When you speak a different language than your student, information can easily get lost in translation. Asking your Spanish-Speaking English Language Learner (ELL) to wash their hands with “soap” may cause confusion. “Soap” sounds much like the word “sopa”, the Spanish word for “soup”.

How can you bridge potential communication barriers? Consider using cognates! Cognates are words that sound similar in two languages and share similar definitions. They are a particularly helpful tool with Spanish-speaking ELLs, as up to 30-40% of English words have a corresponding Spanish word.

The following Spanish/English cognates are important for both teachers and students to know in the classroom setting. Post these words around the room to help students achieve language proficiency.


  1. alfabeto – alphabet
  2. arte – art
  3. cafetería – cafeteria
  4. calculadora – calculator
  5. ciencia – science
  6. clase – class
  7. completar – complete
  8. computadora – computer
  9. color – color
  10. copiar – copy
  11. día – day
  12. familia– family
  13. grupo – group
  14. hora – hour
  15. idea– idea
  16. inventar – invent
  17. lista – list
  18. literatura – literature
  19. mapa – map
  20. matemáticas – mathematics (math)
  21. material – material
  22. sica – music
  23. mero – number
  24. observar – observe
  25. opinión – opinion
  26. opuesto – opposite
  27. organizar – organize
  28. pintar– paint
  29. poema – poem
  30. problema – problem

Keep in mind these words when communicating with your Spanish-speaking ELL students! Teaching cognates is a great way to help bridge language gaps. You can also make sure your ELL students stay on track with all their words by using VocabularySpellingCity’s grade-level spelling lists, like this 2nd grade spelling word list.

Visit VocabularySpellingCity for an English/Spanish cognate word list and additional resources to help your Spanish-speaking ELLs!


30 Need-to-Know Spanish/English Cognates for the Classroom

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