Using Cognates to Support Comprehension

Cognates are words in two languages that share a similar meaning, spelling, and pronunciation. Some cognate pairs may have the exact same spelling but different pronunciation (such as radio), others may differ slightly in both spelling and pronunciation (bicicleta/bicycle). 30-40% of all words in English have a related word in Spanish and this guide provides a helpful list of cognates in Spanish and English.

Cognate list: English and Spanish


Why Use Cognates to Teach?

It helps students see connections between Spanish and English through related roots and morphological parallels and closes the vocabulary gap.

Research has proven that literacy skills in the first language transfer to the second. This idea (the “cross-linguistic transfer” hypothesis), suggests that the greater the similarity in the writing systems of the two languages, the greater the degree of transfer, and the less time and difficulty involved in learning to read and write the second language (Odlin, 1989).

So, if a native Spanish speaker can read and define the word autor in Spanish, it’s a natural and immediate step to acquire the English word author. When teaching Spanish speakers English, you can capitalize on this existing knowledge and boost students’ self-confidence.

Lesson Resource

Use the 8-page-mini-book below to help students strengthen vocabulary, build confidence, and enhance reading skills.

cognate book






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