Linguee, useful online dictionary when writing in a foreign language

At the last Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) Conference in Antwerp (July, 2014), Kris Buyse from KU Leuven presented a variety of strategies to support foreign language students during the writing process.

Linguee is one of the tools he mentioned. I definitely think Linguee is worth sharing with your students. I have to say that since then, I’ve been using this tool myself quite often when writing in Dutch. I’ll usually look for words using the language combination tool – Spanish-Dutch/Dutch-Spanish or English-Dutch/Dutch-English in this case – and the results that come up will most likely be exactly what I was looking for. Linguee is specially helpful when looking for the right preposition, for different word combinations and when looking for examples of how the word is used in context, whether that is day to day, academic or professional contexts.

Take a look:


If you know the word you want to use in Spanish but you are not sure of the correct preposition or you want to see all word combinations, type the word directly in Spanish into and you will find a variety of possibilities. Here I typed “tratar” and this is what I got:

linguee palabra tratar



If you type the word “keep”, you will get different word combinations immediately. Once you choose the one you were looking for, in this case “keep in touch”, you will see different short texts where this word is being used in context.

linguee word keep


linguee keep in touch


Spanish language combinations:
English language combinations:
Dutch language combinations:


Twitter to talk about success and failure

I used some of these tweets with my Business Spanish classes. For more ideas on how to use Twitter with your students, check this post.

Twitter to build online debate communities

On one of my previous posts about Twitter in education, I shared 3 reflections to help you decide if Twitter is the “long-term tool” you are looking for to use in class. I mentioned how one of my challenges is to extend its use beyond the classroom so that students can continue to follow people or organizations that have a meaning to them personally or professionally and how we can build communities to encourage students to use Twitter to make real connections and share their views beyond the classroom and for life.

Here is how Pasi Sahlberg, visiting professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education, is involving the whole community of educators to participate in his class discussions, such a fantastic way to enrich class debates through the lens of teachers and future teachers with multiple, international perspectives. If you teach future teachers, this is a great way for them to use Twitter and express their thoughts on different educational practices.

Twitter for your Spanish writing class: La tilde

Here are more examples of how you can use Twitter to pinpoint certain accentuation rules in your Spanish (writing) class. As I explained in my previous post, Twitter is an excellent resource to experience authentic language use beyond the classroom. Check that post for more ideas. If you find more tweets related to accent rules, please retweet them to me. Thanks.

La importancia de las tildes

La tilde diacrítica para diferenciar pares de palabras que se escriben igual pero tienen significado distinto, generalmente monosílabas. No todas están aquí, si encuentran más ejemplos, por favor reenviármelos a @cegusquiza. ¡Gracias!

Palabras que antes llevaban tilde diacrítica pero que ya no deben llevarla según las reglas de acentuación vigentes de la RAE.

Otros monosílabos que no deben llevar tilde nunca ya que a diferencia de los monosílabos con tilde diacrítica, no hay una variante de la cual tienen que ser diferenciados.

Palabras terminadas en -mente

3 reflections before using Twitter for education

Whenever you decide to use a new edtech tool or social networking site in your classroom, you should ask yourself Why? Why using that particular tool? A message I’ll never forget from the recent #antwerpcall2014 conference (CALL: Computer Assisted Language Learning) is that we should aim at designing long-term activities and tasks instead of one-time activities, presentation by Michael Marek at @MiMarek1 and Vivian Wu. If we find a few tools and stick to them long-term, we’ll be able to improve our practices and design more meaningful tasks over time, find multiple alternatives, collect data and get ongoing student feedback.

If you’re looking into using Twitter in your (online) class, here are three things to consider before you can decide if Twitter is a tool you can use for several classes and school years:

Does it make sense to you? Does it have value in your everyday (work)life?

I’ve talked to a few teachers and other people who have Twitter but simply don’t tweet. They say they don’t know what to tweet. The platform doesn’t make sense to them yet. Other teachers are still not convinced by the whole idea of Twitter but feel pressured to use it in class because other colleagues are using it. Twitter has to do with having a voice and wanting to say something to the whole world. It aligns with some of the 21st skills we want to transfer to our students: innovation, critical thinking, managing information, and collaboration across networks. It may take a little while to figure it all out. Once you do, you’ll realize that Twitter is a unique site to find people with common job/hobby interests, to access relevant articles and resources, and to follow institutions, organizations or certain leaders in your field. Moreover, Twitter makes long distances shorter because, in education for example, you can follow and communicate with great educational leaders such as Tony Wagner at @DrTonyWagner and get inspired by his quotes, resources and ideas. You can collaborate with teachers around the world and express your ideas and reflections on best educational practices, short and to the point. It’s also easy to use on all devices. Once you value Twitter for what it brings to you as a teacher, you will be able to reflect on how it can be valuable to your students.

Explore how other teachers are using it.

Doing a little informal research is always helpful when choosing a new tool or platform. Talk to teachers who have used it, attend free webinars about this topic or look for an article or open presentation or video about the topic via Slideshare, TED or YouTube. This is how some teachers I’ve talked to (personally or via social media) use Twitter in their classes:

  • Some teachers are using Twitter to post homework assignments and due dates. Something to think about: But why Twitter? Couldn’t they just use the school’s online learning platform for this purpose?
  • Other teachers tell students to follow a famous person, for foreign languages for example, it’s usually a celebrity, writer or politician. Something to think about: This person may be valuable to you but is he/she valuable to your students?
  • Other teachers tell students to tweet reflections on readings and assignments using a specific hashtag or tweeting directly to the class twitter account. Something to think about: Do these reflections end once the class ends?
  • Other teachers ask students to check the feed of posts under a specific hashtag to see what has been said about a topic. This is usually done prior to class discussion on that particular topic. Students may not need to have a Twitter account for this purpose. Something to think about: Do you want students to somehow capture the most memorable messages?
  • [margin]

    Now how are you going to use it?

    So far, I’ve personally used Twitter as a resource for authentic materials and authentic language in my classroom but I haven’t used it for any graded activities. I’m just not there yet. I want to experiment with these uses some more and take them beyond classroom use, that’s one of my personal challenges.

    With a Business Spanish class I had with marketing and logistics students I used Twitter to show relevant quotes and bits of advice in Spanish that had to to with the topic we were discussing about. For example, when we discussed “Claves del éxito” or “the key to success”, I shared tweets from Frases de marketing at @frasesmarketing and Marketing en español at @MKTenEspanol on different dates and came back to those specific tweets when needed. You will find a few examples below but I must say that there are tons of tweets I can use and they just keep coming. It was a moment to reflect on authentic language use for their future careers; the messages had real, relevant vocabulary for them to learn, the messages connected with what they learn during their core discipline courses and some tweets could be very inspirational, poetic, and carried a message they could take with them and hopefully apply as professionals. It’s very easy to collect these tweets for class, simply by saving them to your favorites – that explains why I have so many on my Twitter account – and embedding them into your blog, class page, school’s online platform or slide presentations. Almost every time I check my Twitter I find a couple of phrases or articles for future classroom use.

    Other way I used Twitter is that when we were reviewing some writing tips and spelling and orthography, I would show a couple of tweets from Ortografía at @ORTOGRAFIA of examples of “la tilde diacrítica” – accent mark to differentiate words that are written the same way but have different meaning – this meaning is marked with the accent such as in ‘te’ (you, object pronoun such as in ‘te quiero’ – ‘I love you’) and ‘té’ (tea, noun). @ORTOGRAFIA explained all the rules there were to know and gave great examples so why looking for something else or writing my own examples. Again, if students continue to study the language and become users of the language – which I always try to encourage – and find @ORTOGRAFIA a valuable tool for personal use beyond the classroom, then that’s what it’s all about.

    How can you extend on all of these ideas?

    Telling students to follow a specific account – such as @frasesmarketing for example – may be valuable once they value the content of this Twitter feed and have personal interest – beyond the classroom – in what this person or organization has to say. Your role can always be to expose students to different influential people or feeds they may want to follow, not simply telling them who to follow. You could show them along the course relevant tweets from different people/institutions they might find interesting. If they decide to follow them and continue to do so after the course is over, that is more valuable than just having to follow someone for that particular course. If you are lucky to have the same group for future (language) classes, they could give a presentation at a future time about what they have learned from following that one person or organization they chose. Students could also select some of the tweets that inspired them and include them in their (digital) portfolios, to reflect upon the meaning of that particular quote and how they can apply that message to their everyday (professional) lives.

    Regarding Twitter class accounts, it could be great to build communities, connect and collaborate with other classes to enrich discussions so it’s not just the tweets of one specific class that are posted but of different students who take the same subject. Students could also curate content such as relevant articles or quotes and post them to the class account. Students could analyze what others have said about a topic by following the specific hashtag twitter feed and retweeting the messages they find important or sharing them/embedding them to the class page or class forum or select them and organize them using Flipboard or Storify, which are tools that allow you to create a collection of content and visualize it as an online magazine (Flipboard) or a story line or timeline (Storify) of tweets of a particular topic. Finally, students who plan to work in that particular field could continue to keep the account alive and encourage others to participate.

    Here are some examples of the tweets I’ve used from @frasesmarketing and @MKTenEspanol

    Regarding this particular tweet, a student said there should be a correction: “La ‘mala’ reputación de una marca o una empresa no se quita con Photoshop.”

    Some tweets from @ORTOGRAFIA on “la tilde diacrítica. I’m posting more related tweets on a different blog entry.

    Learning, unlearning and relearning

    “Los analfabetos del siglo 21 no serán aquellos que no saben leer y escribir, sino aquellos que no pueden aprender, desaprender y reaprender” – Alvin Toffler

    “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”

    What a powerful, inspiring concept! As teachers, we’ve been used to transferring skills and knowledge to learners and to testing their knowledge with exams at the end of each unit or course. But learning goes beyond that and it has no boundaries. We’re more interconnected than ever before. We’re sharing, collaborating, inspiring one another. Everyday I find powerful messages, blog entries and articles in Twitter and LinkedIn that inspire me to keep searching for ways to reach students. We have the chance to learn from our own practices, from others, to select what works best and to change what doesn’t, to experiment with new ideas, to improve and get better every day.

    That’s learning, unlearning and relearning. We’re doing it. How can we encourage students to do it as well?

    Please comment directly on the Padlet wall or on the comment section (Inglés o Español). Thank you very much!
    You can move other people’s text boxes just by dragging them around the wall, in order to fit your text box.

    Preparing students for the global workplace

    NOBLE – Network of Business Language Educators – has put this series of webinars together for language for specific purposes teachers and professionals from different fields who support interdisciplinary studies: language, culture and specific disciplines.

    You can register for the webinars for free and the recordings will be available on YouTube shortly after the presentations. This is an amazing resource for educators who are looking for innovative ways to create global connections for their students and to integrate areas of study. What’s great nowadays is that we can access these valuable resources for free and we can learn from the experiences and tips of professionals in the field who are going beyond typical approaches to create lifelong learning opportunities for students! Thanks so much for sharing!

    List of webinars:

    December 10, 1013. Connecting Students to the “Real” World. Annie Abbott, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

    January 14, 2014. Developing A High School “Spanish for Leadership” Course. Cristin Bleess, Castle View High School, Colorado.

    January 28, 2014. “Students’ Own Careers as a Specific Purpose”. Darcy Lear, Career Coach, Chicago.

    February 11, 2014. Building a Career Abroad: a Visual Approach to Creating Opportunities. Leslie Forman, Universidad del Desarollo in Santiago, Chile.

    February 25, 2014. Medical Spanish – Moving from Rote skills To Practical Application in the Secondary Classroom. Melissa Swarr, Hempfield School District in Lancaster, PA.

    March 25, 2014. Using Case Studies in the Foreign Language Classroom. Margaret Gonglewski and Anna Helm, George Washington University.

    April 8, 2014. Spanish for Healthcare In the USA. Berta-Isabel Cuadrado Álvarez. 4:30 p.m. EST

    Preparing students for a global community: Leadership & Language

    Nice initiative from Rosetta Stone. They’re partnering with school districts in the US to offer an alternate, complementary method for teaching foreign languages, where students can work from home or independently in class – in work stations – and develop their language skills in a personalized way. They’re offering free webinars such as this one to present success stories from schools that are implementing their language programs.
    The webinar had such as powerful title that I wanted to participate. This is such an important aspect in education and language teaching, and a key concept in Language for Specific Purposes (LSP) classes such as Business Spanish: To prepare students to be active participants of our global society, to develop “global mindedness” and become “internationally-minded students.” Language is an important aspect towards reaching this goal. 61% of US companies need employers who can speak Spanish, followed by French and Mandarin. Take a look at the graphic below:


    Language skills: a global competency?

    The relationship between global competency and language skills remains an unmet need. Fewer than 10% of Americans are fluent in more than one language while about 50% of Europeans are. One of the main barriers is limited funding in language learning in K-12 education. Schools and colleges/universities need to explore new ways to deliver language teaching, to develop self-paced learning methods, and to incorporate technology for blended and online courses.
    Nakia Douglas, Principal of the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy in Dallas, Texas presented interesting aspects of his school’s language program, that offers three languages: Chinese, Latin and Spanish. Latin remains a popular choice for the students who want to pursue a career in medicine or law. They offer a blended program with Rosetta Stone as partner. In addition, the school offers exchange program opportunities for students in Taiwan, Spain and Costa Rica among others. This is a unique opportunity for students, of course.

    And what do students think?

    What I always miss from this type of webinars or conference presentations is the students’ perspective and seeing the students in action. What do they think? How do they perceive language? For students to be internationally-minded and become bilingual or multilingual, they not only need to develop a variety of skills, they need to care about our changing world and have a love for language learning. How can we – their teachers – help them? Exchange programs are a great way for students to be exposed to the target language and to the people who speak the language. If they are able to stay with a host family and experience the language, the culture and school life or professional life 100%, that’s the best scenario of course, to be totally immersed. However, although ideal, it’s not always possible to get funding to offer these opportunities to students when they’re in school. But there are other ways to expose students to language, through service learning, community partnerships, internships in multilingual organizations, etc. And that’s something that we can definitely promote. Here’s a great example of a teacher that’s doing that: Ann Abbott who gives a “Spanish in the Community” class at the University of Illinois. I discovered her blog only a week or so ago and loved it. In her blog you can find many ideas to involve students in serving the (Hispanic) community. What’s also great is that you can read many students’ reflections to get a feel of what they think, how they develop empathy and understanding for others and other culture, how they connect to language and “how they begin to love language”.

    So we need to be on the same page…

    Preparing students to meet the demands of our global society is an important task. In most cases, we only have a semester to work with a group of students and there’s always so much material to cover. That’s why it’s important to transfer not only knowledge to students but lifelong learning strategies and to expose them to experiences they will remember. Finally, it should not only be the task of language teachers to promote language learning. If the principal of a school or a future employer requires students/employees to speak foreign languages but he or she himself/herself doesn’t, there seems to be a gap there… but it was different when we went to school. There were other priorities. If this is a priority now, then that’s basically the task: To prepare today’s students, so that when they become future professionals, they can indeed lead by example.

    Are MOOCs really for everyone?


    María Dolores Castrillo started her presentation at the UNED in Madrid on 13/12 “How to run an online language course from a massive perspective” with her translation of the following quote from Thomas Friedman’s article “Revolution hits the universities” (New York Times):

    “Nada tiene mayor potencial para liberar a más gente de la pobreza. Nada tiene mayor potencial para poner en marcha a miríadas de cerebros…”

    “Nothing has more potential to lift more people out of poverty — by providing them an affordable education to get a job or improve in the job they have. Nothing has more potential to unlock a billion more brains to solve the world’s biggest problems. And nothing has more potential to enable us to reimagine higher education than the massive open online course, or MOOC…”

    She chose to include the first part of this quote “[the] potential to lift more people out of poverty” since MOOCs are free and open for everyone to take. Someone in the audience added to the quote “intellectual poverty then”, given that, it’s true that MOOCs are free but let’s not forget that they are to be taken totally online and although the digital era in education seems to have expanded across the globe, “the happy few” are the ones who are fully taking advantage of all these changes and many people in developing countries continue to have limited or no access to computers or internet, and even education. So, who takes MOOCs then? Are they really meant to be for everyone or just for an elite group?

    Two studies from the University of Pennsylvania reveal that 80% of the people who take university MOOCs already have a degree of some kind and only 4% of them actually finish the course. MOOCs are university level courses so they have a rigorous syllabus and expected study hours and assignments. Of course MOOCs are still a recent movement so there’s a lot of room for improvement in their development, delivery and completion rate.

    Dr. María Dolores Castrillo has won a prize for a MOOC she delivered: Alemán para hispanohablantes: Nociones fundamentales. She shared some statistics with us from this course and the MOOC-COMA initiative from the UNED (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia) in Spain that revealed that most people who take MOOCs do it for instrinsic reasons: “por amor al arte”. From all the people who completed her German for Beginners course, only 2,2% requested an optional official certificate for the course for which they had to pay. People who take MOOCs may already have a degree of some kind but they simply want to learn a new skill, satisfy their curiosity or take that course they never got to take in college.

    When someone asked the speaker for her point of view regarding MOOCs being just for an elite group, she gave us a really interesting answer, what drove me to write this blog entry. MOOCs are there for everyone to take. It’s not that the university’s admissions office will check your file and even reject your application in some cases. MOOCs are open, free. “Es una selección natural”, a natural selection process. Nobody will tell you not to take the MOOC…

    … but the MOOC can drive you away on its own of course. It’s true that the completion rates are really low in this study I mentioned but considering that many of the people who took these MOOCs already had a degree, then many of them are probably finding MOOCs where they can explore a topic of interest or refine a skill and they just sign up. Since it’s so simple to sign up. It’s not that they need the certificate in many cases, so the content of the MOOC is open for them to explore during the length of the course, even if they don’t complete it or turn in the assignments that are mandatory.

    So not all MOOCs may be for everyone but this is something the student has to judge for himself/herself. MOOCs may be attracting just a certain group right now but the idea is there and it can potentially reach other groups in the future, with the right implementation of technology when needed. They are free after all and they certainly offer high quality education. The MOOC phenomenon has the potential to make higher education more accessible & affordable and therefore to open new doors for future employment.

    For more info on this presentation by María Dolores Castrillo, click here.