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Using cognates to improve vocabulary


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An easy way to improve vocabulary is by learning words that are cognates in your native language and the target language. What is a cognate? It's a word in two languages that shares a similar meaning, spelling, and pronunciation. Since many languages have borrowed words from others, cognates are usually plentiful and easy to find.

For example, here are some cognates in English/Russian (I'll give you the English word; in Russian it sounds almost exactly the same): garage, master, massage, music, museum, plan, calendar, soup, salad, restaurant, park, angel, doctor, computer, Internet, taxi, dollar, picnic, menu, business, businessman, studio, oasis, crisis, university, agent, asphalt, intellect, coffee, lemon, lime, nationalism, planet, stadium, theater, television, telescope, microscope, telephone, terrorism, tourism, film, gas, radio, narcotic, cottage, festival...many more!

Cognates are easy to learn because they sound very similar to the word in your native language. Be careful, though: a word in the target language may sound the same as a word in your native tongue, but have a completely different meaning. For example, in Russian there is a word that sounds exactly like the English word "magazine." However, it means "store" in Russian.

What are some cognates in your language and the language you are learning?

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That's excellent advice! Since you asked me about cognates in my language, I will list some of them below, with the corresponding English words.






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There are definitely words in English that may be the same or quite similar to ones in Spanish.





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  • 2 weeks later...

I know I was surprised when I found cognates in Chinese. There are a lot more than I thought. (Most of them are places/countries, but still. ¨Coffee¨ is almost always a cognate.

And always watch out for false cognates. :D

This is also a good argument for why languages should be spread and not kept to themselves. This will gain them more cognates over time, leading to an easier language for others to learn. English, French, Spanish, German, etc. were so good at this. That must be why the last three international languages have been European!

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