03 June 2016 / by Max Zaman
How to use cognates for beginners
When students make the decision to step into the classroom to learn English, they often nervous and feel intimidated. For them it is as if they are entering a new world where nothing looks familiar. Thus they can become withdrawn and shy. The situation can be difficult for the TEFL teacher as well as they struggle to connect with the students and create a path for them. However, as challenging as the situation may be for both students and the teacher, there is a powerful tool that can be used by both to help them learn English and transition from one language to the next. Students and teachers can utilize cognates to achieve this goal.
Cognates are words that exist in two different languages and have the same root, origin, spelling and/or pronunciation. They can be further broken down into two categories; “perfect cognates” where the words are spelt exactly the same in Spanish and English (except for where an accent is required in Spanish) and “near perfect cognates” where the woRds have up to three (3) different letters.
By identifying a set of cognates, ranging from simple words to complex ones, teachers can show students that that there are already hundreds of words in the English language which they already know and may understand. Teachers would do best to introduce a word in English and allow students to making attempts to pronouncing and attempting to decipher the word based on its origins.
For example, allow us to review three (3) words and identify the three different methods to teach the students
Level: P1 Origin: Latin Word in English: Crucial Word in Spanish: Crucial
Definition: A very important idea or event.
Application: Johnny was late for a ____________ meeting with his boss at work. .
Level: P3 Origin: Latin Word in English: Telephone Word in Spanish: Telephono
Definition: A handheld device used for communication via the usage of radio signals and satellites.
Application: Johnny uses his ____________ to call his mom when he is late for dinner.
Level: P5 Origin: Latin Word in English: Corage Word in Spanish: Coraje
Definition: The belief and the will to overcome a difficult obstacle. A quality that many few people possess
Application: Johnny had the ____________ to stand up to his boss at work and tell him that his actions were in appropriate.
Hence, it is evident that once the student are exposed to a word and deductively explained the origin and its application they easily understand it and become comfortable with using it by making the connections to their mother tongue.
Additionally, teachers can drive the point home by drawing on their own experience and knowledge from other fields including history, science, travel, mathematics or etc. to make the linkages for the student. As students improve their English, teachers can begin to introduce more and more complex words help them on their journey.