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!

Top 5 reasons for downloading an audiobook



You might have heard this term, which started circling the web over 5 years ago, but didn’t know what the fuss was all about. Well, let us introduce you to this modern way of ‘reading’ or learning a language.

Please meet audiobooks, professionally narrated recordings of different kinds of literature, ranging from classical novels to modern sci-fi, including biographies and even recipe books. They are usually the exact version of a book, but sometimes they are shortened to further simplify the reader’s or in this case the listener’s life.
Now that we know what audiobooks are, we will find out why they are so popular and where to download free audiobooks in English.

Here are top 5 reasons why you should listen to an audiobook.

1. Audiobooks are great for those who do not like reading. We all have different learning techniques, some prefer reading while others prefer listening, so if you are one of the latter team, then audiobooks are your perfect match. Also, they are amazing for when you are feeling too lazy to read or just too busy to spare some of your time to reading.

2. You can take your audiobook wherever you want. It will substitute your boring date on your walks in the park, sunbathing sessions by the pool and many other activities like going to the gym, travelling and so on. Whether you are on the move or lying in your cosy bed, they can be downloaded straight to your phone or other smart device and be available within minutes.

3. When learning a new language, for example English, audiobooks will help you improve your pronunciation and boost your vocabulary. Furthermore, listening is proved to be an efficient way of memorising important facts, so stack up on books and get learning.

4. If you haven’t seen yet, there is a huge list of audiobooks available to suit everyone’s taste. And since they do not take up any space in your bag you can download several books at a time and enjoy listening to different stories and scenarios.

5. Another advantage of audiobooks is that you can set your own pace and regulate the speed of the recording. You can set it on low speed, to allow your brain to consume and process new information, or you could speed it up and learn more in an hour.

And if you are still not convinced, I suggest you give it a go and let us know what you think.

Big fans of audiobooks, who I am sure are members of Audible, will most definitely recommend to sign up and explore the rich collection of books that Audible has to offer.

At last, all I have to say is, audiobooks are wonderful! Even if you prefer reading books, you should at least once, try listening to your favourite novel.


As promised, here are a few websites where you can download free audiobooks in English:



How to Build a Time Machine

Start here

Work with a partner. Answer these questions:

1. Is it illegal to break the laws of physics? Can you give an example of one law of physics?
2. Do you think time travel is possible? What do you know about Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity?
3. If you could open a portal to the past, where and when would you go?
4. What about a shortcut to the future- would you jump ahead in time? Why (not)?
5. Look at these two images. How are they connected to the idea of time travel?

1 2

A. Match these words ( Black hole, Wormhole, Dark energy, Quantum mechanics) with a definition:

1. a theory that explains the behaviour of elementary particles, both separately and in groups

2. a theoretical form of energy postulated to act in opposition to gravity and to occupy the entire universe, accounting for most of the energy in it and causing its expansion to accelerate.

3. a region in space where gravity is so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape

4. a special type of structure that some scientists think might exist, connecting parts of space and time that are not usually connected

C. Play a fun game! Falling into a Black Hole!


A. Watch the first part of the video (0.00-1.00) and fill in these sentences:

Time travel is 1 _________________________________________
Einstein’s 2 ______________________________________ claims that the stronger the gravity the slower 3 ________________ moves.
This means that by linking two parts of 4 ____________________ that have different gravity you would in theory be able to travel back and forward in time between the two planets.
Gravity is the strongest close to a black hole, which means that time moves slower close to the black hole than it does on 5__________________________.
The problem is that right now scientists don’t know how to get space explorers from Earth to the black hole 6___________________ because they have not been able to build anything that travels faster than the 7___________________________.
Wormholes are claimed to be the only 8_______________________ that would allow people to travel back and forth in time.

B. Watch the next part of the video (1.00-1.57) and fill in this diagram that summarises how to build a time machine.


C. Watch the last part of the video and take notes in order to answer the following questions:

1. According to the video, how far back in the past would a traveller be able to go?
2. How much energy would a time machine actually require?
3. What is the Grandfather Paradox?
4. In your opinion, will time travel ever happen?

How to study when you have hardly any free time?

Today we’ve decided to look at one of the most popular topics discussed by many ESL students. Almost all adult learners work full time nowadays and as we all know, there is hardly any free time left for learning or improving a foreign language.

However, we do believe that motivation is crucial for any type of activity including language learning.

Let’s look at some ways that can be used to learn or improve your language skills in the situation of almost zero spare time:

1) Find and arrange lessons via Skype.


It is the most convenient way of studying as it has lots of benefits for both parties.

• You don’t have to spend time getting to a language school or your private tutor’s house, nor do you have to spend time returning home. Such lessons can be held in absolutely any place where a computer and stable Internet connection are available (your home, cafes, libraries, etc.).
• You don’t have to cancel your lessons when you’re on a business trip or otherwise away.
• All study materials such can be transferred instantly or right before the lesson begins. Therefore, you save money by not purchasing expensive books.
• You can have lessons with a teacher from any part of the world, including native speakers from an English speaking country.
• Some professional teachers record their lessons and send them as an mp3 file to the student who can listen again and again to the lesson.

2) Listen to authentic materials online.


There are loads of websites that offer users to download or stream various genres of recordings like podcasts, video clips, educational video, seminars, etc.

3) Use your e-readers.


Almost all of us have an e-reader. Yes, some people might find it hard to read an e-book as the whole reading experience is slightly different to the one with a paper book. However, advantages of such devices are really hard to ignore: you can download any book you like and as many books as you wish; you can find authentic texts and also their adapted versions, which is great for those who have just started learning foreign languages.

4) Practice speaking and writing via forums.


There are a great number of forums online that provide a unique opportunity to chat with native speakers as well as other language learners. You can share your ideas on learning techniques, discuss topics that interest you and even arrange a video chat and practice speaking skills.

5) Listen to songs and audio books.

audio books

If you commute to work by car, you can listen to a CD or an mp3; if you travel by train or bus, you can use your mp3 player and enjoy an audio version of your favourite book.

6) Travel and communicate.


If you love travelling or you have to travel a lot due to your business arrangements, use this opportunity to get acquainted with people and practice speaking with them.

So, now we have at least six ways of learning and improving a foreign language.

What learning tips do you usually use?

Share with us.

Team ELA


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

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


Let’s Read

“There is no friend as loyal as a book.”  — Ernest Hemingway

“A book is a device to ignite your imagination.” – Alan Bennett

Some people love reading, some loathe. But it even if you do not consider yourself a bookworm, it is still essential to learn and improve your reading skills as almost all ESOL exams are designed to check this useful skill.

So, let’s discuss the ways that might help you improve your reading skills.

First of all, you need to prepare for reading. 

reading 3

Find something to read, something that you know you will really enjoy.

Don’t forget that you need to choose interesting and easily read books such as comic books, as well as reading books containing formal words. Reading is about enjoying the experience as well as developing the skills.

Find a place to read where you can concentrate and where you feel comfortable. This may be your secret place where no one will bother you, or simply your home at a time when it is quiet.

Start reading with titles, names, or other larger print items that you may know or ever thought about. Read carefully and try not to rush, take your time.

reading 8

Remember that you don’t have to be a great reader to get the point. It doesn’t matter whether you read quickly or slowly, the most important point is to understand the main idea.

Enjoy the process and remember why you are reading. Is it for entertainment or to learn something? If you decide from the very start, it will help you enjoy it and improve your comprehension.

Remember, you’re reading with a purpose, so focus on that purpose and the material. If you lose interest or keep losing your place, take a break or read something else. Scan the text before you read and if it is not to your liking, simply put it aside and choose something different.

Read as much as you are able. If you feel that you start getting bored or need a break, take one. After your break, return to where you were, and continue.

reading 4

Read each item straight through. If you finish and have questions, go back and re-read those sections. If you don’t have questions and you understood what you needed, then you are ready to move on.

Use context clues to find out a word’s meaning. It means that you can figure out the meaning of a word by seeing how the word was used in a sentence. If you find a word that you cannot understand from the context, use the dictionary. If you want to save time, go to the online dictionary

Remember that practice makes it perfect. The more you read, the better reader you’ll become.

reading 7

To each his own…

“Fashion changes, but style endures.” –  Coco Chanel

Start here!

1. Look at the picture. Discuss and decide:Picture 1

  • Which one(s) would you wear at school? Why?
  • When would the other ones be worn?
  • Which one(s) is (are) your least favorite? Why?
  • What is the meaning of this sentence:

“Ted always wears 5 different colors, but to each his own…”?

Vocabulary fun!

2. Work with a partner. Match the words and expressions on the left with their meaning on the right.

1.dropping names   A. peppermint candy

2.bring me shame  B. a picture taken of yourself that is uploaded to Facebook

3.YOLO                    C. try to make me feel bad because of something I did

4.coupon book       D. dead

5.mints               E. saying the names of famous people you know to impress others

6.selfie                     F. tickets for a discount

7.deceased              G. you only live once; an excuse for doing something stupid

3. Match one of the words from the list below (a- i) with one of the images (1-9) in picture 2.Picture 2_To each his own

(a) stripes     (b) plaid     (c) glitter    (d) sequined    (e) fluorescent (f) belt   (g) suspenders     (h) crocs    (i) Uggs

ROFL CU!  (Read Once- Fun Listening Coming Up!)

4. Watch this video Video 1 and take 5 minutes to write down as many words as you know from the video. How many of the words from exercise 3 can you find?__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

5. Watch the video again. In what order do these characters appear?

Picture 3_To each his own

6. Listen to the lyrics and fill in the gaps in this text.

It might seem (a)__________, wearing stripes with plaid

I instagram every meal I’ve had

All my used liquor (b)__________ are on display

We can go to see a show but I’ll make you pay (because I’m tacky)

Wear my belt with suspenders and (c)_________ with my socks (because I’m tacky)

Got some new glitter Uggs and lovely (d)_________ sequined crocs (because I’m tacky)

Never let you forget some favor I did for you (because I’m tacky)

If you’re okay with that, then, you might just be tacky, too

I meet some chick, ask her this and that

Like ‘Are you pregnant girl, or just really (e)________?’ (what?)

Well, now I’m dropping names almost constantly

That’s what Kanye West keeps telling me, here’s why (because I’m tacky)

Wear my Ed Hardy shirt with fluorescent orange (f)________ (because I’m tacky)

Got my new resume it’s printed in Comic Sans (because I’m tacky)

Think it’s (g)__________ threatening waiters with a bad Yelp review (because I’m tacky)

If you think that’s just fine, then, you’re probably tacky, too

Bring me shame, can’t nothing

Bring me shame, I never know why

Bring me shame, can’t nothing

Bring me shame, I said

Bring me shame, can’t nothing

Bring me shame, it’s pointless to try

Bring me shame, can’t nothing

Bring me shame, I said (because I’m tacky)

43 Bumper Stickers and a YOLO license plate (because I’m tacky)

(h)_________ along my coupon book whenever I’m on a date (because I’m tacky)

Practice my twerking moves in line at the DMV (because I’m tacky)

Took the whole (i)_________ of restaurant mints. Hey, it said they’re free (because I’m tacky)

I get drunk at the bank

And take off my (j)__________, at least (because I’m tacky)

I would live-tweet a funeral, take selfies with the deceased (because I’m tacky)

If I’m bitten by a zombie(k)________, I’m probably not telling you (because I’m tacky)

If you don’t think that’s bad, guess what, then you’re tacky, too

7.Work with a partner. Describe what these 4 characters are wearing.Picture 4_To each his own