a lot cheaper in Toledo, this will lower the amount of debt which some students can accumulate over the course of three years.

Here is a bit about the course;

Travel and tourism management is an in-depth study of the knowledge and skills that are essential to work in, and to succeed in one of the world's thriving and most fast emerging industries. The industry has developed and diversified impressively over recent years in five key sectors: accommodation, transport, travel organisation, attractions and destination organisation. This means that the industry demands skilled managers and one of the best ways to get onto the career ladder is to undertake a specialist diploma, with the opportunity to turn this into a degree at university.

The course has been carefully designed to include modules/units that not only make you more employable but also enable you to progress academically.

We hope that the Higher National Diploma in Travel &Tourism Management course will provide an enjoyable, stimulating and ultimately rewarding two years of study. The course will be extremely challenging and we expect students to set themselves high standards of work and achievement.

In Britain we pay at least 5000 pounds sterling per year for a degree course. The course is 9 hrs a week, taught in 3 hour slots. Students must complete assignments in their own time, and there will be some reading to do and group work too.

For more information, take a look at the website

Who is this course for?

If you have a good level of English, and an interest in Tourism, then contact us to arrange an interview.

Monday, 22 September 2014

How much money is swallowed up by our homes? (Upper-intermediate)

How much of your hard earned cash goes towards your home?

 For Skype English classes Contact Lisa by email or Whatsapp 0034
645424237. Skype friendlyteacher14.
Speaking as a person who has never lived in one house for more than 5 years as a child and as an adult even less (about 2 years).  I have thrown away or given away tonnes and tonnes of stuff! By stuff I'm referring to furniture, books, bits and bobs,  etc.  This is why I don't tend to spend a lot on these items, a comfortable pad is all that I require. I simply can't understand it when someone tells me that they can't afford to travel or even go out for a drink because their accommodation swallows up most of their wages!! Or that they can't move into a room because their wardrobe won't fit, even though they get on with the other tenants like a house on fire, only to move into a bigger room but find that your housemates are loony and you are miserable! (true story).

I read this article in the Guardian An English man's home is his prison, stating that even though you are considered rich, you are stuck in an expensive city, having to trek across it everyday, finding that you spend your evenings and weekends at home recovering! I don't know about you, but that's no way to live!

Why don't we spend less on our houses? Make our home comfortable enough for us to sleep, eat and relax and then spend the rest of our income on living our lives! The most I've spent on a piece of furniture was a table for 70 euros, which stops me from writing my blogs from my sofa, thus saving my back from inevitable pain!

Let's cut back the money we spend on our homes and spend it on enjoying our lives. I do know what its like, I am often tempted by the lure of a plasma screen television, or the latest ipad, or a high tech blender for my kitchen, but these items don't really improve our lives, they just eat up all our cash, so that we end up stuck at home... This just makes me sad.

Vocabulary builder

bits and bobs - Things.
swallows up - Phrasal verb meaning to make something disappear.
cut back - Phrasal verb meaning to reduce expenditure.
thus - (adv) in this or that manner or way.
eat up - Phrasal verb meaning to consume.
end up - Phrasal verb meaning to finally be in a particular place or situation.

Tip for students:

When learning phrasal verbs, why not list the phrases under the preposition.  The preposition often describes which direction the verb is moving.  Phrasal verbs with the same preposition often have a similar meaning. Listing the phrases in this order makes them easier to understand and learn.

 For Skype English classes Contact Lisa by email or Whatsapp 0034
645424237. Skype friendlyteacher14.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Odd but somewhat funny collective nouns - C2 proficiency English

A few of the best collective nouns

 For English classes via Skype, Contact Lisa by email or Whatsapp 0034

From a murder of crows to a misbelief of painters, Chloe Rhodes investigates the intriguing origins of her favourite collective nouns

A damning of jurors

This collective noun provides a window on to British history. Before the 13th century the old feudal system of justice prevailed, under which anyone accused of a crime could be charged, tried and sentenced by the lord of the manor. When King John signed the Magna Carta in 1215, he enshrined in law the right to a trial by jury. A "damning" verdict was one that found the plaintiff guilty of the crimes they were charged with. The word comes from the old French word dampner, from the Latin damnāre, meaning to injure or condemn, and in the middle ages it implied that your crimes made you worthy of eternal damnation.

An incredulity of cuckolds

Like most collective nouns, this one is 15th century in origin and shows how much of a game the invention of such terms had become by the mid-1400s. The word "cuckold" comes from the habit of the female cuckoo bird putting her eggs into other birds' nests, and can be applied to any male unwittingly raising a rival's offspring. The term sheds light on attitudes towards female sexuality and morality. This group of husbands is incredulous to discover that their wives have been unfaithful to them. It's not a "fury of cuckolds", or "a weeping" or "a shamefulness", they're not in despair – they're either in denial or they're in the dark.

A murder of crows

While most terms for groups of birds are linked to their song or habitat, this one has its roots in medieval folklore. With their dark feathers and jet-black eyes, crows were regarded by 15th-century peasants as messengers of the devil or witches in disguise. They were suspected of having prophetic powers, and the appearance of a crow on the roof of a house was taken as an omen that someone inside would soon die. There are also accounts of the birds living up to their murderous name by enacting something known as a crow parliament (krĂ„kriksdag in Swedish), during which up to 500 birds are said to gather together before suddenly setting on one of their number and tearing it to pieces.

A misbelief of painters

We're talking artists here, rather than decorators, and, in particular, painters of portraits. One aim of medieval portraiture was to present the sitter as they hoped to be remembered after their death. Artists, like poets, were dependent on wealthy patrons for their living, so portrait painters had to strike a balance between truth and flattery. Shoulders could be broadened, eyes brightened, paunches flattened and foreheads heightened. Misbelief meant an erroneous belief, rather than an inability or refusal to believe, so the painter's job was to conjure misbelief in those who viewed his work; to create the illusion of beauty even where he found none.

A parliament of owls

This group name has its origins in the 1950s children's classic The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis and is a reference to Chaucer's allegorical poem "The Parliament of Fowls", in which all the birds of the Earth gather together to find a mate. Lewis adapts the title of Chaucer's poem to describe a council of owls who meet at night to discuss the affairs of Narnia. The huge international success of Lewis's books – they've sold more 100m copies in 47 languages – means that the term has become far more widely known than most of the traditional collective nouns and is now recognised by dictionary compliers as the "correct" term for a group of owls.

A promise of tapsters

"Tapster" is now obsolete but can be translated as barman or barmaid – whoever is in charge of the "tap". The tapster's "promise" is something we're all familiar with: that slight inclination of the chin, subtle nod or lift of the eyebrow that says: "You're next". But can it be trusted? There's never been a better embodiment of a false promise than the tapster's. In As You Like It, Celia and Rosalind make the point perfectly in their discussion about the promises of love with the damning line: "… the oath of a lover is no stronger than the word of a tapster."


Vocabulary Builder 

feudal; (adj) according to, resembling or absurdly outdated or old fashioned.
prevailed; (verb, past tense) prove more powerful or superior.
enshrined; (verb) place in an appropriate receptacle, preserve in a form that it will be protected and respected.
incredulous; (adj) (of a person or their manner) unwilling or unable to believe something.
paunches; (noun) a large protruding belly, (verb) disembowel (an animal).
erroneous; (adj) wrong, incorrect.
conjure; (verb) cause to appear by magical ritual.
allegorical; (adj) constituting or containing allegory. Synonyms; symbolic, metaphorical.

Questions for students

Do you have any collective nouns in your language?
Can you think of any others?
Tell us about your favourite collective noun. 
 For English classes via Skype, Contact Lisa by email or Whatsapp 0034

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Cats - We love them, but do they love us? B2 + (Upper intermediate)

We love cats...

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There are quite a few articles in the press at the moment about cats, saying that we (people) stress them out, that we treat them like dogs, or we simply just irritate them.

First of all, no two cats are the same, sure they have the same instincts, but cats are individuals... After reading this article, I was worried that maybe I was stressing my cat out and that he was unhappy... but he seems happy even though I don't let him scratch the new sofa or jump off the balcony, he seems pretty content and purrs all the time.  Here is the article, have a read:

The message behind the article is not to expect too much from your cat!  We all know that cats are independent, so wouldn't their owners be independent people too? I certainly am!

Know the signs
I think most cat owners out there would agree, if your cat starts peeing everywhere, something is definitely up!

Rework the floor plan
Cats are very particular (not mine, he does his business wherever we put the tray down). You just have to accommodate them, they will soon tell you if they are unhappy. Focus on what they like to do; my cat loves helping me make the bed, its our morning ritual!  He loves ping pong balls, as they glide easily along the floor. I made him a toy out of a sock, which he takes everywhere! And he likes to suck on an old scarf of mine... Living in a flat can be difficult for a cat, as they have very little out door space, so make it comfortable for them. If you have two cats, I guess they would have to fight over their territory. I don't think you need to go as far as sectioning your house with cardboard boxes!! We don't need to fuel their "god complex".

Cats don't need pals

Well, I disagree with this one, some cats like the company of other cats or even dogs! And if you bring home a new kitten, then of course your cat will feel threatened. They do love you after all!

Lay off social media???
What?? And allow 

Having our cat around helps me to relax and because I work mostly from home, he's always there to keep me company and he makes me laugh everyday! I love our cat Bosco!

Questions for students

Tell us your cat stories...

For English classes via Skype, Contact Lisa by email or Whatsapp 0034

Thursday, 11 September 2014

The wine tasting experience! - C1 +

Wine Tasting and Pairing in Valdepeñas

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Highlights from our wine tasting experience!

 On Saturday 6th of September we went along to a wine tasting event in Valdepeñas, Castilla-La-Mancha. This is one of the largest areas of Spain for producing wine... And boy! I was impressed.

For 18 € each, we were treated to 4 bottles of wine (between 4 people) and a large 'tapa' with each glass of wine. All the wines were exquisite, but we have our favourites, which we would like to share with you...

The event was hosted by Chato Grato ( and it was held at La Maquina in valdepeñas town centre.  The wine was provided by the winery (bodega) Aruspide (

The presentation and explanation of the wine, was funny, entertaining and informative all at the same time! How he managed to keep us all in our seats for well over two hours, is beyond me... and a credit to him!

The first wine we tried was called Agora Lagrimas (tears), this was a young white wine, with a fruity aromatic intensity, leaving a smooth and crisp sensation in your mouth. (I've just ordered 6 bottles!) This wine was paired with Manchego cheese and 'Membrillo, this is quince jelly.

Our second favourite wine was the Agora Roble, red ruby in colour, with a touch of violet, aromas of oak and fruit. Once you've taken a sip, it leaves a lasting taste, which stays with you for a while. We tried this wine with Manchego cheese accompanied by a dollop of raspberry jam.  The food brought out the flavours in the wine, I would have to say that this was an ideal pairing. (Another 6 bottles please!)

There were two other wines with two dishes, all delicious!

I will definitely be attending another event!

Thank you to Chato Grato, La Maquina and Bodegas Aruspeda, for this delightful experience!

 For English classes via Skype, Contact Lisa by email or Whatsapp 0034645424237

Friday, 5 September 2014

Customer service across cultures - B1+ English level

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Customer service... should the customer always be right?

After years of working in the customer service industry in the United Kingdom, I have grown accustomed to the fact that the "Customer" is always right! Without question... even if you know deep down inside that the customer is obviously "barking mad", you cannot say a word! You just have to grit your teeth and give them that 'Slasher smile' which gives the customer an inkling into the fact that you, the shop assistant, knows that they are talking utter rubbish! But when YOU are the customer and you have to return an item which you have paid for using your hard earned money, you appreciate it when the assistant bends over backwards to solve the issue! 

Now, I live in Spain, and let me start by saying that I adore this country, its food, its people and lifestyle! So imagine my shock when I innocently bought a bag from Desigual (this is a brand of clothing) in Alicante, and the item turned out to be faulty and was told that I couldn't get my money back!!!

Please allow me to indulge you further... I bought a large bag from this shop, this bag even had an extra, longer strap for heavier loads... or so I believed.  When the strap broke after using the bag for a short trip to Madrid, I went straight back to the shop, expecting to get an apology and a refund!  How WRONG I was...

Firstly the shop assistant asked me what I had put in the bag, I said a few items of summer clothing and some make-up.  "oh no, no, no, no" she said, this (gigantic) bag has been designed for carrying just your hair brush, purse and mobile phone! I asked her why it had a larger strap, she said it was just an accessory, not meant to be used!  I said that was ridiculous, who on earth walks around with a huge bag, with 3 items inside??? Apparently lots of women did, this was fashionable at the time!  Still, I wouldn't back down, what was I going to do with a broken bag worth 80 euros???! I was getting quite flustered at this point, as any suggestion I made was greeted with a flat "NO".  In Spain, the word "no" is used more frequently than in Britain, we like to say, "not really" or something less offensive. So, I'm still not used to hearing "No" said with no frills attached.

In the end I asked to speak to her manager, this is when she agreed to give me another bag of the same design, to which I stated that this was not acceptable and asked once more to speak to her manager. She hurried off and came back a few moments later offering that I could exchange the broken bag for some other items, which I did.  Buying a smaller bag, just to prove a point. This was a waste of time, the shop assistant didn't even bat an eyelid...

I must say, I haven't had many bad experiences with customer service in this country, but the ones I have had, made my blood boil, that I will remember them for years to come!  So, in response to my question, should the customer always be right? I say, YES, they bloody should be!!

Related article: (B2+)

Vocabulary builder:

inkling;(noun) a slight knowledge or suspicion; a hint

utter; (adj) carried to the utmost point, absolute, total.

back down; (phrasal verb) withdraw a claim or assertion in the face of opposition.

no frills; (adj) offering or providing only essentials, not fancy or elaborate.

Questions for students:

Have you had a similar experience?
Have you ever had to deal with a difficult customer?
Is the customer always right?
Write and tell us about your own customer service experiences?

For English classes via Skype, Contact Lisa by email or Whatsapp 0034645424237.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

The British version- B2 + level

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Food Crimes

Apparently, when pizza was first introduced to Britain in the 1950's, it was sold as "Italian Welsh rarebit", for those of you that don't know what that is... It's basically toasted bread with melted cheese.  The British are, contrary to popular belief, quite open-minded when it comes to food and they will try anything with an exotically "foreign" name. So why do we adapt foreign food to look like our everyday cuisine? It's understandable that those who have visited Britain from far and wide are horrified to discover what's been done to their food!

Anyone who has sat through a discussion between two Spanish people about whether or not you should put onion in tortilla might think that this is just the pickiness of a nation who, sadly, lack the iron-stomached British ability to eat absolutely anything. However, it soon becomes clear that he has a point.
Paella in a bag might be convenient, if convenience is the important issue here, but paella in a sandwich?

Even Francis Drake would have called that an unnecessary provocation, even if it was invented as a riposte to the equally delicious-sounding lasagne sandwich. Ruiz reserves most of his ire, though, for the indiscriminate use of chorizo in supermarket "Spanish" dishes. It has long upset many Valencians that Jamie Oliver recommends putting chorizo in paella (it makes the rice turn orange), so you can imagine how Ruiz feels about chorizo soup or the even more inventive "chorizo with waffles". "There hasn't been a Belgian-Spanish conflict like it," he says, "since the last War of Flanders."

But it's not just Spanish food that's been given this treatment. Indian food expert Nisha Katona, who is about to open her first restaurant in Liverpool, says: "I spend my life in a state of grimace at the nuclear slop they call curry." Among other terrible "fusion" cuisines, she lists "cheddar cheese saag paneer", fruit cocktail korma and, best of all, chicken tikka-flavoured Blackpool rock. (this is a stick shaped boiled sweet).

The Italians still haven't resigned themselves to the rest of the world's version of pizza, but MasterChef finalist and York-based restaurateur Sara Danesin Medio, says that, for her: "The horror story starts with spaghetti in a tin." Even worse is the misappropriation of words to mean something entirely different. "Pepperoni," she points out, "is actually peppers. Not spicy salami." Luckily, she doesn't seem to be aware of the existence of the lasagne sandwich.

You might think that newer culinary arrivals on British shores would be immune to such "innovations" but Robert Ortiz, head chef at London's Lima restaurant, claims to have witnessed ceviche made using vinegar, mayonnaise and, "possibly the worst, ketchup". However, it's not just the British who do this kind of thing. Caroline Bennett, who introduced the first Kaiten (conveyor belt) sushi restaurant to the UK, Moshi-Moshi, remembers seeing "strawberries and cream cheese" on pizza when she lived in Japan. "So, when foreigners do similar things to their food it only seems fair," she says.

In fact these so-called "atrocities" against food are pretty encouraging. Anyone trying to export food from Spain must be pleased that British supermarkets believe that the word "Spanish" can help flog everything from sandwiches, to soup, quiche and even waffles (although the Belgians might not be so happy about the last one). There's a lot more affection in Europe for different cultures than certain newspapers would have you believe. Seen anything criminal of a culinary nature?

This article has been adapted from the guardian, to suit B2 level learners.

Vocabulary builder:

pickiness; (noun) fussy, choosy.

ire; (noun) anger; wrath.

riposte; (noun) to retort quickly; to make a return thrust. a retaliatory action.

grimace; (noun) a sharp contortion of the face expressive of pain; contempt or disgust.

slop; (noun) soft mud or slush. unappetizing watery food. 

misappropriation; (noun) to appropriate wrongly; to use illegally.

atrocities; (noun, pl) appalling or atrocious condition, quality, or behavior; an appalling atrocious act of unusual or illegal cruelty; behaviour or an action that is wicked or ruthless.

Questions for students;

Did you find this article interesting? What did you like about it?
How has your country adapted foreign foods to suit the tastes of the locals?
Do you believe that it is an insult to change "foreign dishes"?

For English classes via Skype, Contact Lisa by email or Whatsapp 0034645424237.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Lisa Jane's film review - English B1+

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Hi there! I'd like to share my thoughts on the latest three films I've seen... 

Firstly, the best film I've see all year has to be Chef...
, , , and many more outstanding actors!

What's it about?  Well, in a nutshell... A chef who loses his restaurant job, reluctantly starts up a food truck with his son and a friend in an effort to regain is love for cooking, and to build up a reputation online which was shattered as a result of an argument with a food critic, the argument went viral!

I would recommend eating before you see this film, as it is pure food porn! The film has inspired me to make a number of dishes, like Cuban Sandwiches, made with pork, ham, melted cheese, gherkins and mustard! Delicious! 10/10

The second film I'd like to review is Transformers 4: The Age Extinction. Let me start by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed the first three films, I grew up watching the cartoons and the first three films were superb! However, this one was cheesier than cheese itself!! I mean come on! There were more than 20 cheesy lines in this film, totally cringe worthy!  The film stars , , amongst others. I've seen Mark Wahlberg star in other films, and he's not a bad actor, but the script he had was appalling! Fingers crossed this hasn't ruined his career! 1/10

The third and final film I'd like to review is The Guardians of the Galaxy, starring , , , amongst others.  This film is highly entertaining, funny and is also packed with action and comical one liners.

What's it about? Well, in a galaxy far far away, after being abducted 26 years earlier, Peter Quill has become the target of a manhunt after discovering an orb wanted by the most evil and powerful character in the history of Marvel Comic movies (in my opinion) Ronan the Accuser. 8/10

Vocabulary builder:

In a nutshell; something you say when you are describing something in as few words as possible.

reluctantly; (adverb) unwilling, struggling in opposition.

gherkins; (noun) a small immature fruit of a variety of cucumber, used in pickling.

cheesier (cheesy); (comparative adj) Slang, inferior or cheap.

one liners; (noun) a brief joke, or amusing remark.

Questions for students; 
Have you seen any of these films? What did you think of these films?
Now, you write a review about a recent film, good or bad, it's up to you!

For information about Skype classes, please contact Lisa  by email or whatsapp 0034645424237.

Friday, 29 August 2014

What's your favourite ice-cream? C1 level

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The best caramel ice-cream: taste test

Is Ben & Jerry's Caramel Chew Chew the ultimate incarnation of this ice-cream flavour, or can the supermarkets' own brands compare? We put them to the test
Everybody loves ice-cream, right? As we bask in the last rays (and/or torrential rains) of the British summer, it seems only fitting to end the holidays with a spoon firmly stuck into a tub of frozen cream and swirly sweet "bits". We asked the big high-street players to send us their best rivals to that Guardian food desk – nay, national – favourite, Ben & Jerry's Caramel Chew Chew. But how did the own brands compare?

Ben & Jerry's Caramel Chew Chew

 You know the drill: thick, dense ice-cream; well-distributed swirls of intense caramel (the listed salt presumably giving it its slight savoury edge); rich, chocolatey caramel cups that, crucially, melt readily; and, overall, an ice-cream of smooth, fulsome flavours that stops just short of sickliness. As Ben or Jerry might say, it's a doozy.

Marks & Spencer, The Ultimate Caramel Ice-Cream

 A grownup, bits-free caramel ice-cream made in the West Country with whole milk and whipping cream. The caramel flavour is a little meek and it finishes with a curious twang (there is salt and concentrated lemon juice in there, which may explain that). A cashmere jumper of an ice-cream: silky-smooth and supposedly sophisticated but, ultimately, rather boring.

Waitrose, Heston from Waitrose Salted Caramel Popcorn Ice-Cream,

"All your cinema favourites rolled into one …" to create a, well, horrific video nasty. You know how eating popcorn is a bit like eating bird feed and Styrofoam? Well, imagine that in an ice-cream also packed with hard shards of salted caramel. True, they have a great treacly, brown sugar flavour, but it is a textural nightmare. Like The Godfather III or Sex Lives of the Potato Men, this is what happens when no one has the backbone to take the talent to one side and say: "You know what, Heston? This is a rubbish idea."

Aldi, Gianni's Cheeky Monkey Ice-Cream

 "Chocolate flavour dairy ice-cream with a marshmallow flavour sauce, caramel flavoured sauce and chocolate flavour monkey face shapes." Note: everything in that list is a "flavour" of, a doppelganger for not the actual thing. That can be nice. The dark, cocoa powder profile of the incredibly dense ice-cream is not unpleasant. The "marshmallow" sauce, however, is terrible. Those "chocolate flavour" faces taste cheap and oily but melt readily and, hey, while a zoologist might quibble, they do look reasonably like monkeys. The whole shebang gets sickly quickly.
For kids? 6/10. Adults? 4/10

Sainsbury's, Taste the Difference Toffee and Honeycomb Ice-Cream

Cynically, you may read the blurb – "farmhouse … Devon … handmade toffee sauce … milk from Jersey cows … fresh, natural ingredients …" – and roll your eyes. But taste it and you will eat, if not your words, then a large portion. This is extra-thick, supra-creamy ice-cream that has its own coolly understated toffee flavour, but it is those thick seams of toffee sauce – salted, beautifully rich, long on dark muscovado notes – that are sensational. I found cant "crisp honeycomb"; it appeared to have melted into the ice-cream. Nonetheless, a mature alternative to Caramel Chew Chew.

Tesco Finest West Country Fudge Ice-Cream

Lustrously thick, velvety ice-cream whose fudgy flavour is well modulated. It becomes gradually more concentrated as you progress through the ice-cream, yielding fudge pieces to a knockout sauce – which, although supposedly rippled, does tend to collect in swirled cores. Should you want to mix'n'match, Tesco Finest's chocolate (£3) is also impressive: 70% Tanzanian cocoa solids give it a fruity, black forest gateau-like character. 7/10

Asda, Chewy Chewy Caramel

Full marks for testing the patience of Ben & Jerry's lawyers with that name, but the ice-cream itself feels a little thin and overly aerated (its chief ingredient appears to be reconstituted skimmed milk). It is also "loaded" with nearly 27% toffee sauce (excellent), caramel pieces and milk chocolate caramel cups, but those cups lack instant meltability (real chocolate, see?) and the sauce is timid.

Source - The Guardian - 28th August 2014

Vocabulary Builder:

incarnation - (noun) a person who embodies in the flesh a deity, spirit, or quality.

bask - (verb) lie exposed to warmth and light, typically from the sun, for relaxation or pleasure.

swirly - (adj) movin =g in or characterized by swirling shapes or patterns.

muscovado - (noun) unrefined sugar made from the juice of sugar cane by evaporating it and draining off the molasses.

doozy - (noun) north american informal, something outstanding or unique of its kind.

meek - (adj) quiet, gentle, and easily imposed on; submissive.

twang - (noun)  a strong taste or flavour which stands out, can also be used to describe a nasal sound.

aerated - (adj) (of a liquid) made effervescent by being charged with carbon dioxide or some other gas. (verb) introduce air to a material.

Styrofoam - (noun) (Trademark) a kind of expanded polystyrene used especially food containers.

treacly - (adj) resembling treacle in consistency, taste or appearance.

doppelganger - (noun) a apparition or double of a living person (or in this case, ice-cream).

Questions for Students 

 Taste experiment; Choose 2 supermarkets in your area and 2 ice-creams and compare, just like they've done in the article above.
Is ice-cream over rated?
Where do they make the best ice-cream?

For English classes via Skype, Contact Lisa by email or Whatsapp 0034645424237.