Don't know Spanish words? Think Again!
Updated: May 14
As a Spanish teacher, I am always helping my students find associations between Spanish and English. I know from personal experience, that this is a technique that has proven to be absolutely helpful when learning a second language. Early on in my career as a teacher, I started using cognates, as a method to help my students learn Spanish faster, and come to the realization, that they already have a lot of vocabulary in the English language, that they can quickly and easily convert into Spanish. You can imagine the excitement that all of my students feel, when they are able to become more fluent because of cognates.
If you have never heard of cognates before, you will soon realize that actually you have come across a lot them, during your travels, when at the grocery store or watching tv. I know the word itself doesn't tell us much and it might be even a word you have never heard before in the English language. So, what are cognates or cognados (in Spanish)? the Cambridge Dictionary defines them as "a word that has the same origin as another word, or is related in some way to another word". When comparing vocabulary in English and Spanish, we will find words that are similar or identical (in spelling) to one another, for example: international (English) vs. internacional (Spanish). As you can see, we only change the letter "t" for a "c", therefore, the pronunciation will be slightly different.
The example above is what we call true cognates or cognados verdaderos (in Spanish), they are spelled and pronounced similarly and the meaning of the word is exactly the same. These are the ones I focus on, when I am teaching students at the beginner or intermediate level of Spanish. At that point in their learning process, it is important to find all the similarities between the two languages, it will have a great impact on developing their confidence to learn Spanish. When I am working with students at the advanced or conversation level, then I introduce what we call false cognates or cognados falsos (in Spanish). These will be the topic of another post.
Finally, I hope you are sparked with curiosity and want to learn more about cognates, so I would like to recommend a book that teaches all about cognates. It is called Madrigal's Magic Key to Spanish. I certainly use it during my lessons every day and my students find it absolutely helpful. It is written in a very friendly format and has wonderful reviews.
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Dannia, Spanish Teacher
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