Five for free!

Not taking an English class this summer? Not sure how to practice in your spare time?

Here are five ideas that Paloma, Alicia, Concha, Vero and I came up with in class on Monday morning:

Send a company an e-mail. Pick a hotel, a famous British restaurant and an American department store, and ask them questions. You don't have to ask for really complicated information; you could write to ask about prices, opening hours, locations...

Listen to a podcast. If you use iTunes, go to the iTunes store and look up the subject "English language podcast" or "ESL podcast." I just did this, and I got a dozen different downloadable podcasts, all of which were free.

Learn a complete CD of music by heart. Personal suggestions: Amy Winehouse's "Black in Black" (OK, you may not like her, personally, but the songs are easy to sing); soundtracks to musicals like "Hairspray" or "Chicago" (be sure to write down and practice the phrasal verbs and set phrases you hear!). Try to avoid techno-pop or anything like New Order - yes, the songs are fun, but they don't make any sense!

Get a penfriend, or find someone you can practice your written English with! Try these sites:

Speaking of penfriends...here's a free online reading comprehension exercise you can try: http://esl.about.com/od/beginningreadingskills/a/pen_pal.htm

Help tourists who are lost around Madrid. This is helpful for both you and the tourist: The tourist doesn't have to feel ashamed about not speaking enough Spanish to find where he or she wants to go, and you get five minutes of free English practice! But be reasonable; don't harrass the tourist too much or insist that he talk to you for, like, an hour or something.

There are lots of free websites with exercises and advice. My personal favourites include www.esl.about.com (the pen friends exercise above is from there), the BBC World Service Learning English site (http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/index.shtml - check out the photo page that has a picture taken in Toledo!) and www.dictionary.com - especially useful if you want to learn more about the vocabulary you learned in class this year.

Good luck!

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