Advanced Speaker Podcast 21 – Spanish Stories and Funny Moments

tea scale adv 21

Funny Spanish Stories.

In this podcast Cynthia and I talk about some funny things that happened to us during our Christmas break. (Listen to the podcast and you’ll understand ‘el significado de’ the teabag photo.)

It offers you an ideal opportunity to test your listening skills.

The Spanish stories we tell are simple, day to day things that happened whilst we spent time in Spain with Cynthia’s family during the Christmas break.

Listening well is a learnt skill.

It’s worth spending a little time discussing the merits of being an accomplished listener. In my years of teaching thousands of people, I have discovered that some people are great at listening, whilst some others are absolutely rubbish at it.

Quite why this is the case, I don’t really know, save to say that I think it may have something to do with focus, interest in others and fear.  (But not necessarily in that order.)

Auditory Dyslexia

This inability to hear what is being said, along with a struggle to distinguish the subtleties of sound seems to create in the listener what I have come to call Auditory Dyslexia.

I recall talking with an English friend once in Spanish and she was trying to say the word, ‘EMBAJADA’ or embassy.

The problem was that she was saying: “EMBASADA”. I corrected her, as did her Spanish partner and she said, “Ah, vale.”, and then continued on to say “EMBASADA” over and over again without the slightest adjustment to her poor pronunciation.

This was in the early days and at that time I thought that she simply couldn’t care less about pronunciation.

Since then I realise that just as there are people who are tone deaf, there are people who are pronunciation deaf. They simply cannot hear the distinction between sounds.

There is a solution.

This doesn’t mean that we should accept that, just because we can’t pick up on the subtlety of sounds like others can, that we should give up.

There’s a famous story about an experiment that Einstein made with someone who was tone deaf. He spent some quality time with the person presenting them enormously different sounds that were easy to distinguish and gradually gaving them sounds with differences that were less easy to hear.

The end result was that the person was finally able to copy different tones that at first they couldn’t even hear. And this was all done in one sitting.

You’ve done it once.

The fact is, if you’ve learnt a language once, and done a fairly good job at it, then you can do it again.

Some people have a natural flare for languages, they can copy accents and seem to pick up on sounds easily. They, however, are in the minority. The majority of us have to work at it. And in that sentence lies the secret.

Learning to hear sounds in Spanish is a job that deserves your attention. If you find that your teachers and Spanish speaking friends are correcting your pronunciation, that’s a signal that you need to do more work.

Here are some quick tips:

Read out loud to your friends/teacher/self.

It’s great practice. Take time to work specifically on the sounds of the words.

Copy individual words until you have them beaten.

Like monkey see, monkey do, just copy, copy copy. (Copy a nice speaker.)

Listen to something multiple times.

Listen until you have it. This can mean listening and copying 20, 30, 40 times. There is no value in rushing and ending up with bad pronunciation or the wrong end of the stick.

Practice, practice, practice.

No matter what they say, practice is the mother of all learning. Be tenacious, like a bull terrier. Don’t let go until you have it!

And so, I will now leave you to watch or listen to the podcast and our funny Spanish stories. Enjoy it. We did!

Saludos, Gordon 🙂



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Advanced Speaker Podcast 22 – Spanish Economy and the La Crisis

crisis scale 22 advWhat is La Crisis.

Talk to any Spanish person about the Spanish economy and you will hear the words ‘la crisis’ within their first few sentences.

In fact, talk to any Spanish person about anything and you will still find them mentioning the Spanish economic crisis very early in the conversation.

What is it all about?

I’m no expert, but from what I am told and what I have seen, Spain has gone from boom to bust in the last five or so years.  As we turned into the millennium, Spain’s construction industry was working at the top of their game.

The banks were pouring money into businesses and the whole financial infrastructure was buoyant and positive.

Then, for the reasons that only they know, the banks suddenly stopped the money flow.

The knock on effect.

All good business is built on the speculation of new ventures, supported and backed financially. Particularly in construction, payments for work done are typically made after the event and so, the big and small companies rely on the banks to support them during the building process with the promise of pay-back after the job has been finished.

When the banks closed their doors to the support of any new business, the entire industry literally ground to a halt. Nobody could pay for the goods they had ordered, the work that was to be done and quite often, the wages of their workers.

Before the crisis hit, the majority of Spain’s business were there to support the construction industry or, tourism, another important strand to the economy.

Suddenly, the vast majority of the construction support businesses got into financial problems and closed.

The impact on Spain’s economy and on the population has been catastrophic.

The domino effect.

The more the country saw a decline in construction, the more it began to affect other sectors of the Spanish economy. Money was no longer pouring into the government coffers. Municipal councils were finding it difficult to pay their staff. The ratio of civil servants to workers in private industry became worryingly unbalanced. There simply wasn’t enough money coming in to cover all the costs of running the country.


So many businesses have closed that there are millions upon millions of people ‘en paro’, without work, and the number keeps growing. The vast majority of the people unable to find work are under thirty and very angry.

In fact, if I was to describe the ‘ambiente’ in Spain right now I’d say it was one of anger and frustration.  The people are furious at was has happened to their country and what is now happening to them.  In the attempt to reduce costs, the government is cutting services on all sides and what was never a terribly generous government has had to become careful to the point of being ‘tacaño’.

Light at the end of the tunnel?

This remains to be seen. When you listen to the podcast of Mercedes and Maribel giving their perceptions of ‘la crisis’, pay special attention to feeling they project of real confusion and annoyance at what is happening. Spanish people love their country and are very proud of its rich culture and heritage.

This makes them all the more sad when they see what is happening to everything they love these days. They blame the government, yet the government has probably been just another victim in this affair. Until the banks begin to open their doors again and flood the market with ‘dinero’, things are going to remain the same.

Can we help?

Ahora estoy bastante deprimido jajaja.  We can help, of course, by supporting Spain’s tourism industry. Spain is a fantastic place to visit and if you have never been, then my recommendation is that you go there sooner rather than later.

You will certainly not be disappointed with the experience.



Gordon 🙂

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Advanced Speaker 23 – Madrid vs Barcelona Spanish Lesson

football scale adv 23Madrid vs Barcelona.

There exists a tremendous rivalry between ‘los madrileños’ from Madrid and ‘los barceloneses’ from Barcelona.

One would imagine that the rivalry exists specifically because of football and the fact that the two great cities have two of the best football teams in the world.

It goes much further back than that.

According to my sources (mi suegro/my father-in-law) the problems between Barcelona and Madrid started in the year 1700 when there was a war between the then king of Spain, who was French and the pretender to the throne, who was Austrian.

The ‘catalanes’ were beaten in their attempts to win the throne of Spain and since then, there has been ‘un pique’, or resentment between the two cities.

Clearly, this feeling shows up in the rivalry that exists between the two football teams.

José and Mercedes

In the video-podcast we see a hilarious example of how football can cause friction even in the same household. José, Cynthia’s father, is a dyed in the wool supporter of Real Madrid, (madridista/merengue) whilst Mercedes supports el Barça (culés).

To say that Mercedes supports el Barça is stretching the truth a little. As you will see in the podcast, she actually knows very little about the team and frequently needs help from José when talking about the players.

She admits during the podcast that the only reason that she follows Barcelona is to go against José and have a bit of fun.

The Podcast

And that is what happens in the podcast. The dynamic between the two is very funny, with Mercedes struggling to muster up a convincing argument as to why her team is better. Finally, after losing the argument various times she plumbs for criticising Real Madrid’s financial situation, which, on the face of it, seems to be far worse than that of Barcelona.

Fortunately, both of them take the whole situation with a pinch of salt and the banter is very friendly and fun. In Spain, however, things aren’t taken quite as lightly and the serious supporters are exactly that. They take their team and every result personally.

Whenever there is a match between the two rivals, Madrid vs Barcelona, just about every bar in the two cities is filled to capacity with ardent supporters shouting for their team.

Personally, football isn’t something that interests me (Gordon). As a child my father used to take me to watch Sunderland and I feel that the entire experience left me traumatised. He he. (I apologise to any Sunderland supporters.)

If you ever choose to visit Spain, however, you must be prepared to have at least one conversation about football, even if it’s just to say: “No lo entiendo.” (I don’t understand it.) or even more daringly, “No me interesa.” (It doesn’t interest me.)

We hope you enjoy the podcast as much as we did.

Gordon 🙂

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Advanced Speaker 24 – Spanish Insults The ‘Mild’ Options (18+)

leche scaleSpanish Insults.

The first thing to make clear when we talk about Spanish insults is that we are talking about the way insults are used in the Spanish mainland.

Every country has its own way of using insults. In some countries in Latin America, for example, everyday, easy on the ear swear words from Spain would cause tremendous offence.


When learning these expressions and words, please use them with care and do not drop them, willy nilly into conversation unless you know that the person you are talking to will not take offence.

Lo más ligero.

There are some very light words that are used extremely frequently in Spain. Let’s take a look at the word ‘leche’ or milk.

On the face of it, it would seem that this is a fairly innocuous word. However, it has its place in this list of light swear words.


If you get a shock, then you are well within your rights to shout: ¡Leches!

This is the equivalent of ‘Goodness!’ or perhaps, ‘Holy cow!’ or if in frustration, it could mean ‘Bugger!’ or ‘Bloody hell’.

Whatever it does mean, it is one of the lightest of the light.

Estar cabreado/enfadado/enojado

When someone is in a bad mood, or perhaps has a bit of a nasty side they can be described as ‘having bad milk’.

example: Qué mala leche tienes! = You’re very nasty. or, You’re in a bit of a bad mood, aren’t you?

Friendly banter.

This is also used in friendly banter when a pal has said something to make fun of you or has been brutally honest with you, you can say the above sentence in a jokey way.

Having a poo.

I personally think one of the strangest things about Spanish insults is the way they seem to be obsessed with having a poo in things.

You will see as you go through the series of three podcasts that as the insults get progressively stronger, the places that they poo in get progressively worse.

For the moment, however, let’s look at the light version, which is in the milk.

Goodness gracious.

When you want to express surprise or shock, or amusement, or irony or really, any reaction to an event, then you can begin to poo in places.

To do this you say…Me cago en..

This comes from the verb, Cagarse, which means to poo oneself.

The lightest version is: ¡Me cago en la leche! which translates very much as: Well, goodness me! or Good grief!

I’m constantly amused that this is light given that it involves the act of having a poo in or on something. Yet, mums use it with their children all the time.


¡Qué guapísimo eres, me cago en la leche! = What a handsome boy you are, for goodness sake.

As bizarre as it may seem, this is probably one of the most popular swear words in Spain and so, expect to hear it often and in all of it’s versions. We’ll cover them in the next podcast.

So, enjoy the podcast and remember, these words are better to be used as reference only until you know how to use them correctly. Misuse often offends. jeje

Saludos, Gordon 🙂

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Advanced Speaker 25 – Spanish Swear Words Medium Strength (18+)

pollo scaleSpanish Swear Words.

For those of our followers who have already watched or listened to our previous podcast on Spanish swear words, then you will know that the Spanish are very good at cursing. In fact, swearing is as much a part of their life as is tortilla española or la paella.

It’s important to add the disclaimer that the Spanish swear words we cover in this podcast only apply to Spain and are NOT something we recommend you to use carelessly. In other Spanish speaking countries they could be considered very offensive.

A tomar por culo.

Let’s focus on this particular expression in the blog. The reason for this is that it’s probably one of the most common and interesting Spanish insults.

In English we have something similar in our expression, “Shove it up your arse.”

The Spanish are very frequently telling people to “¡Vete a tomar por culo!” which, literally is “Go and take it up the bum.”

The thing is, just like the English expression, “Bugger off.” the original meaning is no longer appropriate nor current and so, “Vete a tomar por culo.” really means, “P…s off, F…k off”, or “Bugger off”.

What happened in 2005.

The fact is that in Spain, the word “culo” and the phrase “por el culo” appear everywhere. I recall that in the lead up to the 2005 “noche vieja” (New Year’s Eve) everyone was talking about the suggestion made by a famous TV celebrity. He had suggested that everyone in the country should wish each other a Happy New Year in this fashion:

Feliz año 2005, por el culo te la hinco.

And, effectively, that’s what everyone did.

Being a curious person, I had to ask about the expression as I was unfamiliar with the verb HINCAR, which I was informed meant to plunge, stab or thrust.

Then, continuing with my line of questioning, I asked what, to me, was the more intriguing question:

“And what does the ‘LA’ signify?”

There then followed a moment of extreme embarrassment in which everyone in my Spanish family went red in the face.  Finally, after a long pause, Cynthia said to me: “Bueno, ¿qué crees que será, Gordon?”

It was then that I realised that the ‘LA’ referred to that infamous word that so many students get mixed up with ‘pollo’ and that is, “polla”, which means ‘cock’ or ‘dick’.

It was then that I really understood the relaxed and groovy attitude that Spanish people have toward Spanish swear words and profanities.

I don’t need to translate the sentence for you, for I’m sure you can work out what virtually the entire Spanish nation was saying to one another as a New Year greeting. je je

Enjoy the podcast. And don’t take it personally. We really did it for a bit of fun and and education. After all, if you are going to Spain, you are going to hear these words, like it or not!

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