It is amazing how many students whose home language is Spanish and who come equipped with decent language skills in that language habitually misspell English words that are identical to their Spanish cognates. Cognates refers to words that are spelled similarly or identically in two languages and carry the same meaning.
I first noted the problem in my first year of teaching; students would write about their favorite calors and about the animols in zoo. Ever since I’ve been teaching them about cognates, how to identify them and how to tell the false ones like grocery and embarrased, which don’t translate into grocería and embarazada .
These recourses are a good starting point:
Spanishcognates.org offers hundreds of different cognate pairs in English and Spanish sorted by different criteria such as endings, ABC, and by subject. They claim to have a comprehensive, searchable list. Very impressive stuff!
Delivered correctly, these cognates can help students unlock hundreds of vocabulary words that they probably already know in their home language. Many of these turn out to be part of the “academic vocabulary” that so eludes ELLs.
Colorin-Colorado also has a useful list at the end of their ELL Starter Kit for Educators, available as a downloadable PDF. It comes at the back page of an assessment packet for those who want a quick start to evaluating the language level of their ELL Students.
For a short list of false cognates click here!
To read more check out the Literacy Beat blog.