Dr. Pablo Calderón Martínez on the BBC today

Dr Pablo Calderón Martínez, Lecturer in Spanish at Aston, spoke in the BBC World’s program ‘World Business Report’ on the prospects for the Spanish economy after the new released GDP figures indicate the Spanish economy has been consistently growing for the last eight quarters. This means that Spain is in line to become Europe’s fastest growing economy. Yet not everything is rosy. Pablo briefly discusses how the Spanish economy needs to keep growing to recover what was lost during the recession, as well as the grim prospects for long-lasting recovery if structural problems are not addressed. You can see the full interview here.

7 incredible weeks in a small town called Benissa by Nabihah Malik

IMG_7839This summer I was lucky enough to receive the opportunity to work as a Primary English teacher with Inglaterra en Casa. I can honestly say that the moment I landed back in the UK and stepped off that flight, the nostalgia already began to kick in.

When I first heard that I’d received the job I was absolutely ecstatic – totally over the moon. (I didn’t actually think I would get it!) Upon arriving in Valencia late evening, it was an hour or so drive to Benissa. I couldn’t really see much as the sun had already set and if it is at all possible to get jet-lag from a 2 hour flight, then I was suffering from it! As I’d arrived a few days early, I had the opportunity to explore the town; I embraced my chance to be a tourist with open arms! Benissa is very small, and I mean you could probably tour the whole town in half a day, but that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy what I saw. The streets, although very tranquil, were filled with vibrant colours and reflected the culture of Benissa beautifully. The locals were all very friendly and welcoming and I basically (uh-oh get ready for the cliché) fell in love with the town! (I did warn you!)


Some photos of the town – Catedral de la Marina, Calle de lagrimas (but they were happy tears!) and the best chocolate cake in the world at my favourite café in Benissa, La Font!

Over the course of the 7 weeks, I worked with the most brilliant EPIC team of people. Amongst the team there were different roles, but we all worked together day in and day out and had such a great time. It’s not just the staff that made this a great trip; but the children I taught definitely made this adventure one to remember. Let’s just say children sure do have a mind of their own! (Apparently I’m 32, let’s just leave it at that shall we haha)

The kids I taught spanned between the ages of 7- 14. The idea was quite simple, to help them learn and improve their English but in an inspirational, motivational and fun way through activities and lessons. After all it is the summer, the last thing you want to do is to be sat in a boring school lesson! Whether it was English, Conversation, Drama, Cooking, Media or even Sports, children had the opportunity to enhance their level of English vocabulary and build on their speaking, writing and reading skills. Not to mention, the house system which was based on the well-known novel Harry Potter, was a great incentive and had the students fully engaged in all lessons and activities in order to gain points for their individual houses. If you were the winning house at the end of the week, you could sponge nominated staff members! Now …why would you want to miss an occasion like that?


My INK Family :)

Students over the course of these 7 fantastic weeks (I’m sure in their eyes too), experienced British Culture in a way like no other. Not only did some of them have the amazing opportunity to live with British host families to gain the maximum experience, but whether it was through building volcanoes in science, making a zombie movie in media, treasure hunting around Benissa or taking part in a typically British sports day- every child could walk out of Inglaterra en Casa this summer saying that they had successfully powered their English!! I’ve without a doubt had THE time of my life.

ink hands 2

Spanish section scoop academic awards

Spanish Award Winners Raquel Fernandez Sanchez and  Juan José Jiménez-Anca with Jake Delaney

Juan José Jiménez-Anca with Raquel Ferández Sánchez with Student Union Vice-President Jake Delaney

The Astonishing Academics Awards took place on 19 March. We had a fantastic evening with colleagues from all Schools across the University, students, the Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Vice-Chancellor.

We are delighted that a number of academics from the Spanish section at Aston were nominated for awards and would like to thank all our students for their appreciation and continuous support.

Juan José Jiménez-Anca and Raquel Fernández-Sánchez won the awards of Best Use of Technology and Most Motivational Academic.

Members of the team were also nominated for two of the most hotly contested awards: Raquel Medina and Aurelio Ramos Caballero for Best Personal Tutor, and Aurelio and Raquel Fernández-Sánchez for Most Engaging Academic.

Spanish section academics at the Astonishing Academics awards

Spanish section academics Raquel Fernández-Sánchez, Raquel Medina, Juan José Jiménez-Anca, Aurelio Ramos Caballero with colleagues Nathalie Mrgudovic and Graeme Hayes

Professor Julia King, Vice-Chancellor, with Raquel Medina and Raquel Fernández-Sánchez

Professor Julia King, Vice-Chancellor, with Raquel Medina and Raquel Fernández-Sánchez

Here are some of the comments our students made about us:

“Raquel Medina is one of the most approachable members of staff. She will always find time to see you and help to put you on the right path.”

“Aurelio always goes out of his way to make sure everyone is happy and shows a genuine interest in his students, a lot of whom I know appreciate him as much as I do.”

“From my first year Aurelio showed interest in his tutees and he was always there when you needed to talk to someone. During my placement year he often dropped emails to check on me and I found his gesture and his guidance very useful when I was in Spain.”

“Raquel Fernández is always available for any advice or help needed. Very inspirational as she seems so passionate about her language.”

“Juanjo has only been my teacher this year, however he brought along a big change in my lectures. His use of technology in giving feedback or in teaching us Spanish has been incredibly high and I am glad that due to his effort I am now aware of what a PDP is and how to successfully do one in Pebble Pad. He was also fine with us submitting work online via DropBox and he recorded the feedback so that we could always go back and listen to it. I found it very useful!”

“I always look forward to Raquel Fernández classes. They are always interesting and she makes me proud to be studying Spanish.”

“Aurelio has a way of making students feel that they can contribute without being judged. This is really important because it means that more people participate; this, along with his enthusiasm, makes his lectures a pleasure.”

Thank you to Aston Student’s Union for organising another successful event and celebrating excellence in both support and teaching.

Astonishing Academic Awards

The Spanish Section is delighted that four of its members have been nominated for the Astonishing Academics Awards. The awards celebrate academic excellence and impact made on students.

Raquel Medina, Aurelio Ramos Caballero, Juan José Jiménez and Raquel Fernández would like to thank all students who nominated them and look forward to an evening celebrating with them and other colleagues. The ceremony takes place on Wednesday 19 March. Keep an eye on this blog to find out how they got on!

Spanish Christmas Party 2013

Look at us!! All the pictures from the last Spanish section’s Christmas Party at Aston University

“Placement in Madrid” by Ellie Spencer

Templo de Debod

Templo de Debod

Hola a tod@s!


My name is Ellie and I am studying Translation Studies with French and Spanish here at Aston. I am currently in my third year, and therefore am on placement. Obviously, taking joint honours, I have to split my year in two halves and I am currently doing the Spanish half of my placement working for the translation company CPSL in Madrid.

Lago del Parque del Retiro

Lago del Parque del Retiro

When I first arrived, like many people, I was so nervous. It was my first time being abroad on my own and I was absolutely terrified. After a teary goodbye from London airport, it was all a bit of a blur getting to my flat and settling in for the first few days. Starting work was even more nerve racking, since I had no idea what to expect. However, I was pleasantly surprised. I honestly couldn’t have hoped for a better place to work. Everyone is so friendly in the office and no one falls back to the ‘I’ll just speak English if she doesn’t understand’ which is something I thought might happen. Another good thing is that I really feel like part of the team, since I’m really involved in the work that goes on. Beforehand I thought they would see me as ‘just a placement student’, but it doesn’t feel like that at all! In all honesty, it was a little hard to adjust to being surrounded by Spanish at first, since I’m one of those people who lacks confidence, but I think I’ve adjusted well (so don’t worry, you will too!). I just seem to absorb everything that’s going on around me. :)

As for Madrid itself, I can honestly say it is one of the most beautiful, vibrant cities I have ever visited. Even though it’s the capital, it certainly doesn’t disappoint on the Spanish lifestyle – everything is still lovely and laid back. There really is nothing better than chilling out with a caña and some tapas, even if it is with your landlady (as has been the case for me sometimes!). Obviously, being a capital city, there are a million and one things to do. Since I’ve had some visitors whilst I’ve been here, I’ve become something of a Madrid tour guide, visiting places such as el Museo del Prado, el Parque de Buen Retiro, el Palacio Real, la Plaza Mayor, Sol… Even if you’re not planning on doing your placement here in Madrid, I would definitely recommend coming to visit, it’s such a wonderful city!

These past 5 months have gone so quickly, and it’s not long now until January when I move onto the next part of my adventure in France! I can only hope that I have such a good experience during my next placement.


“Peru” by Victoria Prebble

This summer I spent 4 weeks in Peru working on a volunteering project with Otra Cosa Network in the North of the country, in a small seaside town Huanchaco. I can honestly say, without a doubt, I had the time of my life!

Peru - Huanchaco

Peru - Huanchaco

It was my first time that far away from home, so understandably I was a little nervous at first. But as soon as I stepped foot into my Peruvian host family’s home, I felt at ease! I stayed with the mother and father of a family, whose nephew from Australia was staying with them, as well as another volunteer. It was great for my Spanish as the mother and father used to only speak to us in Spanish – a little overwhelming at first.

I volunteered at a local shanty town school, teaching English to around 3 different classes every day. The school had few resources, and some classrooms didn’t have whiteboards/chalk boards for us to use. However, alongside another volunteer, we made an effort to do more creative activities with the children, which they seemed to really enjoy. On my last day of volunteering, I was so upset to say goodbye to all the children, as you really become close to them! It was clear that their English had improved throughout my time there, their favourite word being “banana”…

Peru - Machu PicchuOriginally I only planned to stay in Peru for 4 weeks, but after falling in love with the country, I changed my flights which allowed me to travel for 2 weeks with fellow volunteers! We first headed to Arequipa, a 15 hour bus ride from Huanchaco. We were exhausted after the journey, but excited to head to the Colca Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in the world. It was an incredible place, with the most amazing views. Afterwards we travelled to Cusco, as no trip to Peru would be complete without visiting Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas. We spent four days trekking through the jungles of Cusco, which was a really great experience in itself. But the best moment of the whole trip for me was seeing Machu Picchu. Despite the very touristic nearby town “Aguas Calientes” and the swarms of people visiting every single day, you can really see why it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world.

I felt sad to leave behind this amazing country, but also excited, as I realised that I still have so much to discover of this amazing continent.

Book launch of Feminismos, co-authored by Olga Castro

Dr Olga Castro, Lecturer in Translation Studies and Spanish at Aston University has recently been in Spain participating in different launchings of her first monograph Feminismos, written in Galician (Edicións Xerais, 2013), co-authored with María Reimóndez. Info on the book: http://www.xerais.es/libro.php?id=2392782

On 3 April, the book Feminismos was launched in the bookshop ‘Lila de Lilith,’ in Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña. A second presentation was held on 5 April at ‘Casa das Letras,’ in Ribadeo, Lugo, organised by the Observatorio da Mariña pola Igualdade [http://observatorioigualdade.org/inicio/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=183:feminismos&catid=2:actividades&Itemid=2]. Finally, on 8 April Feminismos was launched in the bookshop ‘Librouro,’ in Vigo, Pontevedra.

Santiago 1


At these different events, the authors Olga Castro and María Reimóndez, together with publisher Manuel Bragado and prologuist Belén Martín Lucas, spoke about the present-day significance of the book at a time when gender discrimination manifests itself in increasingly subtler ways. The authors regarded feminism as the political theory and social movement that has most profoundly transformed societies worldwide in a peaceful manner, whose main purpose is to improve the lives of women and men. For this reason, this book is meant to unveil the fallacies and prejudices about feminisms in a negative light, demonstrating that a feminist outlook is necessary to attain social justice.


Santiago 2


The book is divided into three sections. The first section examines different approaches to feminisms worldwide, ranging from Western manifestations to those in Latin America, India, Japan, Sub-Saharan Africa, Arabic countries, Maghreb and the ex USSR. This global overview shows that sex discrimination exists globally, although its articulations may differ in each culture. In the same way, the strategies for achieving equality are also different, and West countries can and must learn from non-Western practices. The second section deals with concepts of general interest to feminists from all over the world, such as maternity, eco-feminism, sexuality, sexual orientation, disability, globalisation, gender violence, nationalism, cyber-feminism or institutionalisation of gender politics. Finally, the third section analyses the contribution of feminist theories to different academic disciplines and fields, namely education, arts, medicine, science, the economy, religion, historiography, linguistics and communication.


Santiago 3

In their conclusions Castro and Reimóndez underline that the feminist struggle has played a central role in numerous present-day social advances, even if this is rarely acknowledged.



The book was very well received and widely acclaimed. Different reviews have been published in different media, and the authors have also been interviewed by various media. For further information:


Interview with Olga Castro and María Reimóndez on the newspaper Faro de Vigo (in Spanish, 9 April 2013):



Interview with the authors on the Galician radio stationRadio Galega” (in Galician, 3 April 2013):


Interview with Olga Castro on the newspaper Praza Pública (in Galician, 3 April 2013):



Interview with Olga Castro on the newspaper La Voz de Galicia (in Galician, 4 April 2013):



Interview with María Reimóndez on the Galician TV station Televisión de Galicia (in Galician, 16 April 2013):



Follow Feminismos on Facebook:


Placement news from Argentina!


This week Charlotte Matthews who has just finished a six month placement in Argentina has shared her experience there with us…


Hi, I’m Charlotte and I’ve just finished a 6 month placement in an English language school in Buenos Aires. I had so much fun there.  Argentina is less modern and developed than I thought it was going to be but I grew to love it. It was tough to adjust at the beginning but the people in Argentina are so lovely and welcoming. I lived about 20 minutes (walking) from the school, in the north of Buenos Aires. The majority of my friends there were Argentineans which really helped me improve my Spanish, even though sometimes they wanted to practise their English!


My Spanish  improved quite a bit just through everyday interaction, at home we spoke in Spanish and I watched TV in Spanish, but in the school we spoke in English. However, the teachers shut the staff room door so the pupils couldn’t hear them speaking to me in Spanish! The only problem was that I had to adjust the accent they have there; it is a completely different type of Spanish to the one I learnt. For example, they don’t say falda (skirt) but pollera.


As the school where I worked was  a private school, the pupils were there because they wanted to learn English, so I really enjoyed working with them. Before I went to Argentina and worked there I was certain that I didn’t want to teach when I finish my degree, however, the more I taught at the school the more I enjoyed it and now I’m considering doing further studies to become a teacher!


I would say to anyone considering going to South America to just do it, I haven’t regretted my decision at all; it is such an amazing opportunity. I was sad to leave but also looked forward to seeing my family at Christmas!



Plaza de Mayo y la Casa Rosada

Jodie’s Spanish placement experience!



From 11 -22 February 2013 I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to spend two weeks in Spain as part of my placement. I spent the first week working in a Catholic school in Madrid – ‘Colegio Sagrado Corazón’ – for students between the ages of 3 and 18. I found out that it is typical of religious schools in Spain to have such a wide age range.

My main role at the school was as an English language assistant for the older students, practising English conversation with them. Some of them were beginners in English and were very shy about speaking so my job was to encourage them to feel confident about introducing themselves in English. In other classes they were covering topics such as hobbies or likes and dislikes and the teacher asked me to say certain words to the class so that they could hear them said in an English accent.

All the students I worked with were so friendly and seemed fascinated and very over excited to meet someone English! I really enjoyed the chance to talk to young native speakers. They had endless questions which I was more than happy to answer! I also learned a lot from them about life in a Spanish school and they had even taught me their Spanish young people’s slang language by the end of the week!

While working at the school I had the opportunity to go into various classes during the gaps in my timetable. These were other subjects which were taught in Spanish. This was very interesting as it gave me a sense of a typical lesson in Spain, although I have to say algebra did not make any more sense to me in Spanish than in English! I got the chance to visit the nursery and see the cute little three year olds who were learning the names of shapes. I also visited the equally cute primary school children and watched them play a game to teach them how to play without fighting.




In my spare time in Madrid I was able to visit some of the main attractions of the city. These included the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando (the Saint Fernando academy of fine art) where I was lucky enough to be shown around some of the most famous paintings by the curator of the collection! I liked the Goya paintings best.

I visited the famous park El Retiro on a sunny afternoon. When the weather was less sunny I looked around the busy square, La Puerta del Sol, in the centre of Madrid and visited El Corte Inglés (a very big and famous department store in Spain). I also had some typical Spanish food including tortilla de patatas (Spanish omelette) and my favourite, Churros!

My week at the school flew by and on my last day the positive comments that I received from students and staff about my work there were amazing! They all complimented me on my Spanish which made all my hard work worthwhile! Some of the staff I had worked closely with even organised taking me out for a farewell lunch and kept it as a surprise for me!





For my second week in Spain I travelled by AVE (a high speed train) from Madrid to Seville. I departed from the very famous Atocha Station in Madrid, which has a beautiful botanical garden inside.

The AVE train is very comfortable and is certainly true to its name as it really is high speed – 2 hours and 20 minutes and I was in Seville! Seville is a beautiful place and very typically Spanish! I spent my week there sight-seeing around the city. 


I saw the Real Alcázar Palace which is the oldest royal palace still in use and has been there for over 1,000 years. It is very beautiful with lovely gardens and courtyards.










 I also visited the Plaza de España, built in 1929, which has handmade tiled pictures and maps of every province in Spain around the edge. I can’t imagine how long it must have taken to make just one of them!



















The Plaza de España is beside the Parque Maria Luisa, a very beautiful park with many different trees, sculptures and tributes to famous writers, poets, actors and actresses from Seville.












Another interesting part of Seville was the prevalence of convents there and the culture of supporting the nuns by buying the things they sell there. In one convent shop I visited things were sold on a wooden turnstile (as shown in the photo) so that the nuns could sell items without having any contact with the outside world or even seeing their customers, as this would be against their religious order.









In Seville I also had success in my quest for a vegetarian version of the Spanish dish Paella. It was delicious and just to prove I really did eat it I took a photo!








Funny things that happened to me in Spain: (some of these are about the awkward situations I got into when my Spanish was misunderstood and some are just about the funny things some of the younger children at the school said to me!)

  • Spanish people did not understand even my best attempt to say Birmingham in a Spanish accent and so I could never make anyone understand where in England I go to University! By the middle of the week I had adopted a new line about where I am from, “I am from London and I study at University away from home” which seemed to work better!


  • One morning I arrived at the school to find that my line manager Teresa was not in her office. I asked another teacher if she knew where she was… however my attempt to say Teresa in a Spanish accent was mistaken for cerveza (beer)! The other teacher burst out laughing and said why are you asking me where the beer is, this is a school! It was VERY embarrassing!


  • One day at the school one of the teachers whose lesson I was going to be in came to speak to me. I thought she asked me if I could get down a staircase to her classroom! I told her I couldn’t and was puzzled to see her looking so surprised! She took me to show me the ‘staircase’ which turned out to be the tiniest little step! Again, very embarrassing but it was very useful to learn the word for a step!


Other than that I managed to speak proper Spanish, I did really! And I got a lot of flattering remarks about my Spanish which was nice!

Now you have had a laugh at me you can all have a laugh at the cute little children instead!

  • The younger ones who had never met an English person before thought all English people must be like me! I told them that I’m vegetarian and they asked me if all English people are! I had a very hard job not to laugh and as soon as I’d left the lesson I had a good laugh to myself about it! Anything I told them about myself seemed to become their idea of a typical English person!


  • The younger ones had no idea I’m not Spanish until they were told which was very cute! One of the teachers said to them at the start of the lesson “This is Jodie and she speaks very, very good English, does anyone know why?” They all looked very puzzled and impressed and one of them asked if it was because I’m very clever and studied my English books extra hard!!! I couldn’t help but giggle.


  • One of the younger children asked me if I was going back to England by aeroplane. Before I could answer one of the teachers quickly said no she’s going back by bicycle! He looked fascinated and asked me what bike I had and if I knew how to ride it properly so that I would get home safely.


Bless them all.


I really enjoyed my time in Spain. For anyone who is going on a placement abroad in the future my best advice is don’t be afraid to speak Spanish! It really is so rewarding when you see how much you can communicate with people and the worst that can happen is you make a mistake which might be embarrassing at the time but it’s just how you learn new words.

I would like to thank all the Aston staff in the placement office and the Spanish department for their support with my placement in Spain, without this it would not have been possible for me to go and learn so much.