What’s a Cognate and Other Fun Spanish Word Games

What's a cognate and other fun spanish word games

You already know 1,000+ Spanish words but you don’t even know it.

You may just be learning a bit of Spanish and find yourself asking how will you ever learn enough words to have a conversation?

Well you already know 1,000+ Spanish words but you don’t even know it.  These words, similar in English but with a slightly different ending or accent, are called cognates.  They mean the same thing in both languages.

Let’s jump right in.

English words ending in ‘ity’ can often be replaced with ‘dad’ in Spanish.  So the English word university becomes universidad, variety becomes variedad and reality becomes realidad.  See how that works?

Another popular cognate is to put an ‘o’ at the end of nouns ending in ‘ct’.  For example, perfect becomes perfecto, exact becomes exacto, conflict becomes conflicto.  See how easy this is?

A favorite cognate is to replace nouns ending in ‘tion’ with ‘ción’.  Don’t let the accent over the ‘o’ confuse you – that’s just telling us that we need to put emphasis on this vowel.  So attention becomes attención, vacation becomes vacación and constitution becomes constitución.

This is the easiest one – words ending in ‘al’ are the same in Spanish.  So animal is animal, logical is logical, political is political.  However, the pronunciation is different.  Spanish is a phonetic language which basically means that every letter is pronounced the same way every time.

This makes pronouncing your words easier.  For example, in English, the letter ‘a’ is pronounced differently when we say the words:  bat, bait, boat.  The pronunciation depends if it is coupled with a vowel, sometimes it is completely silent.  What a nightmare to learn!  In Spanish, if you see the letter ‘a’, it will be pronounced the same every time.  Every letter is pronounced – you just need to learn your alphabet and practice.

Practice.  A lot.  Overdue it.  You need to break the habit of changing the letters but pronouncing them like English.

Ok, if I’ve peaked your interest in these word games and you’re ready to impress your friends with your new vocabulary, you can go to this website to get the others (there are dozens of cognates):  https://research.steinhardt.nyu.edu/scmsAdmin/media/users/nbm3/EngSpCognates.pdf.

So you thought you knew about 100 words or so in Spanish and now you can add another 1000 to your growing list.

About the Author

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Charlotte Guptill

I fell in love with PV on my first trip in 2008 and came back to visit every chance I got. I moved here January 2019 - and I'm experiencing so many things that I want to share. If you feel like you can add to my posts with your own experiences, feel free.

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