Advanced Intermediate Spanish Podcast 22 – The Mediterranean Diet

paellaThe Mediterranean Diet is renown throughout the world not only for its delicious dishes but also for its health benefits.

In this podcast we hear from Mercedes, la madre de Cynthia y de Maribel, su tía, who talk us through what they perceive as the typical Mediterranean diet.

The challenge in this podcast is understanding just exactly what it is they are saying. Normally, at this level you have been listening to Cynthia and I. You have probably become accustomed to our voices and the expressions we use.

Now we have two new people with different voice tones and new idiomatic expressions. For this reason, it’s worthwhile suggesting that you have a number of attempts at this one.

Listen to it at least three times unless, of course, you captured everything beforehand. Fortunately, both Mercedes and Maribel speak very clearly and at a moderate speed and so you should find it fairly straightforward to capture the idea of what they are saying.

Both Mercedes and Maribel are wives and mothers and have spent many years preparing a wide range of food for their families. Because of this fact, they can be classed as experts on the subject of what we know as the Mediterranean Diet.

In Spain, within the  dynamic of the family, it falls upon the woman of the house to prepare the food. Adding to that the fact that food is probably the most important past time in Spain, then it falls upon the woman of the house to ensure she is able to prepare a wide gamut of tasty food for her family.

One of the things that I personally have noted about a typical meal with our family in Spain is that there are always many different flavours and varieties of food.  The table is littered with various types of salad, vegetables and a range of tastes that far exceed anything that I have experienced here in the U.K.

The other interesting part of eating in Spain is that there always seems to be far too much food (and there is) for the amount of people at the table.  Once the meal is done then all the surplus food goes back into the fridge to be eaten later.

Probably, the biggest fear that any Spanish mother has is that there isn’t enough food to go around.  So important is it to eat heartily in Spain that you can almost guarantee that if you opened any fridge in Spain it would be loaded up with Tupperware filled with the left overs from meals earlier in the week.

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Advanced Intermediate Spanish Podcast 21 – Saber Conocer & Decir in Preterite

data scaleSaber, Conocer and Decir in Preterite Past.

These three verbs are surely some of the more interesting Spanish verbs because of the additional complications they pose to English speaking students. The fact that Saber and Conocer both mean To Know and yet those ‘knowings’ are most often very different makes learning them an interesting process.

To add insult to injury, once they move into the past they become even more complex and their meanings change yet again.

Some interesting question are:

Which verb and  tense do we use if we want to say: “I knew it.”?

How would I say: ” I knew her when I was in school.”?

What about: “I found out the truth yesterday.”?

and finally:

“Where did you meet your wife?”

If you already know how to say these sentences in Spanish then we would say to you: “Enhorabuena.”

However, if you have any doubts then this is the ideal podcast for you to listen to.


Decir in Preterite and Imperfect Past.

Now, let’s discuss some of the more important aspects of the verb “to say”. The reality is that this verb is one, if not the most important verb that any serious student of Spanish should “dominar” totally.


Think about the conversations you have in your own language. How many times do you find yourself telling someone about a conversation you had earlier.

“Well, I said to him that…..And he said to me that… then he said that his sister had said that….”

In our own language we sail through sentences without even noticing the complexity of the structures we are using. Yet, once you are in your second, third or whatever language, suddenly things start to get a little more difficult.

It’s for that reason that you should truly have Decir in Preterite and Imperfect past completely under control.

To begin with, Decir in Preterite is irregular and must be learnt apart from the usual preterite structure. That said, it’s used so often that very soon you’ll have it learnt by heart.

If you have any doubts about how to translate the following sentences, then this is the podcast to listen to.

I said to her that…

She said to me that…

I told her it…

Did you tell him?

Clearly, not everything can be covered in a ten minute podcast and for that reason we back up all of our podcasts with a fully comprehensive Helpsheet and Transcription designed with you in mind.  The helsheets are filled with helpful and current examples of how these verbs are used and then are backed up by some tests to check your understanding.

We hope you find them useful in your learning journey.


Gordon y Cynthia 🙂


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Beginners Spanish Podcast 30 – Test Your Listening Skills

cute scale 30  listen beg

Learning grammar is so important for any student of the Spanish language. In fact, it’s a vital part of building up your listening skill.

However, there comes a time when the grammar needs to be put to one side and the real work of listening to a genuine conversation in Spanish needs to happen.

The Right and the Wrong way to listen to a Spanish podcast.

Yes, that’s right! There is a right and a wrong way to listen to Spanish being spoken. Over the years we have come across many people who do not know how to listen and have had to learn it as a skill.

You may say: Well, all you need do is listen. What can be so difficult about that?

The truth of the matter, however, is that it isn’t as simple as you might have imagined. Let us tell you about some of the ways NOT to listen first:

The Wrong Way

Rabbit in the Headlights.

This is probably the most common. Many students when faced with a Spanish speaker talking to them quite literally PANIC. They start a running dialogue in their head that normally goes like this:

Oh my God! They’re talking to me in Spanish! What if I don’t understand! What will they think of me! I’m not good enough to have them talking to me! They think I’m fluent! I don’t understand! etc. etc. etc.

Finally, the person puts them out of their misery by finishing what they were saying and the poor listener realises that they HAVEN’T HEARD A WORD THEY SAID.

I’m sure I know that word.

This is another common listening mistake. As someone speaks to you in Spanish,  you hear a word that’s familiar but you can’t quite recall what it means. You start to search your memory asking yourself where you heard it before, whilst all the time telling yourself that you should know it.

Finally, the speaker comes to a close and you realise that YOU HAVEN?T HEARD A WORD THEY HAVE SAID.

The Right Way

The Shower Technique.

This is fairly self explanatory.  When you listen to someone what you should do is to imagine that their words are like drops of water from a shower. You let them wash over you without any attempt to focus on one particular drop.  The idea of this is to capture the idea of the sentence and not the individual details of what is being said. If you hear an unfamiliar word, you just let it go by and trust that your mind will fill in the gaps for you. This works very well.

Pay attention to when you listen in your own language. If someone asked you to repeat word for word what someone has told you, you would find it very difficult. Our minds focus on the message rather than the details.

The Vacant Stare.

This combines nicely with the Shower technique in as much as when someone is talking to you in Spanish, you let the words wash over you whilst you adopt a blank kind of mentality. It’s almost like a state of meditation or trance. Let your breathing slow down, soften the focus of your eyes. Relax your mind. When the person has finished, wait for your mind to tell you what they just said. You’ll be amazed how often what your mind tells you they said is absolutely correct. (And now and again it get’s it absolutely wrong, too!)

The Power of Three.

When you are listening to something NEVER assume that if you cannot understand it the first time around you never will.  This is simply not the case. To know if you can understand something you must first listen to it THREE times as a minimum.

The first time you are just getting a very basic idea of what is being said. The second time around your mind begins to help you fill in the details.  The third time, you begin to focus on the words you missed beforehand.

There is no shame in listening to something TEN or TWENTY times. How many times must children hear a word before they can use it?

Be brave Enough to Ask for Clarity.

If you are in a live conversation, then the most valuable phrases you can learn are:

¿Qué significa eso? = What does that mean?


¿Cómo se dice? = How do you say?


¿Puedes repetir eso, por favor? = Can you repeat that, please?

Listen if you want to Speak.

Listening is the key to being able to speak. Many students try to talk all the time and never really move beyond the level they are at. This is because, to improve your Spanish you must listen well.

Remember: We have ONE MOUTH and TWO EARS and we should use them in that ratio when learning Spanish.


Gracias de Gordon y Cynthia. 🙂

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Beginners Spanish Podcast 29 – Learning Spanish Conversation with Opinions

meeting scale beg 29 opinonsLearning Spanish Conversation

In the past

One of the most frequent reasons we hear for people learning Spanish is so that they can have “a chat” with the locals in their favourite holiday resort.  Naturally, “a chat” can mean many things to many people and there are different levels of “chatting” that go from asking someone how they are to asking their opinion on the political climate.

During the 90’s in the U.K. there was a surge in the number of people learning Spanish. This was because 80% of people who went abroad for their holidays went to Spain. Not only that but a lot of people were making plans to retire to Spain and realised that they need to get the “lingo” if they were to survive out there.

The problem was that most people who wanted to learn Spanish were terrified of GRAMMAR. This was a throw back from their school days that they had never learnt to overcome and so many colleges that offered Spanish were getting requests for courses that focussed more on the spoken word than on grammatical structure.

Beginner’s Conversational Spanish. (the oxymoron)

Because of this obvious marketing opportunity, there suddenly appeared on the market a plethora of Spanish classes entitled, “Beginner’s Conversational Spanish.”

Now, for anyone who has learnt a language, you will know that no such thing exists.  Conversing in Spanish or in any other language for that matter is a skill that demands high levels of knowledge and vocabulary, not to speak of a  tremendous command of the tenses.

Yet, despite being mis-sold, the classes proved very popular and as a result an entire generation of Spanish speakers were spawned that without any concious awareness went about killing the language with every sentence they uttered and striking fear into every Spanish waiter this side of the costas.

The Turn Around.

Fortunately, the more serious people learning Spanish these days realise that grammar is a fundamental part of learning. And although it’s not easy at first, they are getting to grips with the fact that it must go hand in hand with with learning vocabulary and useful expressions.

So, it’s in this podcast that we aim to give you some useful ways of making conversation in Spanish. We show you how to give opinions and ask others for theirs.

We give you real life examples of how to respond if you agree with what someone says and what to do if you don’t.

Knowing how to ask these kinds of open questions is the key to instigating great conversations and will give you the opportunity to listen, a great skill that not many people are capable of and yet can be the making of your Spanish.

Join us as we talk you through some key ways to really converse in Spanish.

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How to Learn Spanish in 2014 from LightSpeed Spanish

school scale blog 2014How to Learn Spanish.

Those who massage the truth.

Firstly, for your own sakes, let us be the bearers of the bad news. Despite what you might see awash throughout the internet, the claims that some rather unscrupulous companies make about learning Spanish in three months are to be viewed with extreme caution.

Let us explain what we mean when we say that.

When you decide to embark on your learning journey, you have to be fairly clear about “WHY”  you are choosing to learn Spanish.  This will help you clarify just WHAT LEVEL of Spanish you want to achieve.

Some people believe that if they can order a meal, pass the time of day and buy a beer in Spanish then they are fluent.

Some people believe that if they can talk fluently in Spanish regardless of what it is they are saying (fluently crap) then they have arrived.

Some people believe that fluent means being able to speak in every tense available in Spanish without making a mistake.

And so it is for that reason that  the clear promises made to teach you to become “fluent” in three months, or overnight, or in a weekend, or with 500 words are ambiguous to say the least.

And so, the question for you is: “WHAT DOES FLUENT MEAN?”

Your perception of fluent may not be that of the person next to you and so, it is by knowing for what reason you want to use your Spanish that you will know which course is the right one for you.

How do I choose the right course for me?

These days, there is absolutely no need to shell out lots of cash to start learning Spanish. In fact, we would suggest to you that YOU SHOULD NOT pay large amounts of money to get started.


Because of one simple factor. In every beginners class that we have run, we have found that after ten weeks 75% of the class has given up!

Imagine investing 100’s of dollars, pounds, euros or whatever your currency is only to find after a few weeks that it just isn’t for you.

Far better to start off with the vast amount of free material out there.

But if I invest money won’t it make me more motivated?

If our experience is anything to go by, this is not the case at the beginning. We have seen many students who have invested a lot of money in books and more books and CD’s and anything else and after all that, they have given up without having even opened most of their material.

So what should I do to motivate myself?

This is easy. The biggest motivator for you is the time that you have invested in learning Spanish. The secret of how to learn Spanish is to invest as much time as you can in it. What happens is this: THE MORE TIME YOU INVEST; THE LESS LIKELY YOU ARE TO GIVE IT UP.

Time is our most precious asset and when we invest a lot of it in one area of our lives, we expect payback.

So, where should I start?

You start at the beginning. There are so many options but our suggestion is to choose the free ones. Here at LightSpeed Spanish we offer free video podcasts that help you through a step by step process of learning, from basics all the way through to Advanced. Our podcasts have been produced based on our years of teaching experience and follow a logical sequence using real Spanish in day to day situations.

Of course, we would never say that you should only use our materials. There is a wealth of material out there and we celebrate this fact as it helps us even more to help you. If you have an Android phone, there are some great Apps that help you work daily on your vocabulary and sentence construction.

When should I start?

There is no time like the present! To really get your Spanish moving, all you need do is to go to the very first beginner’s podcast of ours and start to work your way through. Repeat them, skip them, go back and watch again, if you have doubts, ask us. Study daily, become a little obsessed, get passionate and just do it!

We will be with you at every step of the way. Come and join us on our Facebook page and join an ever growing group of enthusiastic students who will show you how to learn Spanish in 2014.

Buena suerte, Gordon y Cynthia 🙂