I think "faux amis" (French words that sound like English words with entirely different meanings, e.g. actuellement/actually) would be a fantastic bonus skill!
And along the same lines, so would French homonyms (words easily mixed up in the same language.) Both these things are real sticking points for me and could be cool self-contained lessons.
"Syndicat" is a nice one too ! It means union, not syndicate ! This can be hilarious when wrongly used, especially by a French speaker speaking English !
Addressing this is important, I agree, but putting them together in a bunch is not, in my experience, very helpful. I've seen several of these lists while learning English, and frankly they are more for entertainment purposes because it is really difficult to remember things when they come in such dense presentations - mostly you'll remember that this or that word might not men what you'd think it means. Having one or several duolingo lessons devoted to this would imo have the same problem.
On the other hand, adding some examples to the database, addressing clearly the faux ami character, would be really great! Just spread them out over the existing lessons/skills, and make sure you have one sentence for each language to make it clear to the learner that the two words share history, but not meaning. As in:
- It's an actual fossil <-> C'est un fossile véritable
- Jetez un œil à nos offres actuelles <-> Take a look at our current offers
Agreed. However, to take an example, the 'idioms' bonus lesson is clearly not intended as a practical means of learning idioms so much as the kind of entertainment you describe, so perhaps a faux amis lesson would fit in well with what is currently on offer.
aucunLien, thanks for your take -- since so far the entirety of my experience with faux amis is discovering, with dismay, that they exist, I can't judge from experience what works. I can see why it would be hard to take it all in at once.
Also, maybe some parts about words to use carefully? Because it happens that dictionaries offer some word as a literal translation, but in daily used language, it can happen that this word does not have quite the same meaning and could get us in trouble! The first example coming to mind would be a French Second Language student who was reading that the definition of the verb "baiser" meant to kiss. This definition was valid once upon a time; now, it has a much more mature and vulgar meaning. So, when he asked the teacher s'il pouvait "la baiser à la fin du cours", she was quite shocked.
On another register, French homonyms are awesome for play on words and calembours. We have this author, Réjean Ducharme, and he wrote this novel, "L'océantume". When asked about it, he was saying "On dit l'amertume?" (Answer: Oui) and then, furthering his thought: "La mer, l'océan, c'est la même chose, on peut dire océantume."
And this book happens to have a very powerful relationship to "l'amer", "la mer" and "la mère".
Anyway, what I mean is, I fully support this idea!
D'accord. Il y a beaucoup des faux amis.
They can also be very annoying. If you don't know a word and know you don't know it you can either look it up, or try to infer what it is from the surrounding context, but if you don't know you don't know it you can get into trouble.
Here's the french.about.com write-up on faux amis ... didn't realize there were so many!
There are "faux amis" (false friends) in every (or almost) pair of languages. Welcome to language learning !