¿Cómo mantener el Lenguaje Secundario?

En la actualidad nuestras vidas permanecen agitadas por gran cantidad de deberes y poco tiempo disponible. Entre el trabajo, los estudios y los quehaceres del hogar, se nos hace difícil encontrar espacio en nuestro calendario, especialmente para aprendizaje adicional.

Un área de la cual escucho inquietudes con frecuencia es la de hablantes de inglés como segunda lengua, quienes temen perder sus habilidades por el hecho de no darle uso continuo. Me preguntan cómo lograr seguir estudiando inglés si hay otras prioridades en sus vidas.

La verdad es que dominar una segunda lengua es un proceso complejo al cual hay que dedicar tiempo y esfuerzo para su adquisición y posterior mantenimiento, máxime, si la persona vive en un país donde la lengua oficial no es el inglés.

Afortunadamente, esta tarea se ha hecho más fácil en la medida que el idioma inglés ha tomado preponderancia, además del desarrollo de tecnologías para su uso. Adicionalmente, involucrarse en actividades que garanticen que el Lenguaje-2 se mantenga actualizado y listo para su uso cuando sea necesario.

A continuación, presento algunas buenas prácticas y medidas que pueden ayudar a mantener el lenguaje secundario en óptimas condiciones:

  1. Rodearse de exposición a todas las habilidades lingüísticas: programación de TV en inglés, listas de reproducción de canciones en inglés, podcasts de programas de radio en inglés, revistas, libros y periódicos. Finalmente, escribir un diario personal, un blog, la agenda, las notas de post-it, composiciones formales, etc. en idioma inglés.
  2. Utilizar un diccionario en el celular, tablet o laptop: Existen varias apps que pueden ayudar para estos fines. Merriam-Webster tiene algunas que son estupendas y que trabajan sin internet, hay otras que son igualmente adecuadas.
  3. Pagar una tutoría: Mantener un programa de clases individualizado puede servir a los fines de adaptación al horario personal y las facilidades de poder recibirlo en el hogar u oficina.
  4. Revisar los libros: Echar un vistazo a los libros de texto y de trabajo de niveles anteriores puede refrescar el conocimiento y aclarar dudas que hayan podido surgir. Tambien el uso de libros nuevos que esten el mercado es buena idea si se sigue un plan de clases que uno mismo puede diseñar.
  5. Hablar, hablar: Si se pudiera encontrar un circulo de amigos en el trabajo o vida personal que incluya personas que hablen la lengua, sería estupendo para mantener el idioma vivo. Viajar o visitar lugares donde podamos interactuar con hablantes es otra opción factible.




How to Produce Oral English

When I look back to the time I started producing oral English language, I realize that it took place long time before I was able to do so. It seems as if it worked like magic because I didn’t have to consciously remember how to say things in my native language, and the mental images would take the form of words when I needed it.

I’ve seen the same process in many of the students that I interview for placement tests and during casual conversations with intermediate levels. They are not sure how it works, but they are able to find the words and structures to express their ideas.

You too, can develop this ability if you’re serious about your effort to learn the new language. All it takes  is commitment and hard work. For some, it will be easier, and for the rest of us like it was my case, it’s the result of systematic enforcement.

Firstly, there’s the need to increase vocabulary, for this is the base of language. It’s been said that a learner needs to incorporate at least 7 new words everyday, so imagine the importance of words, expressions and collocations to speak up your mind.

Second, being aware of the structure required to keep up with a normal conversation, such as simple present tense, simple past, and future. Learn the rules of tenses including varied-sentence types: affirmative and negative statements, Y/N questions, WH-questions.

Lastly, making sure that intonation, pronunciation and clarity comply with the standard of the people you speak to; in other words, there’s no effective communication if the other person cannot easily understand you.

So just follow this 1-2-3 method to accomplish the goal of producing oral language, and make yourself proud of being able to interact with others through the wonderful English channel.



Be the Best Teacher You Can Be

Be the Best Teacher You Can Be

What do you think about the subject of this question? WHY would you want to be a better teacher? Is it important for you? for your students? for our society? When it comes to making decisions about our careers there are several considerations to take into account and it could be hard to get the right choice.

Deciding on being better at what we do can be simplified by a method, a decision model that it’s simple and efficient, especially when our decision involves two options: being a better teacher or staying the same. Here’s a plain decision- making model convenient at any given condition:

  1. Relax. Take a deep breath and expelled air, do it twice. Bringing oxygen to you brain will enhance your performance and health.
  2. Say something positive. Something like “I can do this” or “I was born for success” to boost good vibes.
  3. Identify the problem: The issue here is to make a decision that is relevant to you and many others, and what are the consequences of it.
  4. Think of all possible solutionsGreat teachers help create great students. In fact, research shows that an inspiring and informed teacher is the most important school-related factor influencing student achievement, so it is critical to pay close attention to how we train and support both new and experienced educators. Consider the consequences of your solution. 
  5. What is important to you? Are you a persistent and progressive professional? Experience is not doing the same thing over and over again but to improve the methods over the course of time.
  6. Make the decision. After reflecting on all the previous, it’s time for action.

This way, and following up a methodical path to successfully achieve the goal, think for a moment in three variables of WHAT is needed to become better at teaching:

  • Knowledge: Reflection, Self-Assessment, Conferences & Workshops, Peer coaching, Readings, Degree & Certifications.
  • Resources: Pictures, Audio texts, Games and Visual aids: Projector/Interactive Board/Computer, Lesson Plans, Teacher Guides & Textbooks.
  • Motivation: Professional Growth, Retribution, Expertise, Status, Passion and Knowledge Share.

Then follow the logical next step, which is HOW to overtake the challenge. There would be many, but we have gathered some that are essential and commonly seen in a teacher everyday’s tasks:

  • Opening our Minds
  • Planning
  • Reflecting and Sharing
  • Exploring
  • Interacting

To illustrate each, here are some stories that relate in distinctive ways:

Open your mind. One day teachers are invited to a workshop of the new Editorial assigned to make the book changes in the teenagers’ program of the school after 6 years of using another Editorial.  Through the plenary, teachers find out about the “no homework” strategy used by this new platform, and the technological input in the monitoring and assessment of students’ progress. Immediate reaction can be witnessed in the room as a negative feature to implement. The panel in charge presents three teachers through a Skype call, in order to tell their own experience using the new method. A teacher raises the hand and asks, “Does this mean I have more paths to communicate with my students at any time?” The presenters confirm the statement and elaborate based on that idea. You can notice the difference in the ambient of the room.

Plan. Jules is preparing for her Adults class next Thursday, and she notices she has only two more classes to cover a full unit. She feels nervous and anxious, since by her own experience and knowing how she likes to deliver the lesson, she would have to select the material to teach and sacrifice the rest in order to achieve the goal. While selecting the material, she feels frustrated and basically disappointed because she understands that this could’ve been prevented.

Reflect and share. The bell rings, students leave, and I stay behind picking up for myself. I start thinking of the last activity we had just 5 minutes ago, mainly about my previous expectations and how that makes me think now that it was a failure. I keep recounting my steps even after I’m home an hour later. The next day I still feel disappointed, and one of the substitute teachers was around and I decide to ask about similar situations. I tell him step by step what happened the day before, and he just looked at me and said, just play with it the next time.

Interact. “It’s time for review…” teacher Jay thinks out loud, knowing that tests are coming next week. He sits with a longing face and thinks about the lesson he’s about to deliver, the exercises to use, the topics to address, and the monitoring involved in the process. Seems to have it under control, it’s usually the same. He takes a moment to ponder of other ways to impart the review, he asks himself what can he do different and what could make my students think different than any other day. After 25-30 minutes alone with his thoughts, another teacher passes by rushing in, and greets Jay. The other teacher starts to take out some papers and items that look like monopoly game pieces, and Jay feels the burning need to ask about it, and the other teacher tells him how he got the idea to play a board game as a review from another colleague. Jay feels excited and really wants to try this.

Explore. The assessment week is here, and Rose is taking her time to grade each student carefully in classwork, homework and writing assignments. Time is running fast and she realizes she needs to speed up the process, but she’s also aware that she might need a plan B at this point. She stands up from her chair and she just takes a minute to think and then she sees a student noticing a mistake in a writing assignment she had on top of the desk. At that point she had the idea to pair students and have them do the checking on the writing assignments by giving students some prompts on how to do it. Students react excitedly and even express their willingness to do it. The teacher starts thinking what other ways she can make students feel useful and make it beneficial for her as well.

Additionally, there’s a critical view to reflect on WHO to becoming better. Reflect on these words and discover if success alone is possible or if it’s worth trying available support: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. Next, answer the question of how often you engage in these best practices:

  • I plan my classes.
  • I reflect on what helps or hinders learning.
  • I receive peer-coaching.
  • I explore creative ways of teaching.
  • I give-receive feedback.
  • I try to keep engagement in my classes.
  • I practice professional-development.
  • My classes are based on experiential-teaching.
  • My teaching practices are oriented to meaningful lessons.
  • I ask my students to ask questions.
  • I include collaborative-learning in my lessons
  • I deliver my lessons as scheduled.

The more help we need to develop a wide set of pedagogical resources, the more we can realize that support is always available, find out about the Professional Development programs that are set up near you and reach out.

Finally, think of the question on WHEN you’d like to take steps to become better; it will depend on the opportunity you give to yourself, bearing in mind what a great scientist once said: It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.                            

Workshop at ICDA’s In-Service Sept-2016. Source: Be the Best Teacher You Can Be.


Tips to Improve English Pronunciation

Pronouncing correctly defines the level of your English to others, especially native speakers. We need to consider several aspects and improve in each one of them: Linking, Intonation, Stress, Vowels and Consonant sounds, etc.

There are English students who develop good levels of fluency, but it’s hard for others to understand what they say and this is why we must try to speak fluently, but more important, to speak clearly.

Engaging in practices such as repetition, modeling sounds, imitating native speakers and such, can really make the difference for English to be comprehended.

I chose this simple video because it is one of multiple tools that you can use in your goal to become a proficient speaker. Please click on the link and make the best out of it.


5 Techniques to Speak Any Language

This is very INTERESTING, Sid Efromovich speaks seven languages and he gives testimonial of how to learn a new language reflecting on meaningful learning. The five tips he provides are:

  1. Make Mistakes
  2. Scrap The Foreign Alphabet
  3. Find a Sticker
  4. Shower Conversations
  5. Buddy Formula

Watch this video and start practicing!

Grading Low Performance

Be Ready for Tomorrow!
Be Ready for Tomorrow!

Teaching is a passion that I have carried with me for all my life. I love when students are paying attention to what I try to convey and when that magical moment of learning happens, that is, when it happens.

Unfortunately, the lessons I deliver are not always so adequate for their level of interest. Maybe this is due to the engagement that I can reach from them, or the technique used in a particular lesson. But for one reason or another, not all my students achieve the initial objectives.

Naturally, this brings consequences reflected on their scores and also on their exams. So, when the moment comes to grade their effort and academic achievements, we have to face important decisions regarding their performance. In most of the cases, teachers are benevolent with students who have shown hard work and attention but who could not do well in their tests.

Nevertheless, attaining academic goals is not only about passing exams since performance is also measured with other variables. By including participation, homework and quizzes we gather more information of the student’s profile, which can serve as a basis to extended scores. But what do you do when all numbers add up to less than what is required?

This is something I would like to leave in the minds of those who struggle to pass successfully, but do not show the level of execution that is expected. This is when teachers turn to their personal impressions and have to decide for them.

I do it all the time, but I’d really like to be sure that they won’t need it again because their effort will be higher in the next level. I just want to make sure that this investment involves the promise that they will do better in their next challenge. Just saying!

Grammar Form & Function

Hi all: Here’s the link to the summary of Unit 7. Please review. Warm regards.


Alexander Cueto | Certified Trainer and Language Coach
Better Services Consulting


Improving EFL with Music

youtubeBack in the days of my English learning, we had “Musical Fridays” when we would have a new song to learn after with the lyrics printed by our teacher, and then we would be taken to the Listening Lab.

The songs selected used to be played once for introduction and then we started singing along until we learned the song by heart. There’s a Kind Of Hush, Imagine, The Sound Of Silence and other important hits used to be our main topic of conversation until a new song arrived on the following week.

Today, we can take this appealing activity to a whole new level by presenting the songs through YouTube videos and having the students read the lyrics while they listen, enhancing the learning experience with much more benefits, such as not having to print and availability of 24/7 on any cellphone or mobile device.

This is exactly what I just did and I’m proud to present Music for Learners Playlist from my YouTube Chanel, https://www.youtube.com/alexcuetodo which has everything that has been known as outstanding music from all times. I picked 50 songs from some of the most famous English performers taking in consideration the clarity and level of language used in the lyrics. Here’s a sample of my selection:

I’m All Out of Love – Air Supply with Lyrics  ☺ Take Me Now by Bread, David Gates…with Lyrics – YouTube ☺ Killing Me Softly ” Roberta Flack with lyrics – YouTube ☺

I suggest everyone in EFL to start using these tools and prepare PLAYLISTS with material that otherwise could be difficult or little attractive to deliver, especially in today’s world, where “being connected” means exactly that!

How to Increase Speech: Key Words

Learning EngFluency is determined by the amount of words and language constructions that you are able to say without interruption. This means that the more words and phrases you know, the better you will perform expressing your ideas.

One problem is that each subject has his/her own unique wording to identify concepts and related facts. For instance, you could speak about your family extensively because you own plenty of information about them.

On the other hand, if someone asks you to talk about something you have limited information about, say, astrophysics, you will find trouble speaking with fluency due to your limitation from that field. The same would happen to the most eloquent speaker, who will not be able to express sentences coherently if not having enough tools to work with.

That means one can only speak confidently and without effort when there is previous background knowledge; therefore, the best way to be fluent is by gathering vocabulary that is appropriate to one’s particular matter. In addition, as we are speakers of English as a second language, we are at disadvantage because we are not exposed to those words at every moment.

Consequently, we have to invest time to compensate this deficiency, by memorizing new words and supplementary vocabulary. This guarantees our readiness to handle diverse areas with correct fluency. The following are suggestions of vocabulary to research and use at initial levels:

  • Vocabulary related to everyday activities. How we live, work, entertain and interact with others.
  • Vocabulary related to our profession, concepts, theories or knowledge learned in college or connected to our occupations. Everything that you do and say in your native language has specific wording or phrasing in English. Find it and use it every time you can.
  • Additional vocabulary. This relates to the topics you are personally interested in. In your native language, there are many words or phrases that do not translate literally. You will have to look up a language structure to help you be better understood.

Why Do Dominicans Learn English?

English language is present in the Dominican culture from long time ago because of many historical reasons. Being The United States’ backyard has meant a great deal of cultural influence to the Dominican people; USA has at the same time, conformed our second largest city: New York. Furthermore, the two military invasions to our territory left a sequel of customs and significance to social behavior that could not escape the implications in language, hence the variations of some of the most common expressions that still today reflect this integrating process.

Words like “pariguayo”, “vaguada”, “yaniqueque” and others not yet confirmed represent illustrations from unknown origins gotten lost in the field of magical and quotidian but which have a continuous presence in our lives. On the other side, the Spanish rule to assimilate into our vocabulary the sounds of foreign words has brought a large index of sport terminology.

More recently, changes in technology and the impact in our academic and business grounds validate how easily we can adapt our necessities to the simplest forms of communication, so that many of the words to identify technical occurrences have been distorted into a “Spanglish” form of language without which normal activities could not be developed.

The English language has a powerful incidence on most of the civilization today and it’s not possible to think of any field that doesn’t show a relation with this tongue even as slight as it might be, not mentioning the publication of the most important researches in this particular means. This is the reason why today, more and more people are surrendered by the appealing of learning English, because of the relationship between what they do and how they can do it better, accessing to a major area of information, that is mostly spread in this particular language.

And our country is no exception to this rule whereas the learning of English has generated a big amount of teaching structure throughout the years which have resulted in an educational that brings about changes in what is offered and what is required for the students and more important, for the educators. I hope that I can present in this blog, some of the changes occurred in this process and how we can benchmark the main areas of improvement to better assist our customers, who are growing in quantity and expectations to our performance.