Mystery Spanish Vocabulary

Welcome to my first blog post to help you increase your Spanish vocabulary! If you’re an ESL learner, you can also benefit from learning these words. Vocabulary is the key to language because without it, you would have to try to describe everything with your hands, pictures, and smaller words. Did you know it takes about 12 meaningful reactions with a new word before you can remember it and apply it?!

ALSO…since it’s October and the month of unexplained things, I thought you might enjoy learning some new mystery Spanish vocabulary words!

  1. rasgar (rip) 
    Image result for scary torn heart
  2. aprieto (predicament)
    Image result for holding on a cliff
  3. tartamudear (stutter)
    Image result for scared stutter
  4. entrega (delivery/installment)
    Image result for scary delivery
  5. puñalada (stab)
    Image result for puñalada
  6. umbral (threshold)
    Image result for scary threshold
  7. barandilla (railing/banister)
    Image result for spooky banister
  8. atispar (spy)
    Image result for scary spying
  9. estremecer (shake/tremble/quiver)
    Image result for scared in a corner
  10. agotar (exhaust)
    Image result for drained
  11. buhardilla (attic)
    Image result for scary attic
  12. rugido (roar)
    Image result for Trex roar
  13. mugriento (grimy)
    Image result for grimy scary
  14. pasadizo (passage/corridor)
    Image result for scary pasadizo
  15. arrancar (tear/rip out/pull out/tear off/extract)
    Image result for pull out tooth

Any other mystery vocabulary you would like to share?

Thanks for reading!


10 Uncommonly Known Differences Between English and Spanish

While Spanish and English have a lot in common thanks to shared Latin roots, their differences know no bounds. I minored in Spanish in college and spent a year in Ecuador practicing the language, but I learned a few things that I didn’t know until I started to have more conversations with native speakers. If you already knew some or most of the differences below, then that shows you definitely know a thing or two. 🙂

Spanish and English differences

Here’s my list of the 10 Uncommonly Known Differences Between English and Spanish:

  1. Tomar una decisiĂłn = make a decision
    In English, we would think “tomar” means only “to take” but not in the sense of decision making. Spanish speakers view it differently.
  2. Dar un examen = take a test; tomar un examen = give an exam
    In English, we take tests as students and give exams as teachers. However, in Spanish, it’s the other way around for these two expressions.
  3. Casi muero. = I almost died.; Por poco me matan. = They nearly killed me.
    In English, we would use “die” in the past tense, but Spanish speakers use the verbs in the present tense with “casi” or “por poco” when talking about possible consequences from past actions.
  4. “Perder” and “to miss”
    In English, we say “I missed the bus,” but in Spanish, they say, “PerdĂ­ el bus.” Perder can also mean “to lose” and “to waste” and a few other things. If you miss someone, you would use “extrañar” or “echar de menos.” Spanish also uses “faltar” to mean “miss” or “missing” in a lot of other uses.
  5. Cuán = how (to what degree/to what extent)
    I don’t remember learning about this interrogative word. In English, we just use “how much” or “how many” before nouns or simply “how” before adjectives/adverbs. In Spanish, they use “Cuán” before adjectives/adverbs; for example, “ÂżCuán grande es el cafĂ©?”
  6. Romper = to tear/to break
    In English, we use “to break” when we actually damage something beyond repair, and we use “to tear” to talk about a rip in something. However, Spanish uses “romper” for both uses.
  7. Ninguno = none of something in singular form
    In English, we could say, “There are no dogs here.” We could also say, “I don’t have any missed calls.” However, in Spanish, you don’t use the plural of ninguno unless the noun after it is always in plural. (No tenemos ningunas vacaciones este año.) “No hay ningĂşn perro aquĂ­.” “No tengo ninguna llamada perdida.”
  8. A comienzos de abril= At the beginning of April/In early April
    A mediados de abril = In mid-April
    A finales de abril = At the end of April
  9. El letrero decĂ­a “pare”. = The sign said “stop.”
    In English, when we talk about the information on inanimate objects, we use the past tense of said. However, in Spanish, they use the imperfect form of decir to talk about the information from books, signs, etc.
  10. No he sabido de ellos. = I haven’t heard from them.
    Let’s say you’re waiting to hear back about an interview or something important. In English, we say, “I haven’t heard anything.”  (Unfortunately, that is common.) However, In Spanish, it’s common to use “saber” to express that you don’t know the results or answer yet.

Did you learn anything new? I hope you did! Do you know of any other uncommon differences between English and Spanish? Comment below to share. 🙂

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Thank you for reading!

Final Goodbyes & Re-entry Adjustments

I have completed my 10 1/2 months teaching English abroad in Quito, Ecuador, and I’m now back in the States! I’m proud that I finished my service. Since the last blog I’ve posted, I attended my cohort’s WorldTeach end-of-year conference, where we had many reflection activities, and I said goodbye to the Ambato volunteers. The conference was during my 1st wedding anniversary, so it was difficult not to spend the day with my husband.

The following week was the 4th of July, but I had to teach on that Wednesday because it’s not a holiday in Ecuador, so Adriene and I went out to lunch together. On that weekend, she hosted a grill out at her place, and we had the opportunity to eat grilled hamburgers and hot dogs.

Grilling out with our Ecuadorian friends!

We enjoyed relaxing and hanging out, and our Ecuadorian friends also enjoyed watching a World Cup game. I continued teaching English throughout July, and I had awesome students. We had a lot of laughs together, and it was difficult to say goodbye to them on their last day.

I also said goodbye to my other Ecuadorian friends at some other get-togethers and meet-ups, and I said goodbye to my host mom’s niece, Katy, and to my host family. I think it was hardest saying goodbye to Isabel because we have a lot in common and we practiced a lot with each other and to Adriene because I don’t know the next time I’ll see her in the States.

Our Ecuadorian friend, Karina, made us a cake with the American flag!

After all the goodbyes, I packed up, and I flew to Florida to visit my friend, Ariel. I felt discombobulated a bit because everything was in English, and I didn’t have to throw toilet paper in the trash anymore. I also felt more at ease walking around safely. What I also noticed on the plane and in restaurants that I’m no longer in a sharing, affectionate culture. Ariel and I ate at some great places, and we relaxed on the beach.

After getting sunburned on the beaches of Florida, I returned to Colorado a couple of days later and reunited with my husband and our dog. We have been spending time together this week, and we tried our wedding cake that was in the freezer, and it tasted almost exactly the same. Brings back memories!

I’m grateful that I made awesome friends, lived with a good host family, improved my Spanish, gained international experience abroad, taught some amazing students, completed my service, and returned home safely. I would like to continue working in international education, so I’m now considering my options. Have you ever taught English abroad? What it was it like for you when you returned home? What are you doing now?

Thanks for reading!

Disclaimer: The ideas and thoughts expressed within this blog are my own and are not the views or opinions of WorldTeach.

Going the Whole Nine Yards

Since it’s my ninth month here (and penultimate month), I saw it fit to use the idiom “going the whole nine yards” as the title of this blog. My parents and brother came to Ecuador to visit me during the last week of May, which also included my 27th birthday. They also brought me my favorite snacks: Girl Scout cookies, chocolate peanut butter bars, Cheez It snack mixes, and Gardetto’s! Nothing like American salt and sugar.

On Sunday, May 27th, we walked around the artesian markets near the Foch, and I think my mom had a field day with all of the available trinkets. I also showed them around the historical district with all of the churches and old buildings. My family couldn’t believe how cheap the food and transportation is in Ecuador compared to the United States.

We went to Mitad Del Mundo on Monday, and we visited the monument and the museum nearby. We took a picture where half of us were in the Northern Hemisphere and the other half were in the Southern Hemisphere.

Mitad del Mundo

We’re on the equator!

We also walked around the exhibits about the history of the founding of the equator, and we took this fun family photo:

We went backwards in age. Notice my womanly face on a man’s body.

The next day we went to TeleferiQo to see the views from the Pichinca Volcano. We also met a couple from California, and the young lady also taught abroad in Japan for a few years. Anyway, I think the altitude affected my family because they were a bit winded.

Here we are at the TeleferiQo!

That afternoon we went to Quito’s Botanical Gardens, and we saw all kinds of native plants of Ecuador as well as a garden of Bonsai trees. Some of the trees were so small, and they were about the same age as me.

Botanical Gardens Entrance

Botanical Gardens Entrance


Botanical Gardens Ecuador

My brother lookin’ a little prickly.

On Wednesday we went to Otavalo, which was the highlight of the week. We took a two-hour bus ride there. We walked around the markets, and my mom had me haggle a bit for some pillowcases and coin purses. I also bought myself an alpaca sweater. Afterwards, we ate lunch and I got some delicious famous pie and ice cream from “The Pie Shop.”

We then took a taxi to the Otavalo Waterfalls, and there was a fun suspension bridge there as well. I enjoyed the greenery and nature because it’s a nice change from the concrete jungle of Quito’s noise and pollution.

Here are my parents in front of the Otavalo waterfalls.

Here is my dad and brother in front of a “do not enter: danger” sign.

That Thursday was my 27th birthday! We went to the artisanal markets that morning, and my mom bought me a red day dress. I showed them where I teach and the WorldTeach office, and we walked to El Mirador del Guápulo.

Here is my brother and me at El Mirador del Guápulo.

We then took a short taxi ride to Zao, which serves an Oriental cuisine. I ate some delicious ceviche and coconut sushi, and my parents and brother ate fried rice and spicy pad thai noodles, and I ate these leftovers for like 2 or 3 days after they left. Yum! I also received a free cake. 🙂

I got some cake and ate it too.

We later went to the Panecillo to see the angel statue in the historical center, and we experienced a downpour, so we moseyed around the statue for about an hour or two. We then came back to our hotel and ate ice cream at Crepes & Waffles. I was thankful that I could spend my birthday with my family in Ecuador.

El Panecillo

El Panecillo

On Friday, we went to Cumbaya and saw “Deadpool 2,” and we tearfully said our goodbyes later that afternoon. I enjoyed staying in a hotel for a week with a comfy bed, hot shower, and extravagant breakfast options. I think my family enjoyed being in Quito, but I think the safety concerns and Spanish language barrier was tough for all of us (I needed to translate a few times). We shared some good meals and had some good times. I hope I see them all again soon.

I was sad to see them go, but that night, my host family and I celebrated my birthday with cake and pizza! My host dad told me it was good to see me smile that evening.

My host family celebrated my birthday with me!

I started my fourth and final cycle of teaching the first week of June. My first class has only 10 students and the second has 21, so it’s a bit of a challenge to accommodate, but we have had a few laughs so far, so I think they’re a good bunch of students.

Other than that, I’ve gotten back in my routine of studying Spanish and practicing yoga during my free time. I also have my end-of-year conference with WorldTeach this weekend. Out of 38 volunteers that started here, we’re down to about 17 people! Anyway, I’m not sure if I will go on any more trips before I leave on August 1st because we don’t have any holidays during this last cycle, but it’s my last month here and I hope I can go on one last weekend getaway.

I’m proud of myself for coming this far with all of the challenges I’ve faced and difficulties I’ve endured. I’m looking forward to coming home to my husband and dog and the American life again. I’m sure there’s a few things I’ll miss here, but I’m going to do my best to soak up the good parts of Ecuador and enjoy my last 40ish days here.

Thanks for reading!

Disclaimer: The ideas and thoughts expressed within this blog are my own and are not the views or opinions of WorldTeach.

Magic 8 Ball

The months are flying by like a hungry hummingbird, and I’ve now been in Quito for eight months total (cray cray). I’m not sure what challenges and joys the last two months will bring, but I hope my remaining time here ends well. I’m also trying to figure out what I’ll do in terms of a job after I get back to the States, but I’m considering international education/travel & tourism administration or communications. Magic 8 ball, what does my future hold?

I recently bought a plane ticket to Orlando for August 1st to see my friend before I fly to Denver to rejoin my husband. My third cycle here will end this week and then I will begin my final cycle in June, and I’ve enjoyed having some very motivated students in my class. My cohort of 38 members has now dwindled down to around 20 total, and we’ll have our end-of-year conference on June 23-24.  Who will remain? Only time will tell…

Anyway, I had a few exciting social events this past month. The end of April started off with me visiting an ice cream place called “Dulce Placer” (sweet pleasure), and I practiced my Spanish a bit with mah Ecua-friends.

Enjoying some ice cream!

We also had two days of vacation at the end of April to celebrate Labor Day. Hooray for foreign holidays! During this weekend, Adriene and I went to the movie theatre to see Avengers, but they ran out of tickets, so we got a taste of America at TGIF’s.

The rain didn’t let up much that weekend, but I went to Quilotoa, a giant crater that was formed by the collapse of the volcano, with my friend Adriene and her two friends. Quilotoa is 2 miles wide, and it takes about a half hour to walk all the way down and 2 hours to walk up, as the descent is 918 feet. We didn’t walk all the way down because of the rainy weather, which left the paths quite muddy.


Quilota Ecuador

Adriene and I enjoying the views.


A wider shot of the turquoise crater.

The next night, my friend Karina invited me to see a ballet called “Carmina Burana.” The ballerinas were literally on-point with their dancing and acting. The ballet included Latin music with a pre-Renaissance feeling to it. Carmina Burana was mostly about the trials and tribulations of love with love triumphing in the end. I enjoyed the ballet, but I was drenched after walking in Quito’s downpour on my walk to the theatre. Note to self: Wear a rain jacket AND bring a giant umbrella from now on.

Carmina Burana ticket


Carmina Burana with friends

We’re at the theatre!


Carmina Burana curtain call

Carmina Burana curtain call.

I also did eventually see “Avengers: Infinity War” with my friend Paulina, and we enjoyed lots of nachos and popcorn. We didn’t, however, enjoy the ending of that movie. Other than that, I have continued to practice Spanish with my host mom’s niece, Katy, and Isabel, another English teacher from Quito. Isabel and I have enjoyed eating wings and ice cream as we discuss the grammar mysteries of our native languages. I also wrote a blog post filled with Spanish resources if you’re interested in learning (more) Spanish.

I also finally got my health insurance reimbursement, but I have not received my package (*sigh*). My parents and brother will be here next week, so I’m hoping we have fun times together. May is filled with Mother’s Day, my mom’s birthday, my brother’s birthday, and my birthday, so I suppose we’ll celebrate all those holidays when they’re here with Quito explorations and maybe some out-of-town excursions.

Thank you for reading!

Disclaimer: The ideas and thoughts expressed within this blog are my own and are not the views or opinions of WorldTeach.

The Best Resources to Learn Spanish

Over the past 8 months of living in Ecuador, I have researched relentlessly for helpful websites, blogs, podcasts, phone apps, online shows, videos, and books to help me improve my level of Spanish. Spanish was my minor in college (graduated in 2013); however, I hadn’t practiced it much since then, so when I arrived in Ecuador last September (2017), I realized I needed to get back up to speed.

In all honesty, learning Spanish requires daily discipline and dedication. The first things you need to ask yourself: How badly you want to learn Spanish? What are your goals? You can’t expect to learn it all in a day, and if you want to become fluid, define what fluency means to you, and make a plan on how you’ll meet that goal. Also, how do you learn best? Reading/writing? Listening? Visually? Kinesthetically? Look for ways that will help you best with your learning style.

I have found some Spanish resources to be helpful, and I have categorized them (some are free and some require a price for more premium services). Keep in mind that some are better for beginners, intermediate learners, or advanced learners, and some are helpful for all levels. I hope they can help you!

The #1 best way to learn Spanish, however, is to take Spanish classes and/or to practice frequently with native speakers in addition to studying. You can connect you with other native speakers on HelloTalk, you can also look for language exchange clubs on Facebook, and/or look for Spanish clubs on

learn Spanish vocabulary:

Learn Spanish grammar:

practice Spanish writing:

Practice Spanish listening:

Practice Speaking Spanish:

Improve Spanish Pronunciation:


Learn from Spanish blogs:

dOwnload Spanish Phone Apps: 

Mobile app

Listen to Spanish Podcasts:

Remember that language is always changing, and it depends heavily on the culture (idioms, slang, expressions, etc.). Some words are innocent in one country and are vulgar in another! Every country also has its own accent — some are more thick than others (Puerto Rico and Cuba). Some things do NOT translate directly from English to Spanish and vice versa, and collocations and logic are different too (in Spanish, students “give tests” and teachers “take tests,” people “take decisions,” and they “commit errors”). As a native English speaker, I learn new things in English all the time — and even more in Spanish.

Onward and upward!

My list of Spanish resources is just the top of the enchilada! It’s important that you keep an open mind, accept that things are different in Spanish, stay curious, and continue asking questions and searching for answers. Learning a language is like a logarithmic curve — you learn a lot in the beginning, but it tapers off when you reach the intermediate level, so you’ll need to continue working hard to reach an advanced level.

Making mistakes is the name of the game with language learning, but it means you’re trying! You’ll have days where you’re frustrated and want to cry, and you’ll have days where you’ll pat yourself on the back and you’ll treat yo’self. Celebrate the small wins, and most important of all, just have fun with it!

What Spanish resources have you found that have helped you?

Thank you for reading!

Recognizing Growth

Lucky number 7? I’ve now lived in Quito for 7 months, and I went through a bit of rough patch with recovering from being sick/losing my voice. I started my third cycle the end of March with barely being able to whisper! Fortunately, we had Thursday and Friday off from classes, so I spent that time resting at home. On Sunday, I celebrated Easter with my friend Adriene, and I enjoyed the traditional meal of fanesca. Fanesca is made with 12 grains!

Fanesca – photo from Karina Gordillo

My friend from Ecuador graciously cooked Fanesca and brought me a dish, and it was delicious! Her birthday was also during the first week of April, so we celebrated it at a restaurant eating pizza.

Karina’s birthday photo

¿Qué más? I have been continuing studying and practicing Spanish. I have started writing about 100 words of Spanish every morning and used the 365 days of prompts to help me. I feel lucky that I have friends here who can help me improve my Spanish! I also continue to attend language exchange clubs.

Quito Sunday Language Exchange

During the second week of April, I recorded a video of me giving a tour of my host family’s house, and I also took several photos of food that I eat and other activities I do during a normal week. You can see them on Instagram at @storiesbysydney. Unfortunately, in the middle of the week, my smartphone was stuck in a restarting loop, so I had to buy a new smartphone. I continued taking photos during the week.

Friday, April 13th was teachers’ day here in Ecuador, and my students surprised me with a cake! I loved that the cake had a picture of my face on it. 🙂

Teachers’ Day cake

My class 🙂

I endured a couple rough patches, but despite these, I started to recognize the topic of growth. I had a conversation about personal and professional growth with two different people without me bringing up the topic. I then realized – wow – when I arrived here, I could barely speak Spanish, I wasn’t confident with teaching, and I struggled with going out of my comfort zone.

Little by little, day by day, month by month — the progress is real. My Spanish level has increased from upper beginner to upper intermediate (according to a few online tests). I can basically watch shows in Spanish and read in Spanish without too many problems (provided the vocabulary isn’t too technical). The fact that students evaluated me well the end of last cycle and surprised me with a cake this cycle also shows my growth in teaching.

I’ll continue to make mistakes and deal with hiccups, which are facts of life, but it’s important to continue putting your best foot forward, recognize the progress you’ve made, and balance your hard work with enjoyable activities.

P.S. I think my package is coming next month. *crosses fingers*

Thank you for reading!

Disclaimer: The ideas and thoughts expressed within this blog are my own and are not the views or opinions of WorldTeach.