False friends! Can they really be your friends?

First impressions.  It’s a topic that is explored by a number of course books at a variety of levels and it is often interesting  how different people contextualise it.  Most people think of a professional environment – such as a job interview or starting a new job.  This is not always the case.

“I made a bad impression when I met my boyfriend’s family.” 

Having spent time with this particular student, I found it difficult to comprehend that such a positive person would make anything less than an exemplary first impression.  So I asked her how.  The answer is not too surprising.  There was a discussion between her and one of the members of her boyfriend’s family and she translated a Spanish phrase into literal English where the meaning was the opposite of what was intended.

Está bien si yo no te caigo bien‘ she said, which translates (literally) to ‘It’s ok if I don’t like you’ but what it actually means is ‘It’s ok if you don’t like me.’ A small difference, but one which drastically changes the meaning.  Needless to say, the conversation went downhill after that.

It got me thinking about other situations where there could be a potentially catastrophic misunderstanding. One of the most common culprits are False Cognates (false friends) and they can lead to some difficult situations.  Here are some that have appeared in class:


One the student’s friends was embarazada, but she wasn’t ’embarrassed’ by anything.  In fact, she was pregnant.  I asked her if she had recently bought a new carpet and she said yes, and pulled out her carpeta – which turned out to be a ‘folder’.


We learnt about a brav friend of one of our students.  We asked her why she was brave, and she told us that was wasn’t, she was ‘honest’. We asked her if she ever gave her friend a present, or a gift, and she was shocked!  She wanted to know why she should ‘poison’ her friend.


One student remarked how his friend was very educato, so we asked if he had a PhD.  It turns out that he left school early but was very ‘polite’.  He had some dry skin on his wrist and another student asked him if he wanted some moisturizing ‘cream’.  He laughed, wondering why he was offered crema (custard) for his skin.


At the end of class, we were told to have a bonne journéebut we weren’t going on a journey.  We were just told to have a nice day. One of the other students remarked that he was going to have a grand day, which caused confusion. Why was his day big?

To recap:

Original Word English False Cognate Meaning
embarazada (Spanish) embarrassed/ashamed pregnant
carpeta (Spanish) carpet/rug folder
brav (German) brave/courageous honest
gift (German) gift/present poison
educato (Italian) educated/schooled polite
crema (Italian) cream/ointment custard
journée (French) journey/trip day
grand (French) grand/expensive big



Five Ways to Use Tech to Enliven your Studying

Technology has evolved considerably in the last few years at an almost terrifying pace.  We are truly fortunate with the number tools at our fingertips.  If anything, we might be a little too blessed with what’s available as it becomes difficult to identify a single tool that will suit your needs.  It takes time to learn how to use a new program, and even longer to implement it effectively in the classroom.  That being said, some programs are very student focused, need no input from a teacher, and can be used inside and outside the classroom.

Here’s five ways that students can use technology to help aid their language development.

Recording new vocabulary

There are many ways to record new words, but not many that will test your ability to remember them.  One great (and free) tool for documenting any new content is ‘Quizlet’ (http://www.quizlet.com/). Quizlet gives you the opportunity to create unlimited study sets and it will generate quizzes based on your content.  Quizlet is a great way to refresh your memory after a spending a few days studying new material.  There is an app for both Android and iOS so there’s no need to bring a heavy laptop to school.

Listening Practice for Short Phrases

Sometimes the most difficult thing about a new phrasal verb is to apply it to a context.  Take ‘look’ for example, the number of prepositions that could follow this verb is quite daunting for a student and remembering the different meanings can be quite a challenge.  A really useful tool for seeing phrasal verbs used in context is ‘Play Phrase Me’ (http://www.playphrase.me/) which plays short video clips of people using whatever text you enter into the search bar.  The website scans videos that have been uploaded into their database and looks for matches.  

Collaboration with Other Students

Students love to share.  In our experience, regardless of age differences, students love sharing new knowledge that they’ve come across – be it online or offline.  The problem with sharing content is that it’s often difficult finding a platform that everyone can access without the need to sign up for an account, a process which can be quite time consuming.  A quick and free solution is ‘Padlet’ (http://www.padlet.com/) which is a shared ‘wall’ where anyone with the address can share content without the need to sign up.

Speaking Practice

Speaking is a very difficult skill to practise alone.  How can you give yourself feedback? You could record your voice and listen to yourself at a later date, but if you’re looking for immediate feedback then grab your smartphone and install Google Keep (http://www.google.com/keep/) which is a very handy app.  Google Keep is a note taking application designed to allow the user to make quick notes on the go.  However, it also has a very useful voice recording feature which will attempt to transcribe your voice.  Simply speak into your phone and it will turn your words into text – if your pronunciation is not accurate then the software won’t transcribe it properly.

Reading and Listening

TED (http://www.ted.com) has become a wonderful source of content for internet users around the world.  Language learners can take advantage of a really useful feature that is ignored when videos are played full-screen.  TED videos come with an interactive tapescript which you can follow whilst listening to the TED speaker deliver his/her presentation.  What makes it really useful is that you can select any piece of text, like a button, and the video (which plays in the top left corner of the screen) will jump to the text’s location and play it.



Hello, fellow lovers of language!

This week, we’ve asked one of our talented teachers here at ELA to speak about the IELTS Exam, a topic that we have frequent questions about. If you have more questions about this popular exam, you can visit the ELA website. You can also find great practice materials on the British Council’s  page. And, of course, if you have more in depth questions, or would like to know how to enrol, visit us here.


And now we bring you Jonny’s introduction to IELTS:

What is IELTS?  Do I need it?

Well, there are two ‘parts’ to this English Examination, and students choose the exam based on whether they are doing Academic IELTS  or General IELTS.

Most students choose Academic IELTS, as they are preparing for an undergraduate or Postgraduate University course, either in Britain or abroad. Students choosing General IELTS usually require it as a VISA requirement or as a quick (but very appreciated) test of their English for an employer, or perhaps because they simply want to test themselves. In reality, the Speaking and Listening exams are exactly the same, while Writing and Reading are slightly different, but we’ll talk about that if you join the course.

You might ask what we do to prepare for these exams. The truth is that it isn’t all Exams Exams Exams.  To do well, you need to have a good appreciation of grammar and a wide vocabulary, while also possessing other skills and abilities, such as comprehension, written and fluency skills, with clear pronunciation, for example.  You also need to be able to understand the nature of Academic English.  So, yes, everyone does practice exams but it is much more than just exams.

At Edinburgh Language Academy, our classes take place from 13.30 to 15.30 every day, although we do intensive courses too – and, if you prefer 1-1 classes, we can be arrange this at a time to suit you.

Thank you for your interest in ELA! We look forward to welcoming you soon!

Enjoying Edinburgh

We love the capital city of Scotland for its beauty, unique atmosphere, fantastic architecture and great history.

We organise weekly excursions around Edinburgh and introduce it to our students coming to ELA from all over the world.

There is nothing more rewarding than showing them all the sights of our city, helping them to immerse themselves into its atmosphere and observing their enthusiasm when they learn about Edinburgh and Scotland.

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Join us to learn more about ELA and our social programme.





Dear Diary..

Several weeks ago we have posted the first extracts from our project called “Dear Diary” where students are writing about their experiences in Edinburgh and at ELA.


It’s a great project and both our students and teachers benefit from it: students practice their English by using narrative tenses as well as other grammatical aspects, and vocabulary they have learnt or revised while studying at ELA; and teachers are provided with an opportunity to check students’ progress and receive their feedback.

We would like to share some parts of students essays with all of you.

Sara Baglivo wrote that her experience was amazing despite the initial fear of being in a new city. She was really looking forward to improve her English and had a strong desire to develop. Sara’s teacher, David, made the whole group feel very welcome and was involving each student in all activities. But, of course, as every person who travels to a new country Sara had some culture shock moments related to food that was different from her home town and getting on with her groupmates. However, all those troubles were insignificant and were solved within the first week of their stay; the group enjoyed their excursions to Loch Lomond, Arthur’s Seat, the Floors Castle and many other places. They were really inspired by gorgeous landscapes and medieval architecture. And Sara mentioned that she would love to come back to Edinburgh.

Enrico Emilio Diviggiano mentioned that he was enjoying everything: the weather was unusual for him but he got used to t very quickly; his lessons were very productve and enjoyable thanks to his teacher, David, who he called a “King of teaching”; various art galleries and museums stunned Enrico and Loch Lomons, Arthur’s Seat and St.Andrews impressed him and insired for new discoveries.

Fara Galeoni said that originally she wanted to go to London but when the teacher informed all the students about their new destination in the UK, Fara got really excited and started gathering information about Scotland and Edinburgh. There were some things that were unusual: public transport system was well organised, Scottish people were very friendly and welcoming, buildings were beautiful and full of history and, of course, lessons at ELA helped a lot to improve the level of English. And as Fara said: “I left a piece of my heart in Edinburgh and ELA.”

All our students enjoyed their experience and mentioned that their encounter with a new culture was very positive, even though they had to get used to several things such as food and the weather. Some of them even mentioned that this school trip changed their life and the way they thought of Scotland and the UK.

We would like to thank all of our students for all the unforgettable moments and a very positive experience full of new adventures and discoveries.

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Mysterious Rosslyn Chapel

Many of our students have read a famous book written by Dan Brown where he described secrets and beauties of the Rosslyn Chapel. It is a gorgeous building full of mystery and legends. This week our students are going to visit it and we hope they will enjoy their experience.


We would like to share some information about this unique place and building with all of you.

Rosslyn Chapel was founded in 1446 as a place of worship and services continue to be held here weekly. The chapel was founded by William Sinclair, 1st Earl of Caithness of the Scoto-Norman Sinclair family. It is the third Sinclair place of worship at Roslin, the first being in Roslin Castle and the second in what is now Roslin Cemetery. The Chapel has also been a popular destination for visitors for generations. By the late 18th-century, it was starting to appear on popular itineraries and its popularity greatly increased after the publication of Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code, in 2003.

da vinchi code

After the Scottish Reformation (1560) Roman Catholic worship in the chapel was brought to an end, although the Sinclair family continued to be Roman Catholics until the early 18th century. From that time the chapel was closed to public worship until 1861 when it was opened again as a place of worship according to the rites of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

Since the late 1980s, the chapel has also featured in speculative theories concerning a connection of Freemasonry, the Knights Templar, and the Holy Grail.

Among Rosslyn’s many intricate carvings are a sequence of 213 cubes or ‘boxes’ protruding from pillars and arches with a selection of patterns on them. It is unknown whether these patterns have any particular meaning attached to them — many people have attempted to find information coded into them, but no interpretation has yet proven conclusive. Unfortunately many of these ‘boxes’ are not original, having been replaced in the 19th century after erosion damage.

The chapel has also acted as a burial place for several generations of the Sinclairs — a crypt was once accessible from a descending stair at the rear of the chapel. This crypt has for many years been sealed shut, which may explain the recurrent legends.

The Chapel is still family-owned. Its owner, the Earl of Rosslyn, is a Trustee of the Rosslyn Chapel Trust, which was established in 1995 to care for the Chapel and oversee its conservation and public access. The Trustees run the charity through a Management Committee, under the chairmanship of the Countess of Rosslyn, who is also a Trustee. Other members of the committee are volunteers with relevant skills and experience.


You can get there by car or bus, by foot or by bicycle. All the information and details can be found here: http://www.rosslynchapel.org.uk/p/getting-here-I561/

Have you already visited the Rosslyn Chapel?

Share you experience with us.

ELA team


Tips for Autumn Fashion

It is August and according to our calendar, it is still summer 🙂

However, the weather is no longer pampering us with nice and sunny days, and amazingly gorgeous and warm evenings. It is getting colder every day and we can feel the breath of Autumn every time we cross the threshold and step outside.

So, it high time to introduce our next lesson, during which you are going to learn more about autumn fashion trends.

1. Match the words and the expressions on the left with their definition. Form a sentence with each word and expression.

a) in full swing

b) earth tones

c) slather

d) mulch

e) gravel

f) fashionista

i. to spread a large amount of something over something else

ii. an individual obsessed with following trends in fashion

iii. moving rapidly

iv. a mixture of little stones and sand used on driveways

v. brownish colours

vi. straw used sometimes to keep moisture in the soil

2. Using concessive structures (“while, whereas, whilst; however, nevertheless, nonetheless”) form 6 sentences contrasting summer and autumn fashion in terms of colours, clothes, accessories (bags, scarves, hats) and essential items.

3. Watch the video and fill in the table below:



Tip #1 Earth tones are a classic fall look. Before leaving the 1.________, remember to slather yourself 2_________ of mulch and 3________.


Tip #2 5______ your summer clothes. It’s time to put away those flip flops and 6______.

7________of your summer clothes.

Tip #3 Create your own 8______ backpack. All 9_______ fall fashionistas can create a backpack by 10_______a pumpkin.
Tip #4 Find your perfect colours. Send in pictures.
Tip #5 11_______are a great accessory. Be careful not to get your 12_________ accessory caught as you could 13_________ hang yourself.
Tip #6 Avoid shopping 14________. 15_____ Just  stay at home. Let yourself become totally 16___________.

4. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement: “Fashion is made to become unfashionable” ? 

We would be happy to know your favourite autumn fashion trends! 🙂

Grammar’s great divide

1)      Try to decipher this hidden message:

 !  ,(  ()  :-;  (-

/<  :-; () \/\/

# () \/\/

(- ()

? “_” :-; (  (- “_” @ (- [- 

2)      Match the words and expressions with their definitions:

  1. multitalented
  2. conjunction
  3. to denote
  4. to do the job
  5. truce
  6. hair splitting
  7. squiggle
a. be a sign of; indicate

b. (informal) achieve the required result

c. an agreement between enemies or opponents to stop fighting or arguing for a certain time

d. having many skills and talents

e. a short line that curls and loops in an irregular way

f. characterised by or fond of small and overfine distinctions

g. a word used to connect clauses or sentences or to coordinate words in the same clause (e.g. and, but, if)

3)      Full in the empty space with a word or expression from exercise 1:

a)      I have no clue what your doctor is trying to say in this note. It all looks like one giant ____________.

b)      David is certainly __________. He has appeared in several theatrical productions, is an accomplished sabreur, and can bake stunning cupcakes.

c)       No Greek state was allowed to fight during the ___________ proclaimed for the celebration of the Olympic and other Panhellenic Games.

d)      The council has carried out risk assessments on all restricted areas and has reopened nearly three-quarters of the pathways – a pink sign has been used ________a right of way.

e)      Parliamentary question time is full of wonderful examples of extended verbs, _______and prepositional phrases employed to evade answering a question.

f)       At times, the only way to win a legal battle is to indulge in a bit of ____________.

g)      If you suddenly find yourself without a door, a piece of board should _______until you manage to get a new door.




Dear Diary..

At ELA our students write diaries describing their emotions and impressions about the school, our gorgeous city and their host families.

We would like to share some of their thoughts with you.

Rosalia Anderi: “Tuesday, 22nd of July. It’s the first day in Edinburgh. ..The climate was fantastic and my first impressions were good. Edinburgh is fabulous.”

SarahVercelli: “Friday 25th of July. I like every day I go to school. At 13:30 I went to the Museum of Scotland. It is very beautiful.”

Chiara Bavastro: “Sunday 26th of July. We visited the zoo and we went up the Arthur’s Seat, from which we saw Edinburgh. Also this week we ate Fish and Chips. It was very good because it is traditional food of England.”

Charles: “Now it is August. We spent 6 days in Scotland. The weather is really cold here and it can rain three times a day. But this city is really beautiful and the air is fresh. I really like it in here.”

Alex: “We studied at ELA in the morning and visited some scenic spots in the afternoon. I live in a lovely house. The host is an old woman who is very kind. My teacher at ELA is Ewan and he is very patient.”

Frain: “Our host family was an old couple. However, the house is very beautiful and our bedrooms are very comfortable. Besides, actually the food we were served is better than anywhere else. As for school, ELA, is a professional school and it;s interesting to study there. The school is near the Princess street and it’s convenient to go to school and back home. Studying here is a brilliant choice.”

Dear students, we would like to thank you all for your kind words. You inspire us and keep us going. We will be preparing more interesting programs for you and amazing tours.

Edinburgh Language Academy #ELA

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Exploring Edinburgh together

We love our city and we are happy to show the best parts of it to our amazing students. One of the groups explored Edinburgh together with their language teacher from ELA. They were really lucky with the weather 🙂

July is one of the best months to walk around the city and enjoy the warmth of Scottish summer.

Just two minutes away from ELA there is a fantastic old place called Dean Village. It is a former village immediately northwest of the city centre of Edinburgh. It was also sometimes known as the “Water of Leith Village” and was a successful grain milling hamlet for more than 800 years. At one time there were no fewer than eleven working mills there, driven by the strong currents of the Water of Leith.

Water of Leith is a small river and if you decide to walk along it, it will lead you as far as Balerno village.

The Water of Leith is perhaps more a green corridor than a park, although it is designated an Urban Wildlife Site. The waterway snakes through the city from the foot of the Pentlands to Leith docks, providing a haven for birds (as much as 80 different species), wildlife, and a peaceful, semi-rural route for pedestrians, cyclists, joggers and pram-pushers. There’s also a variety of historic sites that are linked with this important Edinburgh river.

You can walk and cycle much of the way with the water rushing below you, although the pedestrian-cycle path doesn’t always go directly beside the river and some access points have steep staircases to negotiate. Sections of the Water of Leith make attractive scenic routes for getting around the city, whether it’s going to a restaurant or pub, a rugby match, or an art gallery.

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