Learn English with Ana Botella

Ana Botella EnglishYou might think from the title that this article is a joke–how can one possibly learn English from someone who speaks it like the Mayor of Madrid, Ana Botella?

When I first saw Ana Botella’s speech to the International Olympics Committee supporting Madrid’s candidacy for the 2020 Olympic games, I, like everyone else in Spain, thought it was hilarious.

Lee este articulo en Español

But the more I’ve thought about it, and the more that I’ve talked to people here in Spain, the more I can empathize with Botella.


In Spain, it’s no secret that there is a low level of English speaking. Everyone admits to that.

It’s easy to criticize Ana Botella, but don’t you think that in a similar situation, making a speech in a foreign language, especially under pressure [in a stressful situation], you would commit many of the same mistakes that Botella made? I know I would!

While I agree that politicians should set an example for their country by being at least bilingual, the reality is that it was very brave of Ana to get up and speak in a foreign language in front of millions of viewers because surely she knows that her English isn’t as good as it should be.

She did her best to represent her city, and from the point of view of a native speaker, her presentation was understandable and appropriate.

So let’s learn from Ana’s mistakes and from the things that she actually did well, so that if you ever do have to speak English in an important situation, you won’t make the same errors.

Now grab a relaxing cup of café con leche and learn English with Ana!

English with Ana Botella

For any of you that still haven’t seen Ana’s speech, watch it first.

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  • Red – Errors
  • Blue – Pronunciation
  • Green – Grammatical tips
  • Orange – Expressions

Thank you Ignacio, President Rogue, dear IOC members, ladies and gentlemen.

This actually is a good, polite introduction.

I have the chance to speak to many of you in private conversations and also in our presentations in St. Petersburg and in Lausanne.

Here Ana used the present tense when she should have used the present perfect, “I have had (I’ve had) the chance…” This is because she is talking in the indefinite past – learn more about that here.

Ana’s pronunciation of St. Petersburg is pretty far from English pronunciation. I recommend that you put it into Google Translate to listen to the correct pronunciation.

I must say, I’d like to continue our friendship, and frankly, I don’t want this to be our last chance to speak to each other. So let me tell you a little more about my beautiful hometown: Madrid.

Madrid is one of the most comfortable, charming, and inviting cities in the world. Just like all of Spain, Madrid is an amazing mixture of traditions. You can see, feel, and taste the wonder of Spanish culture in Madrid’s parks, its food, its art, and its architecture.

Make sure that you clearly pronounce the “R” in “world.”

Perhaps, those of you who have visited Madrid share this feeling. We have been working hard for many years so our guests (almost eight million each year) feel at home.

Notice Ana’s good use of the present perfect here:

  • A common mistake made by English learners is to ask people where they have traveled using the past tense. However, in English we almost always use the present perfect to ask this, because it’s an experience. In the present, that experience still exists for them, it hasn’t ended. For example:
    • Have you been to Madrid? Yes, I have been there. I went three years ago.
    • Have you visited China? No, I’ve never been, but I want to go.
    • The second use is the most common in English: an event that began in the past and is still happening in the present. For example:
      • I’ve lived in Spain for three years.
      • She has worked at that school for many years.

Feel at home is a common expression. It means to feel so comfortable somewhere that it is as if it were your own home.

And most importantly, Madrid is fun! The Olympic games are not only a celebration of sport. They are also a celebration of life, and I assure you no one celebrates life like Spanish people do.

Not only…also/not only…but also is a common way to express parallelism, or a correspondence between two ideas or descriptions. This can be useful when making a speech, and you can use this with nouns, verbs, or adjectives, for example:

  • VERBS (must be in the same tense):
    • I not only speak English, I also speak Spanish and Portuguese.
    • We teach not only in Brazil. We also teach in Spain.
    • ADJ:
      • He’s not only smart, he’s also handsome.
      • You are not only mean, but also wrong.
      • NOUN:
        • She has not only a Porsche, but also an Audi.
        • His mom cooks not only Greek food, but also Italian food.

Although using do here is not incorrect, it would sound better without it.

There is nothing quite like a relaxing cup of café con leche in Plaza Mayor, or a quaint [nice] romantic dinner in el Madrid de los Austrias, the oldest part of Madrid. These experiences, and so much more, are the heart and soul of Madrid.

This seems to be where Ana got into the most trouble–angering even Chuck Norris and inspiring tons of remixes.

Maybe Ana’s point here was to give a hint of Spanish lifestyle and culture, but let’s see if we can make this sound a little better.

  • In English we obviously don’t say café con leche. We actually use the French term, café au lait, which you will see in most American cafés
  • Plaza Mayor is a place, so it’s fine to use this term, although I would recommend pronouncing it with an American or English accent, or you could say Madrid’s town square.
  • Again, she could have attempted to pronounce el Madrid de los Austrias more clearly, and it would even be appropriate to use an American or English accent.

Heart and soul of (something) is a good expression to use to describe something that is the essence of something else, for example:

  • The saxophone is the heart and soul of Jazz.
  • Carlos Ruiz Zafon is the heart and soul of modern Catalan literature.

So later today, when you are considering your choice for 2020, I hope you remember that in addition to the best-prepared plan, Madrid also offers you a city full of culture, fun, and welcoming people. The magic of Madrid is real! And we want to share it with all of you. Muchas gracias.

In addition to…also is another way to show parallelism similar to not only…but also, for example:

  • In addition to Gaudi, Barcelona also has many other famous architects.
  • In addition to great coffee, Brazil also has delicious açai.

In Conclusion

So after reading this article do you still feel the same about Ana Botella? Should she just use an interpreter rather than challenging herself to speak in English? How would you do in a similar situation?

Feel free to share your thoughts with us by commenting below! We’d love to hear what you think.

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Want to avoid sounding like Ana Botella? Then remember to read these two articles: