Intercambio Event

One of the most important things you can do to improve your English is to use the language outside the classroom. With this in mind, CSIM approached the American universities office in Filologia B and the first English-Spanish language exchange between North American students CSIM students was held in Filología B on Wednesday 28th November. It was a great success, and our sincere thanks go to all involved – especially Amy Olson, the student services coordinator at Universidades Reunidas Norteamericanas.

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As there are not very many American students in comparison to CSIM English students, we could not invite everyone. Only the students who had class just before or after the event were invited this time. A special area of the Faculty cafeteria was set aside for the activity and there was an atmosphere of nervous anticipation just prior to the students’ arrival and I surveyed a sea of empty tables and wondered how it would all work out.

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We needn’t have worried; over 20 U.S. students materialised suddenly before us, all keen to participate and learn something while offering genuine U.S. openness and humour. The initial awkward glances and shyness soon evaporated as the CSIM contingent of around 50 students began to appear. Students found a partner and soon the room was buzzing with conversation as things got off to a swinging start.

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A little later it became clear that the CSIM students were now double the number of US students so there would have to be 2 CSIM students to each US student. This was achieved smoothly when, after 30 minutes we asked everyone to find new partners. The atmosphere was lively and friendly and everyone appeared to be enjoying themselves, as you can see from the photos (apologies for the quality, they were taken with an ancient not-very-smartphone).

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Further sessions are planned starting January when a new group of US students will arrive to start their courses at the Complutense. We anticipate that more students will participate in a welcome opportunity to practise their Spanish and, of course, form friendships with Spanish students. So watch this space for more information.

In the meantime, why not look for exchange opportunities yourself by googling “intercambios Madrid” or similar. Make sure you call any pubs or bookshops before going just in case the information on their websites is out of date!


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The Gunpowder Plot

On 5th November 1605 a lone man was arrested in the cellar of the British Houses of Parliament with 36 barrels of gunpowder.  His name was Guy “Guido” Fawkes (as he came to be known).  His mission was to assasinate the British King by blowing him, and his ministers, up during the opening of the Houses of Parliament.  The aim was to restore the Catholic monarchy of previous years.

Although the plan failed, the plotters attempt, and the King´s survival, have inspired future generations ever since.

Bonfire Night

The 5th of November, also known as Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Night, is a British tradition dating back to the 17th century Gunpowder Plot.  Conspirator Guy Fawkes, with the help of about 13 others, tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament and King James I.  Even though Guy Fawkes is the most famous of all the plotters, it is generally agreed that the ringleader was Robert Catesby.

Read more about the Gunpowder Plot and then play an interactive game to test.  Read even more about the plot on the BBC´s History pages. And here’s a video showing how English people celebrate Bonfire Night each 5th of November:

Guy Fawkes in the Movies

More recently, Guy Fawkes has come to promince once again.  The 17th century plot to overthrow a King provided some inspiration for Alan Moore´s comics and film V for VendettaWatch the trailer for the film below. Do you recognise the mask?

Do you have any similar celebrations in Spain or your country?  Have you seen V for Vendetta?  Leave a comment telling us what you think.

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Welcome Back!

And so it begins!  After a well deserved rest we are back to reality!  Below are some announcements and information for the start of our new academic year here at CSIM. 

Annual Courses

Our annual course start this month, week commencing 15th October 2012.  For more information consult the CSIM website.  Unfortunately, our enrolment period is now closed.

The Summer

Did you manage to get away for a break during the summer or did you have to work?  Leave a comment below telling us about the highlights, or the contrary, of your summer holiday.  To start the ball rolling, I had a fabulous summer!  After working in July, I taught an intensive course here at CSIM, I went to Galicia (in particular, O´Grove) for a few weeks on a working holiday;  a few hours work each day and a few hours of tourism – an excellent combination.

Invitation to Contribute

If you remember in June 2012 we invited blog contributions from students & staff.  Once again this year we are hoping to continue this practice.  For more information, read the original post. 

What wrong with Spain? 

Over the last 12-18 months, Spain has been experiencing some profound events:  social and economic.  There´s so much to know and to try and understand why the government of Spanish Prime Minister, Mr. Mariano Rajoy, is facing some hard choices in the near-medium term future.  Are you sick of hearing about recortes y austeridad?     Yes?  Then we have a solution for you:  read about cuts and austerity instead!!  Have you ever tried reading what the foreign press is saying about Mr. Rajoy, Spain, the cuts and austerity?  Check out what other people are writing about Spain by looking at the BBC, the Guardian of London, Qatari based Al-Jazeera, the New York Times and, of course, el Pais in English.  Here you will find lots of opinions and points of view – some polemic, some not – and all in English!

That´s all for now.  See you soon.

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Closed for the holidays

We’ll be back in September with a bigger, better, brighter blog.

Have a great summer!!


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Euro 2012

Whether you are interested in football or not, it´s probably difficult not to be aware that we are now at the business end of the European Football Championships 2012 currently being played in Poland and Ukraine. Reliably, the England team have been knocked out on penalties again for the 6th time in 22 years!

From the 16 original teams that set out to win the trophy 2 weeks ago, we have now arrived at the stage where only 4 teams are left: Germany, Portugal, Spain and Italy.

Up to now the football has sometimes been surprising, amazing and, at times (Spain!), even boring!  As well as the football, there have been a number of talking points during Euro 2012, many of which have taken place off the football pitch.

Politics & Football

The game between Greece and Germany for a place in the semi-final was dubbed the bailout game, due to the recent financial negotiations between Greece and Germany.  The journalists spent more time talking about the financial troubles Greece are having than the quality of their football!  Football and politics: Do they mix?

The dark side of a beautiful game

A worryinging aspect of this tournament has been racism. Threatening to overshadow the whole tournament,  the British press spent a lot of time discussing the problems black players were likely to face during the 4 week Championship.  Problems such as bananas being thrown onto the pitch, monkey chanting directed at black players, displaying offensive  posters and signs, even racially motivated attacks on visiting fans.

Thankfully, the frequency of such problems has been relatively low so far.

A week before Euro 2012 started, the BBC´s Panarama programme aired a news report called Stadiums of Hate.  The report sparked controversy in Poland and Ukraine.  Government and tournament officials strongly denied there being any racism problems in either country.

Can racism ever be eradicated from football?

Back to the football

In the next stage of the tournament Germany will face Portugal on Wednesday 27th June 2012, and then Spain will play Italy on Thursday 28th June 2012.  These games should provide a real feast of sporting talent.  All 4 teams have a real chance of winning this major title and they all have the players to do it.  Although, the Spanish team still remains the firm favourite to retain their European title, becoming the first international team to win back-to-back Championships.

No doubt these teams will be hoping their star players will produce a piece of individual skill, a magic moment to change the game.  Players to watch out for are Mesut Özil of Germany, Spain´s midfield duo of  Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernández, Portugal´s Critiano Ronaldo and Italy´s veteran Andrea Pirlo.


Make sure you don´t miss the rest of the games by checking the BBC Euro 2012 schedule here.    Will silky smooth Spain will win a 3rd consecutive title?  Can Ronaldo prove once and for all that he, and not Lionel Messi, is the world´s best player?  Will veteran footballing magician Andrea Pirlo conjure up something special for Italy?

Leave a comment telling us what you think about Euro 2012 so far,

any predictions or comments.

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Top Tips for Cambridge Exams

Many of you will soon be sitting the First Certificate, CAE, or Proficiency exams. We asked our Cambridge exam teachers for some expert advice on the different parts of the exams. Let’s start with Paper 5:


Karen Ludlow, who is an official speaking examiner, answers some of our students’ most frequently asked questions.

PART 1: general questions: personal information and everyday topics (FCE/CAE/CPE)

 Q: Is it a good idea to prepare a mini speech on topics such as work/studies, personal interests, travel, etc?

A: No. The examiner will ask each of you different questions in turn and your answers need to be fairly brief.  Part 1 is only 3 minutes and examiners are good at recognizing prepared speeches! Just try to speak as naturally as possible about the topic and relate it to personal experience.

 PART 2: individual turn: photos (FCE/ CAE)

 Q: What happens if I can’t talk about the photos for a minute or if the examiner suddenly stops me speaking?

A: If you speak for less than one minute the examiner should encourage you to talk a bit more so try to find one other contrast/similarity between the photos. If you speak over a minute the examiner will usually stop you by saying ‘thank you’. It doesn’t mean you failed this part!

Remember: you need to compare and contrast the photos, NOT describe them. Use the questions written at the top of the exam paper to help you focus on similarities and differences.

CAE: try and choose two photos that give good contrast.

 Q: After my partner has spoken about the photos, the examiner asks me a short question about them. Do I have to answer about the two photos my partner has talked about? (CAE)

A: No. The question is related to all three photos on the page, so choose the photo you think is best to answer the question. It’s a short answer:  I think….because

 PART 3: Long turn (two minute talk) and discussion (CPE)

 Q: Do I have to talk about all the points on the card in order for two minutes?

A: No. The points under the main question on the card are just there to give you ideas to focus on. Use the main question as your guide. The discussion points below should help you decide when to broaden the topic or when you can use more personalized information/ anecdotes. Add your own overall ideas, as they may be better than the points suggested!

 PART 3 and 4: collaborative task and discussion (FCE/CAE).

 Q: If I/we go blank and can’t think of what to say/a word/expression, can we help each other?

A: Yes! Help and move on to another point as soon as you can. Remember you are discussing a topic together so ask for/give opinions, agree/disagree, etc. Disagree if/when you can, as you can produce more interesting arguments and language.

Q: Does it matter if we don’t talk about all the pictures or photos on the page?

A: No. There are two questions related to the topic at the top of the page. Focus on the first question and try to talk about as many photos as possible before you answer the second question which is usually about making a choice. Don’t take turns to talk about each photo. It’s a two-way discussion and the examiner wants you to interact in  Part 3 and also in Part 4.

Good luck to all students taking Cambridge ESOL exams at CSIM June 2012!

Karen Ludlow: Cambridge ESOL exam courses, CSIM. Examiner and Examiner trainer at British Council Exams Centre, Madrid.

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Summer intensives and Erasmus – the future starts here!

Click to matriculate online

CSIM Summer Courses 2012

With the cold and wet start to May, the summer seems very distant. And with end-of-year exams coming up for many of you, it might not be easy to think about what you’re doing in July!

But if you want to give your English a big push this summer, enrolment (matrícula) for our summer intensive courses starts on Monday, May 7th. Click here for dates, timetables and conditions, and here to go straight to matrícula online. Or download our summer course flyer in English (pdf).

The courses are very intensive, 20 hours per week, either in the mornings or afternoons. The primary focus is on oral communication to help you speak and listen effectively and with more confidence, so you will be taking part in many enjoyable activities.

Another great way to learn is by using English every day for several months while you
study. Yes, we’re talking about the Erasmus programme. CSIM is now organising the level tests which you need to do as part of your grant (beca) application process for the academic year 2013-2014. Check matrícula online for dates of the next Erasmus exams.

Although 2013-2014 seems a long way away, if you want to apply for an Erasmus grant, it’s a good idea to get your level tested before the summer so that you still have time to take an annual course 2012-2013 and improve your level if you need to.

On the general subject of time, here’s a nice little quote to finish today’s post:

“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present!”

Does anyone know where it comes from? Enjoy your day!

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