Monthly Archives: December 2017

5 Lucky New Year Traditions in Spain

12 lucky grapes

Every New Year’s Eve (Noche Vieja) people gather in the Puerta del Sol in Madrid to hear the chimes of midnight ring out. Upon each chime it is traditional to put a grape in your mouth and if you manage to eat all 12 you will have good luck through the coming year. Shops sell packs of 12 grapes especially for this new year tradition. Often they are not seedless grapes, making it even more of a challenge! It is a really funny experience especially when you have a go for the first time and you are surrounded by people laughing – it is not easy to achieve! Continue reading

Turrón – Spain’s traditional Christmas sweet

This sweet nougat made of almonds, honey sugar and egg white, is one of the most traditional desserts eaten at Christmas in Spain. It is of Arabic origin and was introduced in Spain over 500 years ago by the Moors. It is produced in the town of Jijona, 30 miles to the north of Alicante. The area’s economy is based on the manufacture of turrón and there is even a museum of turrón.
Turrón is produced in this area because the wild flowers on the mountains surrounding Jijona allow mountain bees to produce rich honey, a key ingredient. Along with honey, almonds from local orchards allow the “turroneros” to make this delicious artisan sweet.

Continue reading

5 Weird and Wonderful Spanish Christmas Traditions

Everyone knows Spain likes to party. They have a fiesta for almost any reason throughout the year, however, especially at Christmas time, when they stretch out the celebrations for longer than us here in the UK, (from 22nd December with the Christmas lottery until 6th January – Kings Day) they have some really funny fiestas and superstitions. Here are the top 5 weirdest Christmas traditions in Spain: Continue reading

Memories of Christmas in Québec

I spent my first Christmas in Canada on a farm in a remote village in Québec called Padoue.
I was guaranteed a white Christmas, as the snow had lain thick on the ground since November, and outdoor ice rinks were everywhere, made simply by packing snow, flooding the surface with water, and allowing it to freeze. The farmer’s wife had been busy making home-made chocolates and pies, and I couldn’t wait to see what a French-Canadian Christmas Dinner would be like! Continue reading

10 ways to keep your language learning going over Christmas

… and other busy times!

December is a busy time and if you are learning a language you are probably wondering how you are going to fit in your language learning on top of everything else. You may be preparing to take a whole month off and start again in January. However, if you prepare in advance, you can easily add in a few language learning activities to coincide nicely with the festive period. Read on for 10 tips to continue learning a language over the Christmas period. Some of them can also be applied to any busy time throughout the year. Continue reading

How to agree or disagree in Spanish

If you have ever had an in-depth conversation or discussion with a Spanish person you will know just how heated they can become! Spanish people tend to be very opinionated and once you get in a discussion with them or if you overhear one you may think they are arguing with each other by the way they speak so loudly, wave their arms around and stamp their feet. However, they are not normally arguing, this is just their animated way of expressing themselves.

In this blog post we will look at how you can agree or disagree with someone’s opinion in Spanish. Continue reading

Improve your French pronunciation with Francis Cabrel!

Francis Cabrel is a French singer-songwriter and guitarist who rose to fame in the 80s. I first heard his songs when I was living in a remote area of Québec, and even now when I hear him sing I am transported back to that time and place, the farmhouse in the deep snow in the middle of the Canadian winter. His songs have a haunting, poetic quality that linger long in the mind, and are very popular both in France and Canada.

But more importantly for language-learning, he pronounces his words very clearly and quite slowly, so they are useful for improving your pronunciation of French words and your listening skills. Try listening to some of his songs on YouTube and see if you can pick out the words. The more you listen, the more the individual words will start to pop out of the stream of sound, and it can be quite exciting and rewarding when you realize you can “hear” the words and understand them! You might like to try singing along. The rhymes within the songs will also help you learn the correct pronunciation of the words, like rien rhyming with gardien, and aujourd’hui rhyming with nuits.

Here is a Youtube video of one of his most popular songs, Je l’aime à mourir, with the lyrics and English translation, to get you started: Continue reading