Interview of the Week: Vanessa Prata

What are your personal top three tricks and tips when learning languages?
Well, there’s one that summarizes all, I think: find pleasant activities involving the language, such as watching movies or listening to songs in the target language, reading books, magazines and websites, chatting with native speakers online, etc. Bring the language you’re studying into your reality.

Which word do you always have trouble spelling?
Strength, throughout, specially/especially (I never know the difference, can you tell me?) and everything with “th” or “ght” and double “l” or single “l”.

What was the funniest situation with a linguistic misunderstanding you have ever encountered?
I can’t remember any specific situation I’ve faced, but as a teacher, we always find thousands of incorrect (and funny) translations coming from students, usually because of false cognates or words with double meaning in one of the languages. Some of them are:
“I work as a box” – meaning “bank teller”, as the word “caixa” in Portuguese is the same for box and bank teller).
“I want to withdraw a doubt” – meaning “solve”, as the word “tirar” in Portuguese can be used to “tirar dinheiro” (withdraw money) or “tirar dúvidas” (solve your doubts).
“I will count a story” – meaning “tell”, as the verbs “tell” and “count” have only one translation in Portuguese – “contar”.
“He died of infart” – meaning “heart attack”, as this word in Portuguese is “enfarte”.

Which language would you like to invent and why?
Even though I don’t know much about Esperanto and have never studied it, I think the idea is great: a simple universal language, without “cultural domination” of any country, which everyone should learn, regardless of their native language. I’d like to have invented it or another one based on the same idea, maybe even a simpler one! But it doesn’t mean I’m ‘against’ learning the other languages, I love studying languages in general!

Which language teaching product / service / method / gadget … has impressed you the most and why?
I don’t think there’s one product specifically, but many websites that have thousands of gadgets, such as dictionaries, games, online exercises etc, including this site! Usually, everything you want you can find online! I have a list of nice sites in my blog –

About the author:
Vanessa Prata (30) is a language teacher and a freelance journalist in São Paulo, Brazil. She majored in Social Communications and holds CPE, TKT and ICELT certificates from the University of Cambridge. Her blog about languages and culture can be found at: You can also follow her on Twitter @vanessaprata].

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