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The Conversation A blog from Livemocha

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

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

10 Idioms For The New Year

When the new year starts and you vow to lose weight, stop smoking, or get more organized, you’re making a New Year’s resolution. A resolution is a decision to do or not do something. To help you get your list of resolutions started, here are some idioms about becoming a better you.


To start with a clean slate -To forget past mistakes and start completely over

Example: Jimmy got into a lot of trouble in school last year, but with a new school year and new teachers, he’s starting out with a clean slate.


To turn over a new leaf – To dramatically change your behavior for the better

Example: Jack’s going to turn over a new leaf. This year, he’s going to…  read more

Deconstructing “Deck the Halls” – Understanding A Holiday Music Classic

Most Christmas songs are pretty straightforward. It’s fairly clear what songs like “Silver Bells,” “Let It Snow,” and “O Christmas Tree” are all about. But there is one traditional song that perplexes even native speakers with its unusual vocabulary, and that’s “Deck the Halls.” Let’s take a look at the lyrics and make some sense of this classic Christmas carol.



Deck (verb used with object) – to decorate or clothe something

While this song is about decorating the halls for Christmas, “deck” is used more commonly with the preposition “out” to talk about being dressed up.

Example: Wow! You’re all decked out in a tuxedo! Where are you going?


‘Tis – a contraction of “it is”

While English has a lot of contractions, this…  read more

5 Holiday Food Idioms


by Miranda Gonzalez


It’s the holiday season, and that means one thing: food, and lots of it. There’s a reason that so many people complain about putting on weight around Christmas – there’s just so much to eat at parties and family gatherings. In honor of all those delicious meals and snacks, let’s learn about some idioms that have to do with holiday food. We don’t have to start worrying about diets until New Year’s!



A hard nut to crack – a person that is hard to understand or a problem that is difficult to solve

Unshelled nuts are common around Christmastime, which is why nutcrackers have become a part of the holiday. In this idiom, a nut refers to something or…  read more

5 International Christmas Songs to Ring in the Holidays

by Miranda González


Call me a Grinch, but I get tired of hearing the same Christmas songs over and over again. During this time of year, there’s a station in my hometown that plays like 30 or so Christmas songs on repeat, and sometimes I feel like I might go crazy if I hear “Jingle Bells” one more time.

Naturally, I’m always on the hunt for a Christmas song or a version I haven’t heard. If you’re also itching to hear some new Christmas tunes, just check out what people around the world are listening to. I’ve done a little research and found some cool ones that are popular in other countries but don’t get any airtime in the U.S. Enjoy!



В…  read more

9 American Football Terms Used in Everyday English

A couple of weeks ago, we gave you a crash course in American football terms since we are in smack in the middle of football season. This week, in response to a request from a Livemocha fan and blog reader, we’ll talk about football terms that have made their way into our everyday speech. Here we go!



Football usage: a player on the offensive team who accepts the first pass of each play and leads his team

Everyday usage: a person who leads a group or activity, or the act of leading or directing

Example: Who’s quarterbacking this new project?



Football usage: to jump on a player who’s holding the ball and forcefully bring him to the ground

Everyday usage: to solve, undertake, handle

Example:…  read more

5 Shopping Idioms for Black Friday

Written by Miranda González


This Thursday is a big deal in the U.S. because it’s Thanksgiving! (Mmm…pumpkin pie!) However, serious shoppers may be even more excited about the day that follows, Black Friday. If you love looking for a good sale (or even if you don’t!), you’ll enjoy learning about these idioms that are all about shopping.


To be in the black – to be making a profit

It used to be that accounting ledgers had two types of ink: red for expenses, and black for income. Thus, if you are in the black, you are not in debt and your income is more than your expenses.

Example: It’s called Black Friday because retailers are in the black after a large amount of…  read more

Top 11 American Football Terms – The Language of Football

If you’re learning American English, you can’t help but get sucked into American culture as well. And something that’s a really big deal in the United States is football. We’re not talking football as the rest of the world knows it—the one where players wear shin guards and only the goalie can touch the ball with his hands. We call that soccer here in the States. We’re talking American football, the sport where the players wear helmets and padding and crash into each other. That kind of football.

Football is especially important during the fall. The season for the National Football League (NFL) runs from September to December, though it’s not officially over until the Super Bowl in February. Thanksgiving…  read more

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