Studying abroad: Spanish in Arequipa, Peru

Alejandra, my Peruvian friend who occasionally helps me with the translation and editing of articles in Spanish, lives in the beautiful city of Arequipa, Peru. I had gone there in 2011 and had spent three wonderful days. When I thought about studying Spanish somewhere in Latin America, Arequipa was natural choice.

In 2014, I decided that my goal would be to succeed in the DELE (Diploma of Spanish as a Foreign Language) exam. The diploma is issued by the Instituto Cervantes on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport of Spain and attest your level of Spanish. They follow the guidelines established by the Common European Framework for Languages.

Despite having studied Spanish when I was younger and having no problem to communicate with Spanish speakers, I did not speak Spanish regularly for years (as I explained in this post). To improve my Spanish and prepare myself for the test, I decided to return to Arequipa.

The city

Arequipa is one of the most beautiful and safest cities of Peru. That alone, would be enough to choose Arequipa to study Spanish. In addition, having one of my best friends living there, the choice was obvious.

However, another reason to choose Arequipa is that the Spanish spoken there is clear, without strong accent and grammatically correct. Many proud Arequipeños, including the writer Mario Vargas Llosa, say that Arequipa has the best Spanish in Peru and Latin America. If this is true, it is debatable. Nevertheless, the fact that Arequipeños speak a beautiful Spanish, this is undeniable. Continue reading

5 Bilinguals Songs in French

I was listening to the song Inséparables from Zaz with the Spanish singer Pablo Alborán and I thought, how genius is to be able to listen to a song in two different languages. I love bilingual songs , they’re perfect to study and to be in touch with several languages at the same time.

Zaz & Pablo Alboran – Inséparables

Languages: French and Spanish

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My story with the Spanish language until the C1 level

So far, Spanish was the only language I made a proficiency test. I decided to attempt the C1 level and I got the diploma.

How I learned Spanish

I learned Spanish in a language school when I was 13. My parents wanted me to take English classes, but as I had a great passion for Spain at that age, it was my dreamland; I managed to convince them to let me do the Spanish course. As I was so interested in Spain, learning the language was something that came very natural to me; in addition, the similarities between Portuguese and Spanish helped me a lot.

I attended the course for one year and stopped at the intermediate level, after that, I only had contact with the language again at the age of 21, when I went to US – yes, the United States – and met a lot of Hispanic speakers. So, I had the opportunity to practice a little of what I had learned years before.

Then, I practice again occasionally at age 23 while working with foreigners. When I was 24 I spent a week in Peru and with 26 years I spent 10 days in Spain. At 27, I finally decided to take the proficiency test, but as you can see my contact with the language was not constant and definitely, it wasn’t fresh in my head, so I decided to take intensive classes.

So, I spent three weeks’ vacation studying in Arequipa, Peru. That was about 4 hours per day. The classes were focused on grammar and conversation; and a little writing. Basically, the book we used in class was “Preparacion DELE. C1. Libro + CD (Spanish Edition)”, as mentioned in this post.

The book simulates the exercises of the exam, but I found them a little easier than the real exam. My vacation was in September, the test was only in November, so I continued to study at home using books, as grammar books and the “Preparación al Diploma de Español” book- but the C2 level, to get something more challenging. I also heard podcasts in Spanish and read the newspaper “El País”.

The C1 level

According to the Instituto Cervantes website of the C1 diploma level certifies that:

1. Understand a wide variety of long, quite demanding texts, as well as recognise implicit meanings in them.
2. Express themselves fluently and spontaneously, without any obvious effort to find the right words.
3. Use the language flexibly and effectively for social, academic, and professional purposes.
4. And be able to produce clear, well-structured, detailed texts on topics having a certain level of complexity, with correct use of mechanisms for organising and articulating a cohesive text.

The exam

First day

The exam lasted two days. On the first day, the evaluation was oral.

First, they gave me the option to choose between two themes, I don’t remember the theme I’ve chosen, but I had 20 minutes to read the text and take notes. After a few minutes, the evaluation started. First, the evaluator introduced herself and we started the conversation. She asked me to make a summary of the text and my opinion on the matter. The whole time there was another person evaluating the conversation.

After, she showed me a hypothetical situation with some possibilities. My theme was raising money for graduation students. I do not remember very well the options, but if I remember correctly, two of them were making T-shirts or to organize a party. When choosing your option, you have to justify the reason of your choice. The evaluator makes some interventions and gives some opinions. The oral evaluation lasts 20 minutes.

I did not do very well in the oral test, because I was very nervous. It was my worst skill and I while leaving the Instituto Cervantes I was feeling very discouraged. I thought I had finished with my chances of getting the diploma.

Second day

The second day of exam was much longer. We started by the reading comprehension test.

Reading comprehension test

1. We had two long texts and we had to answer questions about them, some about the text itself, others about grammar.
2. In the second exercise, we had to put in order disorderly excerpts from a text. Yet, there is a false extract between them, so one had to be careful when doing this exercise, which was my favorite.

c1 - lectura - tarea 2

Model of the exam

3. In this exercise we had to relate numerous reviews with phrases about them. Some reviews have more than one sentence to describe them.
4. The last exercise is a bit more focused on grammar. It is a basic fill the gaps, for each gap there are three options.

The reading comprehension test lasts 90 minutes

Listening comprehension

Then we did the listening comprehension test. The exercises were also basic and before we start doing them, we had one minute to read the texts. All audios are repeated twice.

1. In the first exercise we heard an audio and we had to fill blank gaps in a text. They give 12 options to fill these gaps, but there are only 6 gaps.
2. In the second test we heard several small dialogues without pause. And in the text we have to answer what the person did or wished.
3. After that, we heard an interview and we had to choose the correct answers about the interview. For me, this was the hardest exercise.
4. The last exercise is the most interesting. We heard dialogues of few seconds with idioms and we have to select the correct option about it.

The listening comprehension test lasts 50 minutes.

Listening comprehension and written expression and interaction test

In the written part of the test we had two exercises.

1. In the first exercise, we heard an audio on some subject and we had to do a little text with our opinion on the matter.
2. In the second part, we had to produce a text and we are presented with two options. We can write a letter or an argumentative essay. In my case, I choose to do a report to a magazine about child nutrition. The written test lasts 80 minutes. It seems like a great amount of time, but in the end I had to write super-fast in the official test sheet, that is, at this stage you need to plan your time well.

At the end of the second day I left very optimistic about the exam, despite the pain in the neck (literally, for sitting hours in a non-ergonomic chair), I knew that I had done well in this part of the exam and I was right. I almost aced the reading comprehension test, with an average of 24.38 points of 25.


After waiting for a few months, I was able to see the test results online. And, after almost a year I got my diploma at the Instituto Cervantes.

My final result was APTO, the minimum number of points to be considered APTO is 60, I made 75.34 points out of 100. It wasn’t a great result, but good enough to be approved.


Everything I did helped me in the exam, especially taking private classes. But the book “Preparacion DELE. C1. Libro + CD (Spanish Edition)” and hearing podcasts were also essential and without these resources, I don’t think I would have succeeded in the exam.

For more information and to better understand how the test works you can access the website of the Instituto Cervantes and see examination samples.

And you? Did you take the exam? How it was for you?

Grammar books

Grammar: some people love it, most run away from it. I am part of the majority, I do not like to study grammar, but unfortunately, it is impossible to escape from it if you want to speak a language well. So now and then I dedicate myself to it. Today, I will give tips on some books I like.

grammar books (1)


Grammar in Use

I believe that these are the most famous grammar books in the world. The series has become a reference for English learners, mainly for its simple approach. In one page, simple explanations and in the other, exercises. I really like this kind of book, because of its simplicity.

Essential Grammar in Use with Answers: A Self-Study Reference and Practice Book for Elementary Students of English

English Grammar in Use with Answers and CD-ROM: A Self-Study Reference and Practice Book for Intermediate Learners of English

Advanced Grammar in Use with Answers: A Self-Study Reference and Practice Book for Advanced Learners of English

Cassell’s Students’ Grammar English by Jake Allsop

For those who like to dig a little deeper; a good option is the book: Students’ Grammar English. The book has a simple approach, but it has very good explanations and illustrations.

Students’ English Grammar

Students’ English Grammar Exercises with Answers


Planet@ ELE. Libro de referencia gramatical: fichas y ejercicios

For beginners I recommend the Planet@ ELE. Libro de referencia gramatical: fichas y ejercicios, which is divided into four levels. As the collection Grammar in Use, the book has the explanation in one side and in the other exercises. The difference is that it is more simple and short.

Planet@ 1. Libro de referencia gramatical, fichas y ejercicios (Spanish Edition)

Planet@ 2. Libro de referencia gramatical, fichas y ejercicios (Spanish Edition)

Planet@ 3. Libro de referencia gramatical, fichas y ejercicios (Spanish Edition)

Planet@ 4. Libro de referencia gramatical, fichas y ejercicios (Spanish Edition)

Another book that I also recommend is the Diccionario Práctico de Gramática which is a work of grammar reference. The explanations are simple with lots examples. Besides the grammatical structures, they explain also words and their typical uses.

Diccionario practico de gramatica (Spanish Edition)

Diccionario practico de gramatica: libro de ejercicios: 800 fichas de uso correcto del espanol (Spanish Edition)

Diccionario practico de gramatica. Claves del Libro de ejercicios (Spanish Edition)


Grammaire Progressive

Again, a course that puts the grammatical explanation in one page and in the other exercises. It is also a simple, progressive and well-illustrated book. . The course has four levels. In my experience, it is the most recommended by French teachers.

Grammaire Progressive Du Francais: Niveau Debutant (French Edition)

Grammaire Progressive Du Francais – Nouvelle Edition: Livre Intermediaire 3e Edition + Cd-audio (French Edition)

Grammaire Progressive du Français: Niveau Avancé (French Edition)

Grammaire Progressive du Francais: Livre Perfectionnement (French Edition)


Klipp und Klar – Ubungsgrammatik

This is the book that I am currently using to learn German. And it has the same style of the previous books. At the end of the book, it has great reference lists. There are two books, one that is destined to the B1 level, and another to the most advanced level (B2/C1).

Klipp Und Klar: Klipp Und Klar – Ubungsgrammatik Grundstufe Deutsch – MIT Losungen (German Edition)

Klipp Und Klar: Klipp Und Klar – Ubungsgrammatik Mittelstufe Deutsch B2/C1 (German Edition)

Collection Practice Makes Perfect – McGraw Hill

For other languages, there is also the Practice Makes Perfect series. There are available in several different grammatical topics and by level. There are, for example, books just about verbs or just about pronouns and prepositions. As they are full of exercises, they are great for testing your grammar skills intensively and to devote yourself to subjects in which you have more difficulty. Here is a list of the books I found.


Practice Makes Perfect Arabic Pronouns and Prepositions (Practice Makes Perfect Series)


Practice Makes Perfect Basic Chinese


Practice Makes Perfect French Verb Tenses (Practice Makes Perfect Series)

Practice Makes Perfect: Complete French All-in-One

Practice Makes Perfect French Problem Solver: With 90 Exercises (Practice Makes Perfect (McGraw-Hill))

Practice Makes Perfect: Intermediate French Grammar: With 145 Exercises (Practice Makes Perfect Series)


Practice Makes Perfect Basic English, Second Edition: (Beginner) 250 Exercises + Flashcard App + 90-minute Audio (Practice Makes Perfect Series)

Practice Makes Perfect Intermediate English Grammar for ESL Learners (Practice Makes Perfect Series)

Practice Makes Perfect English Articles and Determiners Up Close

Practice Makes Perfect English Grammar for ESL Learners, 2nd Edition: With 100 Exercises

Practice Makes Perfect English Problem Solver: With 110 Exercises


Practice Makes Perfect Intermediate German Grammar

Practice Makes Perfect German Verb Tenses, 2nd Edition: With 200 Exercises + Free Flashcard App

Practice Makes Perfect German Problem Solver: With 130 Exercises


Practice Makes Perfect Basic Hindi


Practice Makes Perfect Italian Problem Solver: With 80 Exercises

Practice Makes Perfect Italian Verb Tenses, 2nd Edition: With 300 Exercises + Free Flashcard App


Practice Makes Perfect Basic Japanese

Practice Makes Perfect Complete Japanese Grammar


Practice Makes Perfect Basic Latin


Basic Portuguese


Practice Makes Perfect Complete Spanish Grammar

Practice Makes Perfect Spanish Pronouns and Prepositions, Premium 3rd Edition

Practice Makes Perfect Complete Spanish All-in-One

Practice Makes Perfect: Intermediate Spanish Grammar: With 160 Exercises

International TV series

Everybody knows I love American series, but there are good series that are not in English. Here are some of them.

Deutschland 83

Language: German

In 1983, during the Cold War, a young East German soldier is chosen to spy a West German official who has information about US plans to install missiles in the West Germany.

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Spanish accents – Part 2

Second part of the post about Spanish accents.


The accent of the capital is considered one of the most neutral of the Spanish language. The “limeños” speak a clear Spanish (not the young generation), and pronounce very well the r and the rr. Sometimes they pronounce the final d as a t. In the mountainous areas people speak slower and always pronounce very well the letter s.

Check it here how strong the Peruvian rr is. Continue reading

Spanish accents – Part 1

The various accents of the Spanish language is one of my favorite subjects. And, it is also a controversial topic, everyone has a favorite accent. Sometimes the accent you find strange or ugly can be somebody’s favorite.

Let’s know in this post 5 very different Spanish accents that are easy to distinguish, even by those who speak Spanish as a second language.

bandeiras_da_espanha_1__95199_zoomThe Castilian

The typical accent of the city of Madrid is easy to recognize. The Madrileños are known for distinguished pronunciation of the syllables “ce” and “ci” as in words like cielo and celo. The “ce” and “ci” are formed as the “th” in English. Another tip to recognize Spanish speakers is the use of vosotros, only used on the Iberian Peninsula.

Listen here the word cielo, pronounced by Spanish, Chilean, Argentine and Mexican.

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Polyglot Nerd first video

I’m back and with some news!!!!!!

I have a new logo, with a clean look and I also changed a bit the website, hope is lighter now.

And I have a new project that I divulge in the video below.

This is my first video, so obviously I was a nervous, but I made it.

The video was no script, I don’t read anything and I didn’t edit, I don’t even know how to do it.

Hope you’ll like, I know the quality is not the best, I still  have a long way to learn how to do very cool videos.


My favorite podcasts in Spanish

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Pregúntale a Mónica

In this podcast the psychologist Monica Bulnes de Lara answers and guides her listeners. The public sends her questions via Facebook or email. The most common issues are parenting and romantic relationships. Usually, she makes two half-hour episodes per week. In a single episode she discusses several listeners’ questions. Continue reading