21 abr. 2017

Netflix Academy – Improve your Spanish by watching TV!

Ask a language teacher the best way to learn a language and they will almost certainly say that immersing yourself in the culture is a great way to start. This may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t mean you have to pack your suitcase and head to a foreign country straight away! What if I told you that you needn’t go further than the very device you are reading this on? 

An excellent way to improve your language skills is to absorb material in that language – whether it is literature, the news, or – that’s right – TV shows! To make sure you can learn as much as possible from watching Spanish shows, follow our guide depending on your language level.

Beginners: If you are not used to hearing Spanish, TV shows may sound like a load of nonsense. Have patience! Try putting on subtitles in your native language and seeing if there are any words you recognise in Spanish, whilst still following the story.
Intermediate: If available, put on Spanish subtitles whilst watching the show. This way, you will learn new vocabulary whilst improving your reading and listening skills.
Advanced: Turn off the subtitles completely! Challenge yourself to really listen to the language instead of relying on reading the subtitles.

Not sure where to start? Here are our top 5 Spanish language programmes for those looking to enrich their cultural knowledge and vocabulary. 

Narcos (Colombia, 2015-)

Great for beginners, this recent hit follows the true life story of infamous drug kingpin Pablo Escobar in Medellín, Colombia. Half in Spanish, half in English, this drama allows viewers to see the situation from both the American Drug Enforcement Agency and Colombian citizens’ viewpoint. 

Available on: Netflix
Recommended for: 15+

Capadocia (Mexico, 2008-)

Capadocia is a thrilling drama revolving around the lives of women in an experimental Mexican prison and the stories of how they all came to be there. Expect grit, shock and heartbreak.

Available on: HBO Go, Amazon Video
Recommended for: 18+

Club de Cuervos (Mexico, 2015-)

A light-hearted Mexican comedy about two siblings’ fight for their father’s football club after his passing. Full of laughs, scandal and plenty of Mexican slang!

Available on:  Netflix
Recommended for: 15+

Gran Hotel (Spain, 2011-2013)

This series caused a storm in Spain, much like Downton Abbey did worldwide. A historical drama set in the 20th century in Santander, “Gran Hotel” lets us in to the lives of the aristocracy of years gone by.

Available on: Netflix, Hulu
Recommended for: 12+

Ingobernable (Mexico, 2017-)

A brand new drama starring well-known actress Kate Del Castillo, “Ingobernable” tracks the life of the First Lady of Mexico after she begins to mistrust her husband. It embraces its Mexican heritage with the high level of drama all too often seen in telenovelas. 

Available on: Netflix
Recommended for: 15+

So get comfy, grab the popcorn and get watching!

7 abr. 2017

Semana Santa in Madrid!

Semana Santa (Easter) in Madrid and in the rest of Spain is a hugely celebrated weeklong festival where 15th Century traditions are still upheld. In this blog we’ll tell you a bit about the history of Semana Santa throughout Spain as well as the best things Madrid has to offer this Easter!

The festivities begin on Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday) where many churches throughout Spain organize processions where people carry large leaves or olive branches which have been blessed in the church to mark the arrival of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem. This year in Madrid, the procession will be held at the Basilica de San Miguel at around 4pm on Sunday 9th April. Watch out for the people wearing clothes similar to those from the late 14th Century!

On Wednesday (Miércoles Santo) and Thursday (Jueves Santo) there are various parades taking place throughout the city for you to choose from. On Wednesday 12th April, Madrid’s Archbishop will take part in the Vía Crucis, a parade which goes through the 14 points of resurrection, starting from the Parraquia de San Ramon Nonato at 17.00 and ending at the Seminario Conciliar de Madrid at approximately 21.00. On Thursday, one of the most impressive events of the Semana Santa will take place. Taken place on Calle Toledo, at around 19.30, the religious images of Virgin Maria Santísima de la Esperanza and Jesús del Gran Poder are presented by the members of the Colegiata de San Isidro church on top of a huge altar, carried by people in traditional dress.

In order to witness the most traditional outfits, make sure you head down to watch the Procesión de Silencio (Procession of Silence) on Good Friday (Viernes Santo). People will be covered from head to toe (faces included) in black or white cloth, and, as the name suggests, will be completely silent. Following this on Saturday is the Nuestra Señora de la Soledad which leaves the Corpus Christi Monastery at around 16.30.

The main event of Semana Santa takes place on Domingo de la Resurrección (Easter Sunday). The city’s main square becomes a gathering place for brotherhoods and spectators come to witness the Temborada del Domingo de Resurrección – a drum performance which aims to stimulate the earth tremors from the day of Jesus’ death.

If you’re in Madrid this Easter, make sure you don’t miss out on all the amazing festivities taking place throughout the week!

4 abr. 2017

Spanish Accents And How To Spot Them

It is a well known fact that Spanish is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, after Chinese and English. However, did you know that this has produced so many different dialects, and with that, accents, that it would be impossible to describe them all in this article? We understand that it can be almost impossible to understand someone with an accent you have never heard before – so much so that it may not even sound like Spanish! Here, we will break down a few of the most common accents in the Hispanic world so you can tell them apart, and let you in on a few local phrases too.


Castilian is what many Europeans are describing when they refer to a “neutral” Spanish accent, spoken in central and Northern Spain. It is also the accent most students of Spanish are taught to pronounce. For example, say “gracias” out loud. Did you pronounce the “c” as a “th” sound? This is the Castilian way, and we will see how other Spanish accents say the same word differently.


Often described as the most distinctive accent in Spain, there goes a saying of the natives of this area: “Los andaluces se comen las palabras” - “Andalucians eat up their words.” It is common in Andalucía to drop the “s” and “d” sounds in words. For example, the following sentence is written as an Andalucían would pronounce it – can you work out what it would be in normal written Spanish?

“¿To’o u’te’e e’tan e’peran’o el autobu’?”


Being one of the most popular languages in the world, of course Spanish is not limited to Spain! Most countries in South America have Spanish as their main language, including Mexico. Some may say this is the opposite of the Andalucían accent we explored before, as Mexicans tend to pronounce every letter in Spanish words. Remember how “gracias” is pronounced in Castilian Spanish? In Mexican Spanish, and all other Latin American countries, the “c” is said as an “s” – this is known as “seseo.” To help you understand Mexican Spanish better, why not take a look at these local phrases?

“No tener dos dedos de frente” – To be as thick as two short planks, not very bright
“¡Aguas!” – Be careful! Take care!


Argentinian Spanish has a lot of the same characteristics as other Latin American countries, but due to heavy Italian influence, especially in the capital of Buenos Aires, they have some speaking habits that may not seem very Spanish at all! You have probably been taught to pronounce the Spanish “ll” as a “y” sound – not in Argentina! In Buenos Aires, it resembles an English “zh”. They also use “vos” instead of the “tú” form. You may hear Argentinians saying some of the following phrases – here’s what they mean!

“Tener mala leche” – To have bad luck
“Estar en el horno” – To be in trouble

So now you know a little more about how diverse the Spanish accent can be, and hopefully you can tell a few accents apart! Did you enjoy learning about the accents?

14 mar. 2017

Running in Madrid

As we all know, Madrid is a beautiful city with loads of great things to see. We also know that the vast quantities of delicious tapas can make it easy to gain a few pounds! So instead of strolling round the city, why not speed things up and get running? The city has loads of wide open, green spaces and parks which make it the perfect city in which to go for a jog!

1. Retiro Park

Retiro Park
Retiro Park is Madrid’s most famous park with its beautiful lake, botanic gardens and stunning palaces. Its perimeter is approximately 4.5km long making it an ideal place to run whether you fancy a short jog or whether you really want to test yourself and increase the distance. It’s a fairly flat run so perfect for beginners as well as the more serious runners. If that wasn’t enough, the route is equipped with numerous water fountains making it even more perfect!

2. Madrid Río

Madrid Río
This impressive 42km stretch of river in a new riverside park in Madrid provides a perfect escape if you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. The picturesque scenery will be sure to motivate you to continue running and will give you a change of scenery from the built up city.

3. Casa de Campo

Like Retiro, Casa de Campo is a huge park offering endless green space in which to run. However unlike Retiro, is not a hugely popular tourist destination and so it’s likely that you’ll find yourself having acres of space to yourself to enjoy both the fresh air and your run. With various metro stops dotted around the park you can tailor your run to the distance you want.

4. Anillo Verde (Madrid’s green cyclist belt)

The green cyclist belt is purpose designed for cyclists and runners. It’s 6km wide, allowing 4km for cyclists and 2km for runners. It’s 64km in distance in total and has metro stations every 5km or less, so you can run for as long or as short as you like. It also covers a large area of Madrid making it convenient for everyone!

5. Parque Canal

Parque Canal
Also known as Parque Santander, this park was opened in 2007 with the aim of minimizing water wastage, as well as providing an area to do sport, as well as other leisure activities. Together with the 1.2km perimeter which is purpose-built for running, it’s home to 8 covered tennis courts, football pitches varying in size and even a golf course. Located in the centre of Madrid, Parque Canal is easily accessible to all and a perfect place to enjoy a run around!

7 feb. 2017

Discover Madrid's fascinating exhibitions!

Calling all you art lovers out there! As you probably know, Madrid has some of the world’s most famous museums. What maybe you didn’t know is what’s going on at these museums this month so here are a few just to whet your appetite then you can go out and explore for yourselves!

Metapintura. Un viaje a la idea del arte.

This exhibition is one of a four-part series during the last few years (the other exhibitions: Rubens (2010), Captive Beauty (2013) and Goya in Madrid (2014)) which has offered visitors to take a closer look at the museum’s own collections and encourages them to interpret the art in a new way. This exhibition not only celebrates the Prado’s 197 year anniversary, but also the origins of artistic activity in the Modern Age, focusing on mythological and relig
ious narratives right through to the relationship between art, the artist and society. Marking the 400th anniversary since Cervantes’ death, the exhibition also has a section on Don Quixote and so this is a great exhibition to visit if you’re keen to learn more about Spanish history, culture and art!
Where: Museo del Prado, Paseo del Prado (nearest metro Banco de España)
On until: 19th February 2017

Sorolla in Paris

This exhibition’s focus is on the international success of one of Spain’s most famous and appreciated artists: Joaquin Sorolla. It showcases Sorolla’s works from his exhibitions in Paris, Cologne, Berlin, Dusseldorf and London in which he won various prestigious international awards. The exhibition aims to allow the visitor to appreciate Sorolla’s originality and modernity through his techniques as well as follow his journey as an artist throughout time. Another brilliant way to immerse yourself into the Spanish culture through educating yourself about one of Spain’s best-known artists!

Where: Museo Sorolla, Paseo General Martínez Campos, 37 (nearest metro Rubén Darío)
Open until: 19th March 2017

El Arte de Saber Ver

At the Fundación Francisco Giner de los Ríos, this exhibition looks at the role of educator and art historian Manuel Bartolome Cossió in the development of contemporary Spanish culture. The main areas of focus in this exhibition are; the city of Toledo,

El Greco, as well as the history of the Institución Libre de Enseñanza (Free Educational Institute) and it boasts a variety of over 300 different works from famous artists, most notably El Greco. El arte de saber ver offers a great opportunity to learn about Spanish history and culture through a different perspective!

Where: La Fundación Francisco Giner de los Ríos, Paseo General Martínez Campos, 14 (nearest metro Iglesia)
Open until: 23rd April 2017

If what you have read above really grabs your attention, then make sure you check out our Spanish and Art course here at AIL Madrid! It will both explore your creative side as well as improve your Spanish language skills all in the cultural epicenter of Spanish life!

26 ene. 2017

A Short Stay in Madrid

With Madrid offering so many amazing cultural, historical and gastronomic activities it can seem impossible to figure out what you want to squeeze into a short stay. Here we have devised a list of what we think are the best that this city has to offer and the perfect sites to see if you only have limited time in this beautiful city!

1. Royal Palace and Plaza de Oriente
2. Mercado de San Miguel
3. Plaza Mayor
4. Parque Retiro
5. Gran Vía

Royal Palace of Madrid 

The Royal Palace
Dating back to the ninth century, the Royal Palace of Madrid is widely considered to be one of Europe’s most impressive palaces. Still today it is used for state functions and banquets despite the Spanish Royal Family living in Zarzuela Palace, located on the outskirts of Madrid. The interior of the palace boasts a wide variety of rich materials, for example; Spanish marble, stucco and mahogany although the decoration of the palace has changed a lot, complying with the varying artistic trends of the times.

Nearest metro: Opera

Opening hours: October – March: 10.00-18.00 and April – September: 10.00-20.00

Entry cost: General admission 11 Euros, reduced admission 6 Euros
Mercado de San Miguel

Mercado de San Miguel

The San Miguel Market offers a huge variety of food and drink to suit everyone’s tastes. From traditional Spanish plates such as paella or croquets to international cuisine such as pasta and cheese bars, the San Miguel Market offers something for everyone. There is a lot of space available at bars, tables and chairs so you can enjoy your food and soak up the atmosphere of the market at the same time.

Nearest metro: Opera

Opening hours: Mon-Wed: 10.00-00.00, Thurs-Sat: 10.00-02.00 and Sunday: 10.00-00.00

Entry cost: free

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor is one of Madrid’s most famous sites and was built between 1598 and 1621 during Felipe III’s reign. Its outside is surrounded by a variation of traditional Spanish shops whilst inside the main plaza it holds a whole host of restaurants serving traditional Spanish dishes. Whilst you’re in Plaza Mayor, make sure to get a bocadillo de calamares, a very famous sandwich in Madrid and Plaza Mayor is home to some of the best and most famous restaurants that serve them. Sit and eat your bocadillo de calamares in Plaza Mayor with a beer and watch the world go by!

Nearest metro: Opera

Opening hours: always open

Entry cost: free

Parque Retiro

Parque Retiro on a beautiful day!
Parque Retiro is a stunning 125 hectare area of green space offering various sporting activities for everyone. There is a large lake with rowing boats and endless open space to run and roller skate, as well as gym equipment! Retiro also boasts a whole range of gardens, most notably the Jardín de Vivaces, the Jardines de Cecilio Rodríguez and The Rose Gardens. It is also home to some stunning palaces, such as the Palacio de Cristal which used to be used for housing exotic plants, however is now used to showcase exhibitions.

Nearest metro: Retiro (line 2)

Entry cost: free

Gran Vía

Gran Vía is Madrid’s main street, located right in the centre of the city. It is one of Madrid’s most famous and important shopping areas, as well as the home of many hotels, cinemas, theatres and restaurants. Whilst in Madrid you have to walk down Gran Vía and admire the amazing architecture as well as check out some of the shops! If you keep walking down until the end, you’ll reach Calle Alcalá, another one of Madrid’s largest streets and also home to the impressive town hall.

Nearest metro: Gran Vía (line 1 and 5) and Callao (lines 3 and 5)

Entry cost: free

Having read all this, you may be thinking to yourself that you’d love to come but you don’t speak Spanish. This doesn’t have to be a problem! Check out all the different courses that AIL Madrid offers here – you’ll definitely find one that fits your schedule!