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



Announcing Liceo Galilei Visit, and Model UN Partnership

ELA-Edinburgh  and the Edinburgh University Model UN Society (EdMUN) are pleased to announce that the Liceo Galileo Galilei of Trieste will be in Edinburgh during the 2nd week of March to take part in a series of language classes and EdMUN’s TeachMUN project.

Students from Liceo Galilei will take part in rigorous language classes in the mornings, and then learn all about the Model United Nations phenomenon in the afternoons. As well as essential language skills, they will learn valuable skills such as public speaking, debating and negotiation in a week-long series of fun activities. We look forward to welcoming them to historic Edinburgh on March 6th!

This is part of our ever-improving number of social, academic and cultural activities that we offer here at ELA, not just for youth students, but students of all ages! ELA is delighted to be able to team up with a local University Society for this venture, and hopes to hav
e many similar successful events in the future.



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!

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.

DSC00049 DSC00054

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.




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.

foto 4foto 4 (2)foto 3 (1)foto 1 (4)foto 1 (3)foto 1 (2)