Finding similarities between the Spanish words you are learning and English words in your vocabulary is one of the most effective ways of expanding your knowledge of the new language.
When you start learning Spanish, many of the words you come across from lesson one look similar in both languages, or even identical: individual, mineral, hora, presentar, teléfono, momento, electrónico, radio, recomendar, salmón, limón, apartamento and countless more. Those will be easy to learn and to remember, and a great boost to your motivation.
In my experience both as a Spanish teacher and as a student of foreign languages, what is even more encouraging is finding less obvious connections between words in both languages. For instance, have you noticed that the Spanish word for ‘beef’ and ‘cow’ (vaca) has the same origin as the English word ‘vaccine’?; or are you aware of how many English words share their origin with the Spanish numbers: unity (uno), duo (dos), trio (tres), quartet (cuatro), sexagenarian (seis), September (seven), octopus (ocho), November (nueve), December (diez)?
Once you have seen those similarities, you are more likely to remember the new Spanish words without effort because your brain works by making associations. If you have ever tried to learn lists of Spanish words without context or associations you will know what a hopeless endeavor that is. That is why I always teach Spanish vocabulary to my students by connecting the new words to other words they already know.
Even if you have only just started learning Spanish, making those connections will be one of your greatest allies. They will save you precious time and energy, and will transform the learning process into a game and an enjoyable challenge.
The problem, however, is that if you are a beginner, or even if you have already reached an intermediate level, finding similarities between English and Spanish words might not always be easy. A good Spanish language course, however, should point at those similarities, as well as guide you through the most efficient vocabulary learning techniques.
To show you how much faster you can learn new Spanish words by associating them to other words you are familiar with, here are twenty-five everyday Spanish words. In brackets I have given you the English translation and on the right is the English word of the same origin as the Spanish:
lavadora (washing machine) – lavatory
microondas (microwave) – undulate
congelador (freezer) – to congeal
bebida (drink) – beverage
caña (small beer) – cane
copa (glass) – cup
manta (blanket) – mantle
vino (wine) – vineyard
tinto (red [wine]) – tincture
terraza (balcony) – terrace
marisco (shellfish) – marina
querer (to want) – to query
carne (meat) – carnivore
primero (first) premier
casa (house) – casino
tener (to have) – tenant
antes (before) – antenatal
equipaje (luggage) – to equip
habitación (room) – cohabitation
lavaplatos (dishwasher) – lavatory, plate
mandar (to order) – mandate
ordenador (computer) – order
encantado (delighted) – enchanted
libre (vacant) – liberty
carta (menu) – cartography
Can you connect other Spanish words you know to English words of the same origin? What about ‘pasillo’, ‘fumador’, ‘último’, ‘pescado’, ‘suavizante’, ‘sombrilla’?