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The Conversation A blog from Livemocha

Stories, tips, updates, news and ideas about the wide world of language learning

10 English Words Gleaned from the Irish Language

Written by Miranda González

In the United States, March 17th is often celebrated by drinking green beer and pinching anyone who’s forgotten to wear something green. It’s called St. Patrick’s Day, and it began as a solemn religious holiday in Ireland. When Irish immigrants came to the United States, the day began to take on a more secular tone. Today, St. Patrick’s Day is widely celebrated as a day of Irish pride.

When the English took political control of Ireland in the 1600s, the English language also took over. Centuries later, there are still Irish speakers in Ireland, but English is by far the majority language. However, because the two languages have coexisted in the same place for such a long…  read more

The Future of Livemocha is Here

We’re pleased to announce that Livemocha is making some changes! Based on feedback we’ve received from you, our worldwide community, we’ve updated the structure of our language-learning platform and optimized your learning experience. What does this mean? Beginning today your Livemocha account will have a new look and new feel—and will be faster than ever!

Much of what we’ve changed is behind the scenes, allowing for the new features you’ll see now and in the future. What hasn’t changed is the unique Livemocha experience of community language learning. We’re still the world’s premier social language-learning network—for good reason:

Totally free access wherever you have an Internet connection
35 languages to choose from
A wide range of learning exercises and options
Online collaboration with other…  read more

Grammar Lesson: Three Main Functions of “Have”

Written by Miranda González

As an English learner, it can be confusing to see and hear all of the different forms “have” everywhere. In some languages, you have different words for these different purposes, but not in English! Let’s take a look at the three main functions of “have.” The better you understand how “have” works, the easier it will be for you to use.
1. “Have” is used as a main verb in a sentence.

There are MANY definitions, but most often it means “to own, use, possess, experience, etc.” You can read the rest of the definitions here.
Examples of “have” as a main verb:
I have five brothers.
Are you having a good time?

 

Note that “have” and “have got” mean the same…  read more

Language Spotlight: Ukrainian

Written by Miranda González

Few languages are as politically charged as Ukrainian. While it has 36 million speakers worldwide (32 million in Ukraine), its proponents have had to fight to keep it from becoming linguistically oppressed and eclipsed by Russian, especially because Ukraine only gained its independence in 1991. The Ukrainian language has been banned scores of times over the past four centuries, as noted in chronologies such as this one. However, the language is still very much alive and well and has been experiencing growth and gaining prominence in recent years.

Bilingual Ukrainians

Ukrainian is the only official language of Ukraine, but it’s important to note that most Ukrainians are bilingual in Russian and Ukrainian, and much of the print media in…  read more

A Valentine’s Playlist in 10 Different Languages

Written by Miranda González

Tired of the same old love songs? If you’ve got a special evening planned this Saturday, we’ve got your Valentine’s Day playlist covered—with an international twist, of course. Now that you don’t have to worry about searching out the best romantic music, you can put all your energy into planning and cooking a candle-lit dinner for your lucky significant other!

 

French

Cœur de Pirate – Les Amours Dévouées (The Devoted Loves)

 

Arabic

Myriam Faris – Enta El Hayat (You are My Life)

 

Italian

Laura Pausini – Volevo Dirti Che Ti Amo  (I Want To Tell You That I Love You)

 

Spanish

Shakira – Tú (You)

 

German

Matthias Reim – Ich liebe nur Dich (I Love Only You)

 

Russian

Пара Нормальных – Happy End

 

Korean

4Men – 포맨 (Baby Baby)

 

Portuguese

André Sardet…  read more

10 Useful English Idioms for Valentine’s Day

Written by Miranda González

It’s February, which means that stores in the U.S. are stocked extra full with roses, chocolates, and greeting cards. According to the National Retail Federation, 54 percent of Americans celebrate Valentine’s Day each February 14th. They buy presents to show their love and friendship for family members, co-workers, teachers, and especially spouses or boyfriends and girlfriends.

In fact, Business Insider claims that giving gifts is so important that 53 percent of American women would dump their boyfriends if they didn’t get them something on Valentine’s day. Ouch. But don’t worry, they don’t actually throw their boyfriends out in the garbage—”to dump someone” is just an idiom that means “to end a relationship with someone.” There are lots…  read more

“I’m Freezing To Death!” – A Lesson in Exaggeration and Hyperbole

Written by Miranda González

It’s January, which means that the northern hemisphere is still in the dead of winter. As I write this, the northeastern part of the United States is currently getting blasted with inordinate amounts of snow. While there are serious storms that knock out power, delay travel, and even cause hypothermia, most cold weather usually isn’t deadly. However, there’s something about being cold that makes us all a little dramatic. So while you heat up some hot chocolate and grab some extra blankets, let’s take a moment to discuss exaggeration and hyperbole.

Exaggeration

Exaggeration is the act of making something sound better, bigger, worse, etc. than it actually is. So if it snowed quite a bit, I might call…  read more

Language Spotlight: Esperanto

Written by Miranda González

 

Many who have learned English as a second language find it daunting (or at least annoying) due to the never-ending list of exceptions to grammar and pronunciation rules. You want to use a verb in the simple past tense? Simply add -ed to the ending of verb: walked, cleaned, played, jumped, etc. But that rule quickly starts looking pretty useless once you consider irregular past tense verbs: sang, brought, read, put, threw, saw — the list goes on and on. But what if there were a language with NO exceptions to language rules? Wouldn’t that language be a lot easier to learn? And does such a thing even exist?

It does, and it’s called Esperanto.

Where did Esperanto…  read more

Grammar Lesson – What is the Passive Voice and When Should I Use It?

Most English professors frown on using the passive voice in formal essays. However, there are times when it is actually preferable to the active voice. I’ll discuss when and why in a minute, but first, in order to appropriately use the passive voice, you have to know what it is! So we’ll start with a review…

 

Which of these sentences is in passive voice?

This school was built by Harry Smith.
Harry Smith built this school.

Exactly! Answer: 1

 

To use the passive voice, we take the object of the sentence and turn it into the subject. Then we use a form of “be” + the past participle. (In this case, “was” + “built.”) Since the object becomes the subject, in order to clarify…  read more

Interacting with Native Speakers to Enrich Your Learning

Written by Miranda González

 

Language research has shown that immersion is the best way to learn a new language. And what is immersion? It means being totally surrounded by your target language. You listen to music, watch TV and films, read articles, browse foreign language websites, and more—all in the language you want to learn. But, while it’s true that these activities can help you develop listening and reading comprehension, sticking with them exclusively means missing the most important part of the equation: engaging in active, two-way communication. You’ve got to interact with others as much as possible in your target language.

 

Chatting with native speakers

A crucial part of the immersion process is talking with (and writing to) to native speakers…  read more

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