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.


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


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

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.




How to Improve your English

It doesn’t matter whether you are a foreign student or a native speaker, your English skills can always be improved. We would like to share several tips with you:


  • Watch films and TV programs and listen to any online radio. This will help you to improve listening skills and expand your vocabulary at the same time. If you decide to watch documentaries, films or TV programs, you can start doing it with subtitles turned on, then turn the subtitles off when the listening part of this activity becomes easier.


  • Read a lot: books, newspapers or journals, magazines, blogs, articles and other materials in English. Try to choose material that is slightly above your current level, use a monolingual dictionary if necessary (for example such dictionary as Cambridge online dictionary http://dictionary.cambridge.org/). This is also a great tip for improving your English in a technical or professional field. You need to spend only 15 minutes a day to improve achieve good results.



  • Record your monologues or answers to various tasks and keeping a diary. This allows you to use all your reading, listening and grammar skills that you’ve been practicing.


  • When you feel you are ready, surround yourself by English speakers and try to avoid using your native language as much as possible. There are many native speakers you can chat with via Skype or other programs.


  • If you do all the activities mentioned above, your progress will be great. And, of course, after such hard work don’t forget to reward yourself.


Enjoy learning English!