Spanish Cognates for Scaffolding Classroom Instruction
Many teachers believe that lowering the difficulty of classroom language benefits Newcomers, and in some cases, it may. For students learning English coming from Romance languages (French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian) however, that may not necessarily be the case. Those more difficult words might be better, because they could represent cognates.
Cognates are words that are similar or even the same across languages. Most Romance language cognates in English are found in Tier II and Tier III vocabulary words (academic language), because they share Greek and Latin roots (rather than Tier I or everyday English words, most of which are of Anglo-Saxon origin). Consider how using “decide,” with its Spanish cognate “decider” might be clearer than “tell.” Or how “similar” with its Spanish cognate “similar” would be easier for a newcomer to understand that “same.” The strategic use of cognates in instructional language can help ensure comprehension and bridge new English vocabulary with prior knowledge. Consider the cognate replacements for classroom instruction below:
Bilingual students also benefit from strategic instruction in cognate patterns. Although, depending on the language (such as Arabic to English), there may not be very many. For languages like Spanish however, these patterns are very consistent and can add to students’ metalinguistic knowledge. Want to know more about cognates? Check out Cognates: An English Learner‘s Friend or Foe?