Learning English

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Session 1

Sometimes a word in English looks familiar, but it doesn't mean what you think it does! Learn about these false friends and do lots of activities in this session.

Sessions in this unit

Session 1 score

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    Activity 1
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    Activity 2
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    Activity 3

Activity 2

Cognates, loanwords, false friends


The English language borrows a lot of words from other languages.

Words like sushi from Japanese, ballet from French and vodka from Russian are all widely used by English speakers today. These words are called loanwords.

There are probably loanwords in English which come from your language. If you look them up, it's a good way to build your English vocabulary quickly, as you already know the words!


Another way to build your vocabulary is to learn cognates. These are words in different languages which have a similar form and meaning, because they all come from the same source.

For example, the German word Brot, Dutch brood and English bread all come from the same early Germanic language. They don't have exactly the same spelling, but you can see the relationship. Another example is the word father in English, which in German is Vater and Latin is pater. It's thought that they all come from a very early language, which researchers call Proto-Indo-European.

Read the text and complete the activity

False friends

But be careful, there is another group of words which is more difficult. Loanwords and cognates are your friends when learning a foreign language, but there are also false friends.

Have a look at these examples:

The Spanish word embarazada looks like embarrassed in English. But they're false friends, because embarazada means pregnant!

The French word librairie looks very similar to the English library. And they are both related to books. But while in English a library is where you go to borrow books – a librarie is where you go to buy them – it's a bookshop.

To do

First we're going to do an activity to learn some loanwords. Can you work out what the words mean - and which language they come from?

Loanwords in context

6 Questions

Can you work out what these words mean - and where they came from? Complete the sentences with the correct answers.

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Well done. Next, we have some questions about false friends. See you there!

Session Vocabulary

  • loanwords
    words from one language used in another language

    a kind of Japanese food made from rice balls and raw fish, eggs or vegetable

    a strong, clear alcoholic drink from Russia

    words in different languages that have the same origin

    an ancient language which experts think many European and Asian languages came from

    false friends
    words which look similar or the same in two languages but have different meanings

    ashamed and shy