Repaso 2010

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill - Gulf of Mexico

Image by kk+ via Flickr

El año 2010 se está cerrando.  Mira las fotografías de abajo.  ¿Cuál fue el evento más notable del 2010?

2010 en fotos parte 1

2010 en fotos parte 2

2010 en fotos parte 3

Un poco de gramática
Para hablar del año pasado, en español usamos dos tensos.  Repasa las reglas de gramática del pretérito y el imperfecto antes de practicar con esta actividad de conversación.

Conversación: ¿Qué pasó en el 2010?
Con un compañero, habla de los eventos del 2010.  Mira la lista de eventos en las noticias internacionales en el 2010.  ¿Qué recuerdas de cada situación?

Street-view of the National Palace of Haiti, d...

Terremoto en Haiti. Image via Wikipedia

El terremoto en Haití
Los juegos olímpicos en Canadá
El primer transplante de cara en España

Accidente de avión en que se murieron el presidente, vicepresidente y otros miembros del gobierno de Polonia

Crisis financiera en Grecia e Irlanda
Eyjafjallajökull, El volcán en Islandia
Explosión de la torre petrolera Deepwater Horizon de B.P. en el Golfo de México y el derrame de petróleo que duró 3 meses

La copa mundial en Sudáfrica
Desastres mineros en Los Estados Unidos, Australia, y China—y un rescate milagroso de mineros en Chile
Desastre ecológico en Hungría

Publicación de documentos secretos de los gobiernos de varios países por el sitio de red Wikileaks
La violencia en México
Tensiones entre Corea del Norte y Corea del Sur

¿Qué evento te impresionó mucho?

Review: L’auberge espagnole


L'Auberge espagnole

L’auberge espagnole. Image via Wikipedia

L’auberge espagnole is a typical coming-of-age movie.  Young man moves to a different country, makes friends, and finds himself.  You already know how it’s going to end.  But the ending of this French comedy is not the focus; it’s the lessons learned and friendships formed along the way.

Xavier is a young Parisian of indeterminate age—as a college student he could be in his early 20’s, but looks older—who decides to study abroad in Barcelona, Spain for a year.  His goal is to learn Spanish so he can get a corporate job handpicked for him by a friend of his father’s when he returns to France.  His mother and girlfriend are not happy to see him leave, and in the beginning Xavier seems ambivalent about the whole idea himself.  Upon moving into the Spanish apartment of the title, the movie really takes off.  Xavier’s relationships with the people he meets in Barcelona—his many international flatmates and friends—propel the movie.  He learns to speak Spanish and Catalan, debate questions of identity and culture with other students, and develops friendships with people he’d never been exposed to before.  His character, and his worldview, blossom.

Although he spends a lot of time exploring Spain’s beaches and bars, it’s not all fun, games and recreational marijuana for Xavier.  Growing up is hard.  We follow along as Xavier suffers from insomniac hallucinations and becomes convinced he’s going insane.  Despite it all, though, he seems so at home in his new, relaxed personality and lifestyle that we know that as soon as the time comes to return to his tidy French life and corporate job, conflict is inevitable.

This movie was a hit in France and internationally, but it’s not a masterpiece.  The story feels patchwork at times.  Plotlines involving different roommates begin intriguingly and are never resolved.  The movie’s high point is a comedic side story about the British roommate Wendy, her boyfriend, her lover, and her brother, in which Xavier is only peripherally involved.  For a movie made in 2002, there seem to be more than a few anachronisms.  Xavier’s cell phone is enormous, and he and many others spend an inordinate amount of time on public payphones.  A big deal is made of Xavier’s leaving home, abandoning girlfriend and family and being out of contact for an entire year, but he’s only going from Paris to Barcelona.  Several characters react with incredulity and disdain on finding out another character is gay, displaying an attitude at odds with the image of the young, liberal, 21st century international student.  While the movie goes out of its way to present different characters of different nationalities, there is only one African character and Middle Easterners and East Asians are conspicuously absent.

Despite these flaws, L’auberge espagnole is charming and watchable.  It holds the viewer’s attention for all of its 122 minutes and then some.  It will appeal to viewers who have lived abroad.  And it’s funny.  Jokes range from a visual gag about paperwork and bureaucracy, to puns involving curse words in different languages.  The more the viewer knows about the multiple languages and cultures presented in the movie, the more the subtler jokes and references will make sense.  At the same time, the film is aware of the danger of peddling in stereotypes, and makes light of the idea by personifying all its European cliches through one supremely obnoxious character.

L’auberge espagnole is not a bilingual movie—it’s polyglot.  We hear French, Spanish, Catalan, English, and other languages spoken by people of different nationalities and different accents.  Don’t succumb to the temptation to see this movie dubbed.  Watch it in the original French with the subtitles of your choosing.  The “original French” will be half Spanish with a smattering of English mixed in, anyway.

The true star of this movie is Erasmus, the study abroad program in which Xavier participates.  Study abroad is presented as a liberating, carefree, and chaotic way to discover one’s true self.  Larger questions of identity, set against the politics of the European Union, invite the viewer to think.  This multilingual movie will appeal to language learners, international students and armchair travelers.

Review: L’auberge espagnole (2002).  Written and directed by Cédric Klapisch.  Stars Roman Duris, Judith Godrèche, Cécile de France, Kelly Reilly, Audrey Tautou, Cristina Brondo, Federico D’Anna, Barnaby Metschurat, Christian Pagh, and Kevin Bishop.

What did you think of this movie?  Leave a comment.

La navidad por todo el mundo

Navidad en Oaxaca

Navidad en Oaxaca, Mexico. Image via Wikipedia

Es la temporada de La Navidad, una fiesta que se celebra en muchos partes del mundo de maneras distintas. Mira las fotografías de The Big Picture. Describe las fotos a un companero. ¿Cuál es tu favorita?

Catedral de Toledo-Navidad

La Navidad en Toledo. Image via Wikipedia

Vocabulario para describir las tradiciones de la navidad:
San Nicolás
Papa Noel
Viejo Pascuero
árbol de navidad
intercambio de regalos
La Misa del Gallo
los Reyes Magos

¿Qué significan las palabras arriba? Usa el internet para buscar el significado de las tradiciones. ¿Se celebra así en tu país?

Uncommon names: blessing or curse?

The parenting website BabyCenter has released a list of top baby names in the United States for the year 2010.

Top 10 Girls’ Names of 2010

  1. Sophia
  2. Isabella
  3. Olivia
  4. Emma
  5. Chloe
  6. Ava
  7. Lily
  8. Madison
  9. Addison
  10. Abigail


Top 10 Boys’ Names of 2010

  1. Aiden
  2. Jacob
  3. Jackson
  4. Ethan
  5. Jayden
  6. Noah
  7. Logan
  8. Caden
  9. Lucas
  10. Liam

Earlier this year, the U.S. Social Security Administration reported on the most popular male and female names of the decade– Jacob and Emily.  Interestingly, this decade’s most popular names are popular, but not as popular as favorite names of the past.  Once, traditional English-language names like George, Anne, John and Elizabeth were very common.  One of the most common names for years– Mary– now isn’t even in the top 50.  In an article for Live Science, Jeanna Bryner analyzes the most common names in the United States according to Social Security information since 1937.  Analysis shows that fewer babies have the most popular names now than they did 50 or 60 years ago.

“Essentially, today’s kids (and later adults) will stand out from classmates. For instance, in the 1950s, the average first-grade class of 30 children would have had at least one boy named James (top name in 1950), while in 2013, six classes will be necessary to find only one Jacob, even though that was the most common boys’ name in 2007.”

Maybe, in the Internet age, parents want their children to be a unique search result on Google.  Maybe they think an interesting name will allow children to market themselves later in life.  Maybe, as the United States becomes more diverse, names from many languages are increasing the variety.  But is an uncommon name a good thing?  Will the child be proud to be unusual?  Or will constantly having to repeat one’s name and spell it too be more of a burden than a blessing?

Give us your opinion. Vote in the poll above.

Want to know more? Read about another name that proved popular in 2010, practice English with Bilinguish’s conversation questions, and play the spelling game. Then let us know what you think about your name.

Leave us a comment here.Is your name common or unusual?  Do you like it or hate it?  What is the most common name in your country?  What is the most unusual?


I hope my parents gave me a name with strong marketing potential! Image via Wikipedia

What’s my name?

A picture of a rubber duck wearing a nametag, ...

Nametags are necessary if you speak only Duck. Image via Wikipedia

What does your name say about you? It’s on your birth certificate and on all your official identification.  Often it’s the first thing people learn about you.  Some names are passed from generation to generation.  Others are unusual, unique, and difficult to spell.  Some people are proud of their names.  Other people prefer a nickame, or to change their name entirely.

Our names are chosen for us before we are even born, and certainly before we are old enough to give an opinion.  What can you do if you don’t like your name?  Depending on where in the world you live, it can be easy or near impossible to change your legal name as an adult.

Have you ever wanted to change your name?
Read this article about a man from Lane County, Oregon, United States who changed his name to Captain Awesome.”

“The former Mr. Smith says he faced a Lane County judge who questioned his seriousness. The judge that granted the request made him swear he wasn’t changing his name for fraudulent reasons.”

Why did the man want to change his name?  Why did he choose “Captain Awesome?”  Click here to read the article.

After you read, work with a partner to answer these questions:
What was the man’s original name?
Why did he change his name?
How did he change his signature?
Who rejected his new signature?  Why?
What does “Captain Awesome” mean?

No Name

Image by Giant Ginkgo via Flickr

Questions for conversation:

What is your name?  What does it mean?

Who gave you your name?  Are you named after somebody?  (For example: Do you have the same name as a relative or a famous person?)

Do you like your name?  Why?

Do you have a nickname?  How did you get it?  What does it mean?

Often, people who are studying a new language choose a new name for themselves in their language classes.  Have you chosen an “English name” for yourself that is different from your given name? If so, how did you get that name?  Tell your partner about it.

What are the most common names in your country?

Do you know anybody who has an interesting or unusual name?  What is it?

Imagine you can choose a new nickname for yourself.  What nickname do you choose?  Why?

Imagine you can choose a new name for yourself.  You are going to legally change your name on all of your identification.  What name do you choose?  Why?

With a partner, pick new names for your classmates.  Why did you choose those names?  What do they mean?

Spelling game

Now that you have chosen a new name for yourself, practice introducing yourself to your classmates.  The object of the game is to make a list of all of the new names in the class.  Introduce yourselves and ask your classmates their names.  Make sure to ask “How do you spell that?” and practice spelling names in English.  The first person to make a complete, correct list of classmates’ new names is the winner.

La Virgen de Guadalupe

Etching by Jose Guadalupe Posada, depicting St...

Image via Wikipedia

Hoy en México y en todo América Latina se celebra el Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe. Dicen que en el 12 de diciembre de 1531, la Virgen apareció en un cerro en Tepeyac, en lo que ahora es la Ciudad de México. La Virgen de Guadalupe es una santa patrona para América Latina.

Vocabulario para el Dia de la Virgen De Guadalupe
Juan Diego

¿Conoces la historia de la Virgen de Guadalupe?  Mira el videoclip de una película que cuenta parte de la historia.  Los actores en el video hablan nauhuatl, el idioma indígena de esa región de México.  El video está subtitulado en español y luego en inglés.  Practica el vocabulario narrando la historia a un compañero.

La Virgen de Guadalupe tambien se conoce como Tonantzin, La Morenita de Tepeyac, y La Reina de Mexico. ¿Qué significan los nombres?  ¿Por qué se llama así?

A view from Tepeyac Hill Where Juan Diego had ...

Image via Wikipedia

Preguntas para conversacion:
¿Qué simboliza la Virgen de Guadalupe para los latinos? ¿ Por qué?
¿Has visto imagenes o interpretaciones distintas de la Virgen de Guadalupe? ¿Cómo eran?
En tu cultura, ¿hay un imagen similar a la Virgen de Guadalupe que unifica la gente?  Explica.

Me-tropolis! Cities of the Future conversation game

Ever wish you lived somewhere else?  Play this conversation game and design your own urban center, your “Me-tropolis,” your City of the Future.  This game can be played with a partner or a class.  Use it to practice vocabulary related to cities and place names.  Conversation skills include description, stating an opinion, and coming to a consensus with a group.  Grammar skills include the present tense, superlatives and comparatives.

1. Warm up
Introduce yourselves.  Say your name and a city you like or want to live in.
My name is Silvia and I want to live in Tokyo because I like Japanese food.

2. Introduction: the Best and Worst of Our City
Talk about the city where you live or a city you know about.  What is the best part of the city?  What is the worst part?
Think of two or three ideas for each question.

3. Vocabulary generator: The heart of the city
Think about the city where you live or a city everyone knows well.  What is the most important place in the city? Make a list of places. If the group can’t think of a lot of places, have everyone should think of three places that you would always have in the center of the city. Ideas can include:

A Bursting City

Image by ecstaticist via Flickr

state government building
judicial building
police station
fire station
post office

4. Partner activity: the most important

When you have a list of at least 12 items, pick five that you think are the most important.  If you are playing with one other person, each of you picks five individually.  If you are playing with a larger group, work with a partner to pick five.  Make sure to say why you think your five are essential for any city.  Why are the locations you picked important?  What do people do there?  Why are they more necessary than other locations?

Landscape from kuwait city

Image by khalid almasoud via Flickr

5. Group activity: Designing the Perfect City

In a group of three or four people, draw a plan for a new city.  You can pick a name and a location for your city (in the mountains, near the beach, on a river, etc).  Come to a consensus about the buildings you will have in the center of your city.  You can only use 8 of the items on your original list.  All the items may be important, but you have to pick the 8 most important for the center of your city.

Your new city is the best organized, the most modern, the most efficient, and the best city in the world.  Think about the problems in the city where you live now (or a city you know about).  How is your City of the Future different?  How is it better?

Answer these questions:

What materials are you using to construct the buildings in the center of your city? (wood, brick, stone, adobe, etc)
What government buildings (if any) do you have in the center?
What do the people do for fun in the center of your city?
Do you have public transportation?  If so, what kind?  (subway, train, monorail, buses, public bicycles, etc)
Is there a place for many people to gather in the center of your city?  (theater, plaza, church, etc)
Talk about what you have in the entire city.  Do you have a commercial district?  Where is it?  Do you have a residential district?  Where is it?  Do you have an industrial district?  Where is it?  What kinds of products does your city produce?

6. Global feedback: Cities of the future
Tell the class about your group’s city. Talk about all your city’s best features. How is it better than cities in the world right now? As each group makes a presentation, go back to your original list of places and put a star or check next to each place that a group used in the center of its city. Which places were the most popular? Why?
As a class, vote for the best city.

Conversation objectives: develop fluency through conversation, come to a consensus, practice nouns and superlative and comparative adjectives, practice the present tense, build vocabulary through conversation
Ideal group size: Six to twelve people.
For more general conversation topics, click here.  For more conversation games, click here.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 587 other followers

%d bloggers like this: