I’m Patrick, the founder of Schwa English. I’m British by birth and based in Barcelona, where I have been teaching for almost 10 years now. I speak Spanish and (reasonable) Catalan.
I’m really passionate about my beloved English language and sharing free resources that can help you to improve your level.
I came to Barcelona not knowing a single word of either Catalan or Spanish. Over the years, however, as my language skills improved, something miraculous started happening; I began to give better and better classes.
Knowing my students’ mother tongues helped me to see English from a new perspective. I became able to empathise with, understand, and even predict their difficulties. The roots of mistakes that had previously mystified me were suddenly as clear as day.
For this reason, I firmly believe that every teacher should not only have a great understanding of the language they’re teaching, but also have gone through the process of learning their students’ mother tongue.
Why the Blog?
There are so many English language learning resources online these days that a reasonable question to ask may well be; why publish a blog at all?
First of all, I think there’s a lot of rubbish out there and I wanted to offer something better. The emphasis on this blog is very much on high quality, original resources. Everything you’ll read is written in my own words and has been learnt through my own experience both as a teacher and a student.
Secondly, I believe that by focusing my posts specifically on the needs of Spanish speakers, I offer more value than posts aimed at an international audience. A Russian speaker, for example, probably isn’t going to make the same mistakes in English as you do. Why spend 10 minutes reading about a common error that you, as a Spanish speaker, are not even likely to make?
How to Use the Blog
Reading should be a pleasure. Reading a grammar book, however, is usually anything but. That’s why my posts are written in plain English and aren’t always entirely serious. I want you to enjoy reading them. I want you to have fun. Sure, I want to teach you about grammar, pronunciation, syntax, lexis, and all those other things that teachers love to go on about, but I also want you to come back. More than that; I want you to want to come back. I post articles weekly and they usually only take about five minutes to read. Why not bookmark the page and make it part of your English-learning routine?
Okay, so let’s think about how to get the most out of your reading time. We’re all busy people, right? Firstly, There are two types of post: ‘English only’ and those that have been translated into Spanish, Catalan, or both.
If the post you’re reading is only available in English, I recommend reading it in the same way you’d read an essay or news article; perhaps pausing for thought and re-reading paragraphs that you struggle with or that contain information that’s new to you. Keeping in mind that well spaced repetition is key to good language learning, why not bookmark the most helpful articles and re-read them a week or two later?
With their frequent references to, and examples from, the Spanish language, none of my posts should be too difficult to understand for anyone at around a B2 level or higher. Even those of you who are around B1 won’t have too much difficulty if you’re prepared to look up the odd word.
Some posts (one day, I hope it will be all of them) are also available in Spanish and Catalan. Aren’t you lucky?
So let’s talk about level. If you consider yourself B2 or higher, I would recommend simply reading the English version. If you find a few words or phrases that you’re not quite sure about, just carry on reading; I’m sure you will have understood the general meaning anyway. Once you’re done, have a look at the Spanish/Catalan version and see how those phrases were translated. You’ll be learning about the particular point the article deals with and learning new words and phrases at the same time. Happy days.
If you consider yourself B1 or below, I suggest reading the Spanish/Catalan version first. You have to promise me something, though; that you’ll read the English version too. I mean it…
Going over an English text with which you’re already familiar in your mother tongue is proven to be an excellent way to improve your reading skills. You could even open two windows at once and have the two texts side-by-side. I want you to think about the translations. Take some time to mull over which ones are more-or-less literal and which ones aren’t. You can learn so much just from one little article if you’re smart about it.
One Last Recommendation
Finally, I’d also recommend sharing all my wonderful posts with your friends on social media. Okay, okay, that would just be a big favour to me and won’t really help you at all but…
I spend a lot of my free time creating these posts. I do it because of my passion for the language and all I want is for people to get the chance to read them. Sharing them on social media does me a big favour and keeps the karma flowing. Who doesn’t love a bit of good karma?