Anyone who speaks two or more languages knows the beauty of cognates. They give children learning Spanish a head start in the language, and help us build their vocabulary by leaps and bounds. The trick to Spanish cognates though, is that children do not know a word is a cognate until they have been exposed to it. As soon as they hear and read it, they can learn the word. They can also learn to predict which words in English are likely to have a cognate in Spanish, based on the structure.
We can expose children to more Spanish cognates by including that vocabulary in our conversations. This is easier with some words than others. Many cognates are topic specific nouns. Words like planetario (planetarium) and astrónomo (astronomer) fit into family outing to a planetarium or a class unit on space, but are not easy to work into daily routines.
However, other Spanish cognates are adverbs and adjectives that we can include in our conversations without too much trouble. Often, the easiest way to do this is to comment and describe more than you would normally. With one more sentence about a picture or a situation, you can often include a cognate.
Substituting a Spanish cognate for a common word is another way to expand your vocabulary to include these words. Often you can do this without substantially changing the message. Instead of bien, for example, you might be able to use fantástico, fabuloso, maravilloso, espléndido, excelente, magnífico. Because the words are cognates, children will understand what you are saying you and also the subtle differences in meaning.
Try expanding your vocabulary as you talk to your child by using these Spanish cognates. There are many others of course, but these are a good place to start. There is also a printable version of the cognate list. Here is a printable version of the poster (it has a white background to save ink).
Spanish Cognates to Include in Conversation with Kids
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