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False Friends

False Friends | 121 ConversationIsn’t that the worst feeling when one of your friends disappoints you?  Or even worse, when they betray you? It’s like you’re stabbed right through the heart.  Well, words are the same, although hopefully it doesn’t hurt quite so much.  False cognates, more colloquially known as “false friends,” are words in two languages that look the same but don’t have the same meaning.  They can really deceive you, those little tricksters. 

Some words in English and Spanish are spelled exactly the same way and have the same meaning, take chocolate--the only difference is the pronunciation. Animal, legal, taxi, video and sofa are some more examples.  Other words look very similar and have the same meaning like apartment-apartamento, contact-contacto, elegant-elegante, dialogue-diálogo, band-banda and many more.  However, those aren’t the crux
of our problem.  What we’re going to focus on today are words that look the same but have totally different meanings—the false cognates or infamous “false friends.” Here are 15 of the most common false friend mistakes for Spanish speakers.
False Friends | 121 Conversation

Spanish term
English definition
English false friend
Spanish translation
Real, existente
A cold, stuffed up
Tela, tejido
Modismo, frase hecha
Quitar, sacar
To put up with

 Here are some examples of these false friends in use-hopefully they help you remember the difference.

Image courtesy of Ambro at |121 Conversation
1. I eat carrot soup everyday but I wash myself with soap.
2. I stuffed my papers in my folder and put it down on the carpet.
3. Actually, I’m really interested in current events.
4. I was so embarrassed that I asked that a woman if she were pregnant-it turns out she was just fat!
5. What a beautiful fabric! Yes, it was made in a factory.


Now it’s your turn.  Watch out because these are difficult. Each sentence contains a false friend error. Try to spot the false friend and replace it with the correct word in English.

1. When you make a sauce, remove it slowly.
2. English is an easy idiom to learn.
3. It was a good notice - Sheila had twins.
4. The film was a great exit - it won 8 Oscars.
5. He put the papers inside the carpet.
6. They have a reunion every morning at 10am.

Abigail Franckquepohl | 121 Conversation
Autora: Abigail Franckquepohl
Profesora en 121 Conversation. Nacida en Nueva York, se ha trasladado a España para conocer otra cultura y otro idioma. Es profesora acreditada con el TEFL y lleva cinco años dando clases de inglés para extranjeros.


In today’s article I will write a few recommendations about colloquial abbreviations in emails, a well as the appropriate use of greetings and saying farewell. In the first place, I explain how to write a formal email to a person or a company that is unknown to us. Then I enumerate the cases in which one can use less formal writing, paying attention to abbreviations that can only appear in the latter type of correspondence.

My first advice is that if you are writing an email to a person or a company for the first time, it will be better for you to use formal expressions, which you will be able to substitute for more familiar ones when you have already exchanged some mails and you get to know your partner better. Hence, I highly recommend always starting the email saying ‘Dear Mr’ or ‘Dear Mgrs.’; another option is to begin your email saying ‘Dear Sir’ or ‘Dear Madam’. Both alternatives are correct, but if you don’t know the treatment that you should use with the person you are addressing, you can write his/her name after the word ‘Dear’ (for instance, ‘Dear Thomas Smith’), though people tend to consider this option more informal. After the person’s status, it is convenient to write ‘if I may’ between parenthesis, as an act of deference to whom you are writing to.

You should finish your email writing at the bottom ‘Regards’ or ‘Kind regards’. You can say ‘Best regards’, too, but in this case you are implying that you empathise in some way with the people at the other side of your screen. Apart from the alternatives that I have just mentioned, there are two more expressions that are appropriate in this context: first, if you started the email saying ‘Dear Sir’ or ‘Dear Madam’, you can finish it saying ‘Yours faithfully’; second, if you began with ‘Dear Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms’, you can use ‘Yours sincerely’. It is important to note that, after all the expressions that I have pointed out in this paragraph, you must write your full name in the following line to sing the email.

Either if you know the person to whom you are addressing your email, or if you have already exchanged some word with him/her/them (though you needn’t be in close terms with each other), there are some alternatives to make your communication less formal. On the one hand, you can start saying ‘Hello’ and the name of the person, but you will only say ‘Hi’ if you are really close to each other. There is also an expression that is halfway between both alternatives: ‘Greetings’, which is regarded as more neutral and is rarely used. When it is time to say farewell, you can choose between different options: ‘All the very best’ implies affection towards the person you are addressing, whereas ‘Best’ is more neutral, and ‘Cheers’ is regarded as the less formal of all, which is the reason for its use mainly in emails exchanged between friends. In the following line you can write your first name, or only your initials in really colloquial correspondence.
It is precisely in the latter kind of emails that one can use colloquial abbreviations whose meaning has been previously agreed by common use, such as ‘asap’ (‘as soon as possible’), brb (‘be right back’), btw (‘by the way’), fyi (‘for your information’), idk (‘I don’t know’), lol (‘lots of laughs’), np (‘no problem’), omg (‘oh my God’), etc.

To sum up, the first decision one needs to make when writing an email is what his/her relation is to the person to which it is addressed. Once we have clarified this question, we only need to use the appropriate tone and to remember the main expressions and their correspondence, in order to use them right and to cause a good impression in the addressee, whoever he/she might be. 

Autor: Antonio Jesús Pinto
Profesor en 121 Conversation. Es Doctor en Historia Contemporánea. Ha vivido en Londres, Nueva York y Pittsburg. Tiene una amplia experiencia como profesor de inglés. Por su  experiencia y su formación profesional, dice estar "convencido que mis clases ayudarán al alumno a coger soltura y a tener más confianza en si mismo a la hora de hablar el inglés".

Countable and UNCountable noun article

English isn't easy! We count the grains in bread but not the bread itself. We count loaves of bread and slices of bread, but we don't count bread! Why not? How can you tell? How can you keep all these countables and uncountables straight!? No need to fret, just keep reading and I'll explain it bit by bit (by the way, you can count bits of bread and even crumbs, but not the bread itself!).

So, the main difference between these two types of nouns is that countables you can count, and uncountables, you can't.  It's not quite as simple as all that but let's think.  You have some water.  Can you count it? No!  You can count bottles of water or glasses of water but the water itself can’t be counted.  One of the most common uncountable nouns is liquids.  Water, milk, soda and juice are all uncountable.  Likewise, solids with small parts or that can be melted into a liquid are also uncountable.  For example, rice, pasta and ice cream are all uncountable.  You might argue that you could count each grain of rice or each piece of spaghetti but who really wants to do that! Butter, wax, grass, popcorn and cheese also fall into this category.  Remember though, we do find ways to count these items such as scoops (of ice cream), pieces (of cheese), kernels (of popcorn), blades (of grass) and more.

In addition to food and drink, concepts are usually uncountable.  It’s logical! How can you count music or psychology or art?  Most things that are abstract are uncountable and all uncountable nouns are treated in the singular.  For example, “this music is horrendous” or “love always triumphs.”  Likewise, whenever we modify an uncountable noun, we must use an appropriate modifier.  “Some, any, a little and much” all modify these nouns (many and a few do NOT).  The last rule is that we don’t use the indefinite article (a or an) with uncountable nouns but the definite article (the) is ok.  So, let’s look at some examples that put these rules into practice:

I’ve got some rice.
Do you have any milk?
Music is my passion.
Their lawn doesn’t have much grass.


I’ve got so many grains of rice.
Do you have many glasses of milk?
The music that she plays is lovely.
There are a few blades of grass on their lawn.

In conclusion, liquids, solids that melt, and small part solids are uncountable.  Abstract concepts like love and happiness, news and information, money, power and electricity are also uncountable. We use uncountable modifiers, no indefinite article and they are treated in the singular.  However, most uncountables can be counted by specifying how we will count them.  Try some exercises yourself!

I’ve got so (much/
many) water.
He thinks that (a/ø) money is the root of all evil.
The news (is/are) very depressing.
They have (many/a little) popcorn.
Do you have (any/many) butter?

Abigail Franckquepohl | 121 Conversation
Autora: Abigail Franckquepohl
Profesora en 121 Conversation. Nacida en Nueva York, se ha trasladado a España para conocer otra cultura y otro idioma. Es profesora acreditada con el TEFL y lleva cinco años dando clases de inglés para extranjeros.

Niveles de competencia lingüística

¿Qué es el MCER?

El Consejo de Europa publicó en 2001 el Marco Común Europeo de Referencia para las lenguas (MCER) con el fin de unificar directrices para la enseñanza y el aprendizaje de las lenguas dentro del contexto europeo.
El MCER es un documento cuyo objetivo es proporcionar una base común para la elaboración de programas de lenguas, orientaciones curriculares, exámenes, manuales y materiales de enseñanza contribuyendo de este modo a facilitar la movilidad entre los ámbitos educativo y profesional.

Niveles de competencia lingüística | 121 Conversation

¿Qué son los niveles de referencia?
Una de las herramientas más determinadas del MCER es el establecimiento de una escala de 6 niveles comunes en los que se divide el progreso en el aprendizaje de una lengua: A1 (Acceso), A2 (Plataforma), B1 (Umbral), B2 (Avanzado), C1 (Dominio operativo eficaz) y C2 (Maestría).
La numeración de los niveles permite que se realicen más subdivisiones sin perder la referencia del objetivo principal del que procede. La mayoría de las instituciones públicas y privadas ya han adaptado sus enseñanzas de idiomas al MCER. La duración y la extensión de contenidos de cada nivel varían entre sí. Por lo que, cada institución ha optado por dividir en 2, 3 o 4 sub-niveles cada uno nivel de los 6 niveles del MCER en función de la distribución y organización de sus cursos.

Un enfoque orientado a la acción

El cuadro descrito es una herramienta de ayuda para la autoevaluación sobre la base de los seis niveles. Se pretende ayudar a los alumnos a identificar sus destrezas principales con el fin de autoevaluar su nivel de dominio de la lengua.

El MCER delimita las 5 capacidades que el alumno debe controlar en cada uno de los niveles para las categorías comprender, hablar y escribir:

CO: Comprensión oral
CE: Comprensión escrita
IO: Interacción oral
EO: Expresión oral
EE: Expresión escrita
Teóricamente, se considera que un nivel del A1 al C2 está adquirido cuando las 5 destrezas lingüísticas sean validadas dentro de ese mismo nivel. Todas las situaciones intermedias son posibles, por ejemplo, una persona puede tener un nivel avanzado en comprensión escrita y sin embargo, tener un nivel umbral en expresión oral.
Poco a poco, la mayoría de las instituciones de enseñanza de idiomas intentan poner fin a la preponderancia de la parte escrita que ha estado presente durante mucho tiempo a favor de un enfoque equilibrado y específico para trabajar por igual cada destreza. Se desarrollan pues diferentes actividades cuyo objetivo es el de favorecer la adquisición de todas las destrezas y evaluaciones especificas para cada una de ellas.