Golden Week (ゴールデンウィーク Gōruden Wīku)

Golden Week (ゴールデンウィーク Gōruden Wīku)

Have you ever wondered what a Japanese holiday looks like?

Let me give you just a wee example of it with the world famous Golden Week.

Golden Week is a collection of four national holidays which takes place over seven days and is one of Japan’s three busiest holiday seasons. Due to its popularity, trains, airports and tourist spots get very crowded during Golden Week and accommodation in tourist areas can get booked out well in advance.

The national holidays which make up Golden Week are:

• 29th April
Showa Day (Showa no hi):
April 29 is the birthday of former Emperor Showa, who died in the year 1989. Until 2006, Greenery Day (see 4th May) used to be celebrated on this day.

• 3rd May
Constitution Day (Kenpo kinenbi):
On this day in 1947, the new post-war constitution was put into effect.

• 4th May
Greenery Day (Midori no hi):
Until 2006, Greenery Day used to be celebrated on the 29th April, the birthday of former Emperor Showa. The day is dedicated to the environment and nature, because the emperor loved plants and the natural world. Before being declared Greenery Day, the 4th May used to be a national holiday due to a law which declares that a day which falls between two national holidays must be a national holiday.


• 5th May
Children’s Day (Kodomo no hi):
The Boy’s Festival (Tango no Sekku) is celebrated on this day. Families pray for the health and future success of their sons by hanging up carp streamers and displaying samurai dolls, symbolising strength, power and success in life. The Girl’s Festival is celebrated on the 3rd March.


We wish a fantastic Golden Week to our students Takuya and Kanae, and our lovely teachers Katomi and Kazuko.

11 Artists to Help You Learn Spanish Through Music

11 Artists to Help You Learn Spanish Through Music

It is often said that, to learn the language of a country, you must immerse yourself in the culture of the country. One of the better and most useful ways to do this without living in the country itself is by listening to its music. So if you’re looking to improve your Spanish but are not able to plan a trip to Spain or Latin America, here are 11 groups and musicians who can help!

1. Alejandro Sanz

Born in Madrid in 1968, Alejandro Sanz knew he wanted to dedicate his life to music when he was only a teenager. This was definitely not an arbitrary choice, as he could already play the guitar at only seven years old and started composing songs soon after. At the age of 16, he released his first record but it passed unnoticed, so he started composing songs for others. At the age of 23 he released his first well-known album, “Viviendo deprisa” (1991), which sold over 1 million copies, suggesting that a larger audience was waiting for him. Today he has sold more than 23 million copies, 16 albums, and has the most Grammys of any Spanish artist. Despite becoming famous, he is still the composer and writer of all his songs, so he deserves a place on this list.



2. Joaquin Sabina

Joaquin Sabina stands out not for being a great singer, but instead for his lyrics, with his songs considered poetry rather than music. In fact, he started writing poetry when he was only 14 years old. Since music was also a big passion of his at that age, he formed a music group with some friends. In 1975 he had his first performance in London and performed as a support act for Paco Ibañez, Lluis Llach and more. He was also in charge of the soundtrack of the BBC TV show, “The Last Crusade”. Since 1980, the year his first song was released, he has not stopped playing and doing shows with other artists – in 2007 he went on tour with Joan Manuel Serrat. The last award he received is from the magazine, Rolling Stone which awarded him the Best Singer of the Year in 2010.



3. Sergio Dalma

Born in 1964 in Barcelona, Sergio Dalma started his career very young and, at the age of 20, he had already performed as a singer as part of orchestras and choirs. After taking part in the TV contest, “Gent d’aquí”, he received an offer to record an album, which was released in 1989 with the name “Esa chica es mía” and was very successful. Due to this, he was chosen to represent Spain in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1991, and although he didn’t win, it made him very famous. The albums he released later appeared in the charts, competing with the likes of Alejandro Sanz and Enrique Iglesias.



4. Calle 13

Calle 13 was created in 2004 in Puerto Rico after René Pérez Joglar and his half-brother Eduardo Cabra Martínez had the idea of forming a music group. René is the singer and composer and Eduardo is the musician, music director and also composer. Their half-sister, Ileana Cabra Joglar, is the female voice of the group. The rap, reggaeton and hip-hop band is also known for their satirical lyrics which contain a social and political critique. So, if you like this music, this is the best group for you to improve your Spanish.



5. Enrique Iglesias

Probably the most well-known of these artists in English-speaking countries, Enrique Iglesias moved to Florida when he was only 7 years old and grew up there, making English his second language. Today, he records English versions of nearly every song he writes in Spanish. It was a big surprise to his family when, at the age of 20, he told them that he wanted to become a singer since he had never told them anything about it.  In this same year, his first album was released. It was a big success and sold over 6 million copies in the worldwide. In 1997, he did his first tour with over 80 concerts in 13 countries. Today, Enrique Iglesias is a very successful artist with more than 200 gold records and 100 platinum records and, as we can see, he has not yet given any sign of stopping this long trajectory.



6. Pereza

Rubén Pozo Prats and José Miguel Conejo Torres “Leiva” created “Pereza” in the late 90’s, but it was not until 2001 when a record company saw their talent and offered them a contract to record their first album. Although this did not make them as famous as the previous artists we have mentioned, it was thanks to this very first album that they were given opportunity to do over 100 concerts all over Spain and to be the warm-up act for other famous artists. In 2002, their next album, “Algo para cantar”, gave them the push they needed, allowing them to do an extensive tour of over 200 concerts and making them the opening act for Bon Jovi on one occasion. From that point on, their career kept rising, but in 2011, they decided to put an end to the group. Both members both released their own album, although “Leiva’s” has been far more successful than Rubén’s.



7. M-Clan

This band was formed in 1993 when Carlos Tarque (voice) and Ricardo Ruipérez met and decided to get together to form a band, convincing the other current members to join them. In the beginning, the 5 musicians from Murcia (Spain) played a mix of blues, soul and hard rock, and were even told to sound like Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and others. In 1995 and 1997 they released two albums, but none of them reached the sales they expected. Even so, it gave them the opportunity to play with big international artists like Bon Jovi and Gun. It wasn’t until 1999 when they finally made a big step in their career with the album “Usar y tirar”, which brought them the MTV award for best Latin group in the year 2000. In the same year, they released their most well-known song today, “Carolina”.



8. Juanes

Juan Esteban Aristizábal Vásquez was born in the 70’s in Colombia. His family loved music and taught him how to play the guitar at an early age. That’s why, at the age of 15, he decided to create a band, which gained a lot of success, releasing five albums in eight years. The success of the group encouraged him to make the big step into starting a solo career when the band split up, recording his first album “Fíjate bien” in Los Angeles. It was a great success and got him 3 nominations at the Latin Grammys. Singing, writing, producing and playing the guitar all of his songs, Juanes’ career has only gone upwards, winning him a lot of awards like the MTV awards, Grammys, the Spanish “Premio Ondas” and more.



9. Estopa

This duo was formed by two Spanish brothers from Cornellá (Barcelona). Born in the late 70’s, they didn’t complete their studies and started working in one of the factories of what today is SEAT. It was there, during the monotonous work in the factory, where the idea for their first song came. After playing in a few bars around their hometown, and seeing that the audience liked their music, they decided to record a song. The record company they sent it to liked their music style – a mix of rumba, flamenco and rock – and so the group were able to release their first album, “Estopa”, in 1999. After this, the number of sold records grew quickly, especially in the year 2000, when they received a lot of awards. Today, the group has still as much energy as when they began, especially since their last album, “Rumba a lo desconocido”, is from the year 2015 and they are still giving concerts.



10. Maná

This is a Mexican band, created in Guadalajara and initially called “The Spies of the Green Hat” in 1976 and later “Sombrero verde” (Green hat). Under the latter name, they released their first two records, but in 1987 they changed record company and also the name of the group to the current one, Maná, and which has since sold 50,000 records. The following year was not as good as the first, so they decided to change to Warner Music, and released “Falta amor” which sold over 750,000 copies. However, it was in 1991 when they really achieved fame all around the world with their album “¿Dónde jugarán los niños?” which sold over 1 million copies. Today Maná is one of the best known groups of Latin music in the world.



11. Efecto Pasillo

This group is a special choice of mine, since they come from the Canary Islands, where I also come from. The group had their first appearance in 2007 in a local music contest which they won by a landslide. Their first song was played on the radio stations of the Canary Islands and, during a concert, a producer from Barcelona liked their music and decided to represent the group. In 2010, they became famous throughout the country with their album, “Efecto Pasillo” and performed as support acts for other famous groups like “Hombre G”. In 2012, they published their most well-known song: “Pan y mantequilla”, which won the “40 principales” award for best song in 2012.



Of course, there are many more Spanish groups and musicians and this list represents only a small number. If you are looking for more music, here are some lists that you can check out. Enjoy learning Spanish!


Image credits:
Joaquin Sabina (top-left): Oneras (Flickr)
Enrique Iglesias (top-middle): jorgemejia (Flickr)
Calle 13 (Up-right): Alejandra Quintero Sinisterra
Pereza (bottom-left):
Efecto Pasillo (down-right): Prisa Radio (Flickr)



[Teacher Feature] How to use ¿QUÉ TAL …? in Spanish

[Teacher Feature] How to use ¿QUÉ TAL …? in Spanish

Image credit: Pixabay

You probably all know the meaning of “¿Qué tal?”  but do you make the most of it???  

It is very useful and, in Spanish, it is used a lot in informal situations to ask about many things.

Students are usually complaining about how long the sentences in Spanish are in comparison to English. HOWEVER, here we have the opposite example. Good news for you guys!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

As we said before, ¿QUÉ TAL? is used in informal or coloquial situations. Here are some examples:

  • To ask how you are: ¿qué tal? ¿qué tal estás?
  • To ask how the weekend went: ¿qué tal el fin de semana?
  • If we want to know about a recent trip: ¿qué tal el viaje?
  • Or how did the exam go? ¿Qué tal el examen?
  • To ask about a film, if you like it or not: ¿qué tal la película?

Even in class, I’m sure you have heard your teacher asking ¿QUÉ TAL? Not just to ask how you are today but how one exercise went for you, if it was easy, complicated, etc.

So, guys, ¿qué tal el artículo? Espero que os haya gustado 🙂 🙂 🙂

Iris 🙂

[Teacher Feature] French Vs. English: the Possessive Adjectives

[Teacher Feature] French Vs. English: the Possessive Adjectives

Image credit: Pixabay

Expressing possession in French can be a little bit tricky for native English-speakers as the possessive adjectives work in a completely different way.

Have a look at the translation below:

My car is yellow. My book is red.
Ma voiture est jaune. Mon livre est rouge.

Her car is yellow. His book is red.
Sa voiture est jaune. Son livre est rouge.

In English, the possessive adjective agrees with the possessor:
E.g. Her car is yellow. His book is red.

In French, the possessive adjective agrees with the thing that is possessed:
E.g Sa voiture est jaune. Son livre est rouge.

What is important is the gender of the thing that is possessed, so “sa” could be translated as “his” OR “her”. Likewise, “son” could be translated as “his” OR “her”.

However, in the plural form there isn’t difference between the masculine and the feminine):
Ma voiture est jaune. Mon livre est rouge
Mes voitures sont jaunes. Mes livres sont rouges.

Chart of French possessive adjectives:

 mon mes ma mes
 ton  tes  ta  tes
 son  ses  sa  ses
 notre  nos  notre  nos
 votre  vos  votre  vos
 leur  leurs  leur  leurs

Another easy way to express the possession in French ? Just use the preposition “de”.
Mary’s car. La voiture de Marie. Paul’s books. Les livres de Paul

Leap Year Around the World

Leap Year Around the World

Image: Rafiq Sarlie (Flickr)

It only comes once every four years but the 29th of February is here today! In the UK, it was traditionally the only day of the year that a woman could propose to a man (although times have definitely changed now!).

Here are some other traditions and superstitions from around the world:

1. In Denmark, if a man refuses a woman’s proposal on the 29th February, he has to give her 12 pairs of gloves and in Finland, they have to buy her fabric for a skirt.


2. In Greece it’s unlucky for couples to marry during a leap year, especially on the 29th February!


3. Italians are also not fond of Leap Years with one saying being, “anno bisesto, anno funesto” or “leap year, gloomy year”


4. Russians believe leap years are associated with strange weather and a higher risk of death!

Danger Electric Shock Risk. Sign

5. In Taiwan, it is thought that parents are more likely to die during a leap year. During this time, a married daughter ought to return home in February and bring pig trotter noodles to her parents to encourage good health and fortune.

CongeeRoyal Pig's Trotter Noodles

6. And here in Scotland, a leap year is also supposed to be a bad year for livestock. The saying goes “Leap year was ne’er a good sheep year”


Do you have any Leap Year traditions from your country? Let us know!

Happy Chinese New Year 2016!

Happy Chinese New Year 2016!

Picture by Paul via Flickr

One hundred and nineteen countries around with world will host festivities to celebrate the Chinese New Year this year, also known as the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival.

This year is the year of the goat but is also referred to as the year of the sheep as the Chinese character 羊 (yang) can be translated into either ‘goat’ or ‘sheep’. Those born in the year of the goat are traditionally considered to be kind and gentle but are also fiercely loyal and compassionate.

Edmonton Chinese New Year 2015

Each day leading up to Chinese New Year has its own celebration which includes dinners, parades, dragon dances, reunions and gift exchanges. Children are given red envelopes filled with money to bring them happiness and good fortune for the rest of the year. The colour red is everywhere during the festivities as, according to Chinese legend, the mythical monster, Nian was scared of the colour red and fireworks, which are also a key element in New Year celebrations. On the fifteenth and final day of the celebrations, red Chinese lanterns are released into the sky.

This funny advert shows some Chinese New Year traditions by telling the story of a hilarious contest between two competitive neighbours:

If you are interested in Chinese culture, why not learn Mandarin? We have classes to suit all levels from beginners to advanced. Each course is led by qualified native Chinese-speaking teachers in small groups to allow for maximum speaking practice.

Edmonton Chinese New Year 2015

We are also happy to arrange private or group tuition for professionals wishing to learn Mandarin, with courses taking place either from our language centre on Shandwick Place or at your office.