The Use of Spanish-English Cognates in the Elementary and Middle School Classroom

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This session presents activities and strategies that utilize Spanish-English cognates as a means to facilitate vocabulary acquisition by Latino English Language Learners, k-12 and adult. Spanish-English cognates are orthographically, syntactically, and semantically similar words that intersect the English and Spanish languages. The English word, “poem” and its Spanish equivalent, “poema,” are examples of Spanish-English cognates. As may be seen, these words share a similarity of spelling, part of speech, and meaning. Since Spanish-English cognates are derived from a common Greek and Latin etymology that influences the morphology of the Spanish and English languages, these two languages share over 20,000 of such cognate words. The activities and strategies to be presented in this session were drawn from the presenter’s own empirical research and experiences as a middle school reading teacher and ESL reading teacher of adults at a local community college. Objectives of the Program The goal of this session is to share with K-12 ESL teachers and adult ESL educators proven materials and strategies that work to facilitate vocabulary learning. Participants will: 1.listen to experimental support for using cognates in language instruction 2.become acquainted with the concept of the Spanish-English cognate and its pervasiveness throughout the English language. 3.learn about the differentially facilitative effects of words calibrated along a continuum of “cognatedness.” 4. learn how to use inductive learning activities laden with Spanish-English cognates to facilitate the acquisition of English morphological rules 5.learn how to use inductive learning activities laden with Spanish-English cognates to facilitate the acquisition of difficult vocabulary words.


Keywords: Spanish-English Cognates, Vocabulary Development
Stream: Curriculum and Pedagogy; Student Learning, Learner Experiences, Learner Diversity
Presentation Type: Workshop Presentation in English
Paper: , , , , Text Guides, ,


Dr. José Montelongo

Senior Assistant Librarian, Robert E. Kennedy Library, California Polytechnic  State University
San Luis Obispo, California, USA

I am the Education and Liberal Arts librarian at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California. I have advanced degrees in library science and education. I also undertook graduate studies in cognitive psychology. Prior to becoming an academic librarian, I was an elementary, middle and high school librarian in El Paso, Texas. I was also reading teacher at a middle school and an adult ESL reading teacher. My interests include information literacy, and the reading informational text. I have published papers and presented at major conferences on these topics. Currently, I am working on studies on the learning and forgetting of Spanish-English cognates.

Ref: L08P0410