books · language

El Tiempo, Todo, Locura by Mónica Carrillo

Wanting to delve into the world of Spanish poetry, preferably more modern than the usual Pablo Neruda I’m used to reading, I saw this beautiful book in a bookstore in Madrid and had to pick it up. While I’m not sure you could categorise this book as ‘poetry,’ it’s certainly thought-evoking and conveying of emotions. Carrillo describes the entries in this 431 page novel as ‘microcuentos‘ which directly translates as ‘micro accounts,’ but more naturally I would say snippets – short insights into her thoughts, her experiences, her musings.

‘Te quise como si no me fueras a romper el corazón’


The book is split into three equal parts, which are all separated by the title – el tiempo (time), todo (everything/all), locura (insanity). The musings seem to depict her battle between heart and head, of wanting but at the same time not wanting someone, it’s full of contradictions, juxtapositions – but that’s the beauty of it. It leaves double meanings, it’s confusing but clear at the same time. Her self conflictio, the separation of her head and her heart, while confounding, is relatable.

‘Y, al final, la espera fue el fin’

The book itself is absolutely gorgeous, a hardback complete with covering sheet and two silk bookmarks attached. My copy is looking a little bit worse for wear after taking it on the metro with me during commutes to the city – yes, I really did carry that huge book around with me. It was definitely worth it, and my Spanish has radically improved after reading it.

For those who don’t speak Spanish, I thought I would just leave a couple of my favourite snippets from the book, alongside my translations of them, so you can get a feel for the book and what I’m trying to convey in this post. Please note, I’m not a native speaker and my translations may not be 100% correct!

(213): ‘Olvidé que para quererte bien tenía que enamorarme de mí antes’ / ‘I forgot that to love you well, I had to fall in love with myself first.’
(225): ‘Ella tenía tantos defectos que le parecía perfecta, él era tan imperfecto que no resultó defectuoso, perfectamente imperfectos’ / ‘She had so many flaws that she seemed perfect, he was so imperfect that he wasn’t imperfect, perfectly imperfect.’
(293): ‘Qué culpa tendrá mi corazón si no esta bien de la cabeza‘ / ‘How guilty my heart will be if it is not right in my head.’
(315): ‘Te quise, creer, te quise, querer, y de tanto que te quise, olvidé quererme
hasta que me quise, y olvidé quererte‘ / ‘I loved you, believe, I loved you, want, and I loved you so much, I forgot to love me, until i did love me, and I forgot to love you.’
(341): ‘Contigo tuve el superpoder de enredarme en mil pensamientos y el defecto de no saber desanudarlos‘ / ‘With you I had the superpower of being tangled in a thousand thoughts and the problem was that I didn’t know how to untie them.’

‘Te eché de menos cada día de más’

Below are a couple of photographs of snippets from my copy, which I also love. You can see the shortness of them, and often the senseless locura of them, but in this way, they gain meaning:


‘Y llegó la temporada de tormentas, y mi tormento, tú’




Language Learning: Tips & Tricks

Since around the age of 13 I have been learning Spanish, and when I started my undergraduate degree in 2014, I picked up Portuguese too. My Portuguese course has been very intense, as the aim was to bring up my level of Portuguese to the same standard of my Spanish. I am not entirely fluent in either language, but I can speak both at a good level, and to get to this level I had to study a lot. I thought I would share some of the things I did to improve my languages, and also some of the techniques I’ve learnt from my education.

  • Grammar books: I guess that we should start with the boring stuff first, but grammar books that explain grammar rules in depth are really, really helpful. I can’t speak for other languages but for Spanish and Portuguese, I can recommend some really good ones. For Spanish, ‘A Spanish Learning Grammar’ by P. Muñoz and M. Thacker is brilliant, it goes through the grammar rules in two different stages, so that you can build on your knowledge. There’s also practice exercises and solutions in the back, too. For Portuguese, ‘Portuguese: An Essential Grammar’ by Amelia P. Hutchinson is really good, because it describes both the grammar and how to use it in everyday speech. Writing out the grammar you find hard could help you remember it, but practice exercises have helped me lots.
  • Reciting conjugations: the bane of every language students life? Absolutely. I absolutely hate this tip but it isn’t something I could miss out: the only way to learn the verb endings and their different tense forms it to recite them, rewrite them, stare at them until they’re ingrained in your brain. It’s such a boring thing, but I promise that in the end, it really works. The more you write them out, or say them to yourself, the easier they are to remember.
  • 10 words a day: my Spanish teacher from my A Levels actually taught me this tip, but she told me that during her education she used to learn a certain amount of random words a day/week and that was a really useful way of learning vocabulary. In my second year at university I bought a small exercise book from Paperchase and took it to lectures with me, and wrote in any words that I heard/read that I didn’t understand, and then would find out the meaning and separate them into groups and learn them each week. So tedious but so useful.
  • Reading newspapers and magazines: I guess now we can move onto the more interesting things, because with languages comes culture. My grandparents really love going on holiday to Lanzarote, and so when they do, they bring me back a couple of magazines. Sometimes it’s fashion magazines like Vogue, or sometimes its celebrity magazines like Hola! It’s a really great way of expanding your vocabulary but also learning a bit more about the culture etc. Living in Portugal I was also able to read a lot here, but also, foreign publications are so accessible nowadays, its really easy to get hold of a newspaper or a magazine and spend even just 30 minutes broadening your vocabulary/knowledge.
  • Reading books: I guess this one is quite daunting, especially if you’re just beginning to learn a language, the thought of reading an entire book isn’t appealing. In fact it’s so difficult but so rewarding. I would say to read a book you’re really familiar with, when I was younger I absolutely loved Twilight and so I’ve read it in English, Spanish and Portuguese. There were times where I really wanted to give up with it but in the end, it was so beneficial, so I would say to choose a book that you know really well, and love a lot, and persevere with researching the words you’re unsure of. But you’ll find that, especially if you know the story really well, you’ll be able to work out (within the context), what the words you’re unsure of mean.
  • Listening to the radio: I used to hate this step, when I was at home in  England, I hated listening to the radio in foreign languages. I never even paid that much attention so I never thought that I was learning anything. But actually, since moving to Portugal, I’ve realised this is such a good way to subconsciously improve your languages. You’ll be hearing the language being spoken but also be hearing foreign music (thus learning more of the culture, once again). I usually used “listen” and for Spanish radio stations you can click here and for Portuguese radio stations you can click here. You can use the same website for other languages though, by clicking here and finding your relevant country.
  • Watch films: I love films so for me this step was always fun, but watching foreign films is so useful. When I first started learning languages I watched them with English subtitles, but now, as time has passed I’ve started to watch them with Spanish or Portuguese subtitles. It improved my understanding of spoken word and different accents. Also, another thing which is really helpful, is watching English films (or films in your mother tongue) and watching them with the subtitles in your chosen languages of study. It’s a really good way of learning vocabulary.
  • Speak to other speakers of the language: I struggled with this at first, but speaking to other people who also speak your chosen language is really effective and beneficial. You’ll learn so much more vocabulary, but also your confidence will build so much. If you speak to native speakers, you may even learn colloquial speech and become more natural in your approach, but they don’t have to be native. So long as you’re speaking, it doesn’t matter! For students like me, I used a site called ErasmusU before going on my year abroad, and managed to make many friends through this site and now regularly text and call them and in this way practice my languages.

For anyone interested, you can click here and here to see my two previous posts about my time abroad in Coimbra, Portugal.