Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Language Barometer 2012

What do you think will be the most important language in the future? Which languages should children learn? And how important are language skills for your career?

Help us to identify future key trends in language learning by sharing your opinion! Please take 5 minutes to answer these and other important questions in the Language Barometer Survey 2012. Language Barometer 2012

We are running the Language Barometer Survey in partnership with Madrid’s IE Business School, one of the world’s leading postgraduate education institutions. This is the second year that we are doing the Language Barometer and we’re very curious to see how estimations about language learning and views on future key trends have changed over the past year.

We want to find out which are the most effective technologies and learning methods for you, so that we can meet your needs even better than before and prepare for the future.

That’s why your opinion matters to us – start the survey now in your language:

Thank you in advance for taking part in the Language Barometer Survey 2012.

Of course we will share the survey results with you on this blog within a few weeks!

New: Learn Chinese on!

We have exciting news for you: you can now learn Chinese for free on! It’s the most spoken language in the world and the mother tongue of one quarter of the global population (that is 1.34 billion people – incredible).

Learn Chinese for free on

Chinese is also the Lingua Franca of Asia. You can never go wrong with Chinese in Asia! So start learning Chinese now and practise with native speakers from our community! You will discover one of the oldest cultures in the world with over 5000 years of customs and traditions.

Chinese is known for being a tonal language. In fact, there are 4 tones (plus a ‘neutral’ tone). This may be challenging for Chinese beginners, however, as the language has no plural and no tenses, the grammar part will be a piece of cake for you. To give you an easy introduction, our learning content is availabe in both the Latin alphabet and the Chinese script. This way you will be able to easily understand the pronunciation that is so important when learning Chinese.

Learn Chinese for free on

And if you’re a native Chinese speaker, you can of course use in your own language! Just go to your settings page to change the interface language to Chinese.

Start learning Chinese for free!

Begin your Chinese course in 3 easy steps:

  1. Go to ‘Add a new language‘ in your course menu.
  2. Add ‘Chinese‘ to the languages you learn.
  3. Click on the new Chinese tree in your garden to start learning.

Premium MembersPremium Member can listen to key phrases and dialogues, do voice recording exercises and access podcasts and many more tools for learning this tonal language more effectively. Upgrade now to make the most out of our Chinese course or have a look at our full list of Premium Functions here!

Do you already learn Chinese? Share your learning tips and tell us how you like our Chinese course! We’re looking forward to your feedback and hope you’ll enjoy learning Chinese with!

Happy Valentine’s Day

In Madrid it’s freezing cold, it’s great to have a day to celebrate love and spread warmth amongst your dear ones. Valentine’s day may be controversial for some of you, but let’s forget the commercial side of it and have a look at its roots!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

The truth is, little is known about St. Valentine, we don’t even know which of the many St.Valentines we are actually commemorating! Believe it or not, there were as many as 14 martyred saints of ancient Rome called Valentine. However, what we do know is that St. Valentine was buried on February 14 on the Via Flaminia, an ancient road that leads from Rome to Rimini.

So the fact is that St. Valentine’s Day does not have romantic roots whatsoever. Luckily, love doesn’t rely on historical facts to create legends and so it happened that in the Middle Ages the story of St. Valentine was romanticised. Legend has it that St. Valentine was a priest in the times of the Roman Emperor Claudius II (213 –270 AD). The Emperor had forbidden marriage in order to create a strong army of single warriors focused on war and nothing else but war. Priest Valentine fought for love instead and resisted the order of Claudius II by secretly marrying young couples.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

And this is how we got to celebrate the day of love. To get you in the mood, we are featuring a special Valentine’s unit! Try it out now and find out how to say “I am crazy about you” in the language you are learning. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a bilingual relationship or not, our Valentine’s unit will surely come in very handy for you: Surprise your partner with love declarations in as many as twelve languages!

Have a look at our special I-love-you list in all the languages we offer:

Ich liebe dich
Te quiero
Je t’aime
Ti amo
Eu amo você
Я тебя люблю
Kocham cię
Seni seviyorum
わたし は あなた を あいしています
I love you

Do you know how to say “I love you” in another language than those listed above? Feel free to add more “I love yous” to our list! And if you have a special Valentine story to share, we’d love to hear that too!

Watch out for false friends when learning foreign languages!

Everybody knows them and everybody has been tricked by them when speaking a foreign language: false friends. These sneaky little expressions come in disguise, appearing to be an obvious translation from our mother tongue when really their meaning is completely different.

So, get your imagination going and try to work out which false friend caused confusion in this situation:

 False Friends

Our guess is that the customer is a German lady in an English restaurant who didn’t get her order right. Even though English and German have a lot in common, often the similarity of words can be misleading. For example the German word “bekommen” resembles strongly the English word “become” but actually means something slightly different…

So let’s assume this German lady said: “I would like to become a steak, please” – would you not look as bewildered as the waiter? This is a classic example of a German false friend in English.

But what exactly are false friends and why do they occur?

False friends, or faux amis in French, are words that sound similar but have different meanings. Sticking to our example, you will have guessed already that the German word “bekommen” doesn’t actually translate as “to become” but as “to get”. Since German and English are both Germanic languages, both verbs derive from the Proto-Germanic word “bikweman” which means “to get something”. In Old English it changed its meaning, while in German it stayed the same. So even though these two words have the same linguistic historical origin, “become” and “bekommen” are no longer interchangeable.

Let’s have a look at another example: Imagine an English woman is going out with a Spanish man. One day the English woman spills her coffee all over her Spanish boyfriend. When she tells her boyfriend “Estoy embarazada”, she might think she is telling him that she is embarrassed, but on seeing the look of shock on his face she realises she has said something completely different! No, she has not told him that she feels ashamed of what she has done, she has actually told him that she is pregnant!

To help you avoid this kind of problem we have selected a few typical false friends that could cause you trouble:

English –> German

English word German Translation False friend False friend translation
small restaurant


Spanish –> English

Spanish word English Translation False friend False friend translation
home for senior citizens


Portuguese –> English

Portuguese word English Translation False friend False friend translation
chegar a um termo comum
traje típico

In the end, being tricked by a false friend might turn into a funny anecdote you end up laughing about. Tell us your own anecdote about “making false friends” and help us extend our list!