Assertive Communication for English Learners

Finally!!!!! Ousman’s book is available in English “North to paradise” .

I recently heard about @ousmanumar immigration story. I heard his story on Aprendemos Juntos BBVA . He said something that resonates with me “Si dos personas quieren se entienden”. That means that when two people really want to communicate, it doesn’t matter what mother tongue they speak. His story is a testimony of assertive communication. In the midst of hopelessness he spoke up with his heart and an angel listened to him with her heart.

Ousman immigrated from Ghana to Spain when he was 17. At that time he didn’t speak Spanish nor Catalán. His trip to Spain was like a hell. He didn’t have any family in Spain. One day, he met Montse in a park in Barcelona. She didn’t speak English. Even though none of them spoke each others languages, they were able to communicate. Montse became his foster mother. To make a long story short, Ousman became an entrepreneur and writer.

Communication is a two way process. If the other person doesn’t want to listen to you, he/she will make excuses not to understand you.

If some people don’t understand you, perhaps they are the ones who have communication issues.

If after making a big effort, still you don’t understand some people… Perhaps they don’t want to be understood.

Have you ever been able to communicate with someone who didn’t speak your language? How was that experience?

P.S. You are enough! and your accent is cool 😉

Speak to me with your heart because I will be listening with my heart

Teacher Julieta

Wanna know more about Ousman’s story? Watch the following video


Online Class Etiquette

Globalization has changed the way we communicate with others. Nowadays, we can use the internet to attend classes or work meetings. Therefore, we should learn how to behave during our online classes and meetings.

Netiquette allows people to communicate with others over the internet in a polite and professional manner.

The word netiquette comes from the words network and etiquette. It is defined a set of rules that facilitates social interactions online.

Here there is a list of netiquette rules that you should keep in mind during your virtual sessions:

1 Be on time

It’s better to be at least 5 minutes early rather than late.

Punctuality is a good habit that builds self-confidence. Being on time also eliminates stress from your life by removing the anxiety of being late.

2 Come to class prepared

Have every thing that you need for your class ready, including your textbooks, notebooks, pens and other materials that you might need.

If you use an online dictionary, an app or PDFs open them before your class starts.

3 Settle into a quiet spot

Maybe you can study in a noisy place. However, most students can’t focus and pay attention to the class if the virtual classroom is noisy.

Stay on mute. Keeping your mic off lessens distractions. Background noise can be annoying and make it difficult to understand what people are saying.

Pro tip: If you are in a noisy place, use a noise-canceling headset to eliminate background noise. You can also activate a noise suppression filter. Most video call platforms such as Zoom, Teams, Skype, etc have the option to activate a noise suppression filter.

If the noise suppression filter is not enough you can use a noise cancelling software to remove noise.

Krisp is a FREE software that you can use with any communication app.


4 Turn your camera ON

Having your camera on creates a more personal class atmosphere.

When we communicate orally with other people we use our voice, body gestures and facial expressions. Camera use allows your teacher and your classmates understand you better. So they can sense how you feel and give you feedback to improve communication.

5 Participate and be helpful

Class participation is super important if you want to learn faster. Also, your classes will have more fun and you will feel more energetic if you participate during class. If you are a shy person or don’t know how to participate during your online classes, check the following article:

Practice Time
  1. How easy is for you to communicate with other people if you are in a noisy place?
  2. Which do you prefer, taking classes in person or online? Why?
  3. Do you prefer just speaking with people on the phone/Whatsapp? or Do you prefer having a video call? Why?
Online Class Etiquette


How to Express your Opinion in English


Imagine that you are in a meeting where an important discussion is going on and suddenly your manager calls you out and says “What’s your opinion about this topic?

You start feeling nervous and you can’t say anything. You have a lot of great ideas but you don’t know how to express them.

It is common that when we have to share our opinion we feel insecure and nervous. The fear to speak up can be ever worse if we have to speak in a different language. Fear often prevents us to share our opinions with our classmates, colleagues, managers, and other English speakers.

It’s time you learned useful phrases that will make you feel confident enough to speak up. This in turn will allow you to grow professionally, academically and personally.

In this post I share useful phrases that you can use in your next class or meeting.


I (don’t) think…I (don’t) really think …As far as I know,…
I (don’t ) believe …I strongly believe that …As far as I’m concerned, …
I (don’t) feel …There’s no doubt that …It seems to me that …
In my opinion/ view …I honestly think that ….I might be wrong but …
The way I see it …I’m convinced that…You probably won’t agree, but …


What’s your opinion?

What do you think?

How do you feel about …?

How do you see the situation?

What’s your view?



I agree.I disagree.Really?
I think so too.I don’t think so.+ That’s a great suggestion
– That doesn’t make any sense
I couldn’t agree more.I’m not quite sure.I’m not very familiar with the topic.
You might be right.That’s not true.Know what I think?
I couldn’t have said it better.I totally disagree.I see what you mean.

Practice time

What do you think about this blog?

What topics would you like to be discussed in this blog?

Essential Vocabulary for Online Meetings

How to Participate in an Online Class

Asking for Clarification

Assertive Communication for English Learners


How to Participate in an Online Class

Class participation is important if you want to learn faster. Participating in class will allow you to use your English like you would do in the real world. When you participate you are practicing and the more you practice using the language, the faster you will improve it.

Your classes will be more fun if you participate actively and communicate with your classmates and your teacher. Nobody wants to be in a classroom where nobody speaks. It is normal to feel nervous when you have to participate or ask a question. But after you participate you will feel more energetic and alert. That in turn will help you remember what you learn and feel more confident.

Here I’m going to share with you different ways of participating during your online classes:

1. Be proactive and thoughtful
  • Turn ON your camera and keep it on during the whole class.
  • Turn ON your microphone when you participate.
  • Turn OFF your microphone when other people participate.
  • Use the chat box to ask questions or communicate with your teacher and classmates during the class.
  • Join the breakout rooms and participate in the group activities.
  • Offer to share your screen
2. Ask questions

If you have a question or if you are confused you can ask for help to your teacher or your classmates. Here there are some sentence starters that you can use during your class.

Here you have a list of useful phrases that you can use during your English classes:

  • I have a question about _________________.
  • I’m confused about _____________________.
  • I need help with _______________________.
  • I have difficulties understanding __________________.
  • I would like to know more about ___________________.
  • Can you give me an example?
  • What’s the difference between ________ and __________?.
  • What is the answer to question/ exercise ______?
  • What does _______________ mean?
  • How do you pronounce this word?
  • How do you spell _________?
  • How did you get the answer?
  • Can you repeat the last part that you just said?
3. Offer your help

If you want to help your classmates or if you know the answer you can use the following sentence starters:

  • I might know the answer to that.
  • I think I can help you with ________.
  • I’m not sure, but I think the answer is _____________.
4. Volunteer

If you want to volunteer or start the activity

  • Can I go first?
  • I’ll go first.
  • I can do it
  • Who’s next?
5. Share your gratitude
  • Thanks for helping me understand __________.
  • I appreciate your help.
  • I really liked that activity.
  • It was a really fun/ interesting activity.
  • I liked that!

Practice Time

It’s your time to participate!

How important is class participation for you? How do you feel when your classmates refuse to participate in class?


Essential Vocabulary for Online Meetings

Asking for help

Useful English Phrases for Better Communication (Asking for Clarification)


The Tongue Twister Challenge (Intensity Level 3)

Workout for your English muscles

A great way to improve your pronunciation and fluency is by saying tongue twisters as fast as you can. Tongue twisters are great to exercise your English muscles. Are you ready to complete this fun challenge?

Have you completed Intensity level 1 and 2? If not, click the button below.

If you are an intermediate student, you can use Intensity Level 1 as your warm up.

If you are an advanced student, you can use Intensity Level 1 and Level 2 as your warm up

Let’s start!

Say each of the following tongue twisters five times as fast as you can. If you are not sure about the correct pronunciation you can play the audio first and repeat after me. Then you can say the tongue twister slowly and when you feel confident about your pronunciation you increase the speed.

1.  I scream, you scream, all scream for ice cream.

2. Three free throws.

3. Rubber baby buggy bumpers.

Let’s increase the intensity

4.  Birdie birdie in the sky laid a turdie in my eye.
If cows could fly I’d have a cow pie in my eye.

5.  Yellow butter, purple jelly, red jam, black bread.
Spread it thick, say it quick!
Yellow butter, purple jelly, red jam, black bread.
Spread it thicker, say it quicker!

6.  Betty Botter bought some butter
But she said the butter’s bitter
If I put it in my batter, it will make my batter bitter
But a bit of better butter will make my batter better
So ‘twas better Betty Botter bought a bit of better butter.

DOWNLOAD the worksheet with audio to practice anytime, anywhere.

Try out this tongue twisters and let me know how it went. Which was the most difficult one? Leave your answers in the comments below.

Happy practice!


The Tongue Twister Challenge (Intensity level 2)

Workout for your English muscles

A great way to improve your pronunciation and fluency is by saying tongue twisters as fast as you can. Tongue twisters are great to exercise your English muscles. Are you ready to complete this fun challenge?

Have you completed the Tongue Twister Intensity level 1? If not, click the button below.

If you are an intermediate/ pre-advanced student, you can use Intensity Level 1 as your warm up.

Let’s warm up

Say each of the following tongue twisters five times as fast as you can. If you are not sure about the correct pronunciation you can play the audio first and repeat after me. Then you can say the tongue twister slowly and when you feel confident about your pronunciation you increase the speed.

  1. Six sticky skeletons

2. Flash message

3. Black back bat

Let’s increase the intensity

Say each of the following tongue twisters five times as fast as you can

4. Eleven benevolent elephants

5. Good blood, bad blood 

6. Truly rural

7. Red lorry, yellow lorry

8. A big black bug snoozed on a big black rug

DOWNLOAD the worksheet with audio to practice anytime, anywhere.

Try out this tongue twisters and let me know how it went. Which was the most difficult one? Leave your answers in the comments below.

Happy practice!


Native vs. non-native teachers: Which ones can help you speak fluently?

Is it possible to learn how to speak a language fluently from non-native speakers? Which teachers are the best to teach a language? In this blog I’ll discuss the most important factors that you need to consider before choosing a language teacher, regardless if the teacher is native or non-native.

As I’ve mentioned in one of my previous blogs, I’m a scientist who happens to teach languages. One of these days I’ll share my story about how I ended up teaching English and Spanish after having studied Biochemical Engineering and Food Science, but today I want to talk about my English teachers.

The other day I was reflecting on my experience learning English and I realized that I speak it fluently thanks to the effort I put into learning English along with the amazing teachers I’ve had. With their guidance I was able to become proficient enough and speak English fluently to earn a graduate degree in Canada and later on teach ESL (English as a Second Language).  Sometimes we take things for granted and we forget how things started.

Let me tell you my story. I was born and raised in a non-English speaking country.  In fact, my first language is Spanish. I started learning English when I was 6 years old and for me learning English was super fun. I’ve always loved memorizing things and for me it was so enjoyable learning words, verbs, and of course grammar.

Most of my first English teachers were amazing.  I want to share with you what I remember the most about each of them. My earliest memories go back to 1st grade, Miss Jaqueline Spolette taught me the names of the English vowels using a very funny story. Let me tell you something: for Spanish speakers remembering the names of the English vowels can be extremely challenging. I’ll share that story in another episode because it is really worth sharing it with you.

My second grade teacher, Miss Eloina, taught me how to conjugate and use the verb be. Understanding verb be is not easy specially if in your first language you have two different verbs that can be translated as verb be.

My  4th and 5th grade  teacher, was Miss Gogo. What I remember the most about her classes is the present continuous.  We would sing a very funny song that I still remember, it was something like this: “the clowns are walking, they are running, they are jumping in the air. They are sleeping, they are laughing, la, la, la….” I’ve been looking for that song but I haven’t succeeded. I only remember that it was in one of the lessons in a book called “Pyramid” If any of you know how to get that song please let me know.

Miss Susan and Miss Rose were my junior and high school English teachers. They were fabulous. They taught me all the verb tenses, active, passive, pronunciation, you name it. What I remember the most is that Miss Susan taught me the word “embezzler” and Miss Rose taught me the word “prerogative”. Those are very sophisticated words for a teenager eh!

In university Miss Ilsa, Miss Gaby, Miss Tony and Mr. Pipiripau (Oh that is his nick name I don’t remember his real name… anyway) taught me everything I needed to take the TOEFL and the IELTS test. I took both tests and I got the scores I needed to study a Masters in an English-speaking country.

Many years later during my TESOL training I also had superb teachers. I’ll never forget Bob who taught me how to teach grammar. Danielle taught me Linguistics, Art taught me how to teach pronunciation, Olga taught me sociolinguistics.   Currently, I’m taking some courses on how to teach pronunciation, as part of my professional development and my mentor is wonderful. Her name is Hadar.

What all these English teachers have in common is that they are qualified, they know exactly what I need to learn, and they have helped me improve my proficiency. I learned how to speak English fluently in a non-English speaking country where 80% of my teachers where non-native English-speaking teachers (NNEST). I took my TESOL training in Canada and 3 out of 5 of my teachers were non-native speakers.  My current mentor is non-native… by the way. Regardless of their nationality, they all have helped me achieve my goals.

Many learners believe that they will only be able to learn a language, for instance English, if they travel to an English-speaking country or at least if they have a native teacher.  Of course, that can help but it is not necessary.

I want to share with you a couple of questions that I think may help making a good decision when choosing a language teacher or a language school:

  1. Is the teacher qualified? (What kind of credentials does the teacher have?)
  2. Does the teacher have experience? If not, what will be his/ her teaching methodology?
  3. Has the teacher helped other students get the same results that I want to get? (speak fluently, level up, pass a test, succeed at a job interview, improve their pronunciation, etc)
  4. Does the teacher know how to clarify confusing concepts?
  5. Is the teacher supportive? Will he/she help me grow personally? Or will I just be a number in his/ her list?
  6. Is the teacher respectful and kind with his/ her students and colleagues?
  7. Does the teacher enjoy his/her job?

I believe that those are the most important factors to consider if you have an ambitious aim.  Of course, having a cute teacher, or a fun teacher, or a native teacher are things that might be also desirable in a language teacher. However, from a objective point of view, an adorable smile, a native-like accent, the age, the appearance, the sex, etc. of the teacher won’t guarantee you that learn what you need to learn in order to succeed.

I’ve shared all these details about my learning journey because I know that many of my listeners are learning either English or Spanish. I am sharing this story not as a teacher but as a student (the eternal student that I will be). I’m sharing this to tell you that if you really want to learn a language it is not necessary to leave your home country or have native teachers. You can learn any language anywhere. There are plenty of qualified teachers in the world. They might be living in a foreign country and perhaps you will need to travel abroad to meet them or perhaps they are living in your country. You just have to look for them.

Keep in mind that being a native speaker is not a qualification. I can prove you that. My brother is a Spanish native speaker, he is fun, he has a charming native Spanish accent, but guess what: he has no idea why there are two different “verb be” in Spanish. Do you think he can teach you Spanish? Of course not!

I think that teaching credentials are more important than passports. But that’s me! After all, I’m an engineer and I tend to make my decisions objectively. I hope my story makes you consider other factors that perhaps you haven’t considered yet before looking for a language teacher. I’m sure there are loads of people like me, who learned how to speak English or any other language fluently thanks to the guidance and help of well trained and caring teachers. I’d love to read their stories!

If you want to learn more about nativespeakerism, watch the following video where Canguro English discusses the truth about non-native English teachers with Marek Kiczokwiak from TEFL Equity Advocates and Academy

The truth about non-native English teachers

Canguro English: http://www.canguroenglish.com/

TEFL Equity Advocates: https://teflequityadvocates.com/

Well, that’s it for today. If you can speak a foreign language fluently, tell me: how did you learn it? What were your teachers like? Who is your most memorable language teacher?