Gats and perrs and cognates

NOT a remoto

Cognates are a language learners best friend. These are words that are written and/or pronounced almost identically in two languages. English speakers learning Spanish realize very early on that if they add a vowel, usually an ‘o’ to the end of words, their chances of reaching the Spanish translation are quite high. For example: directo, secreto, mapa, and correcto.

Sadly, this method doesn’t always work. I have discovered that ¿Dónde está el remoto? is not an appropriate inquiry about the remote control and that a coworker noting that my breakfast of oranges and an apple is sano is not commentary on the mental soundness of either me or the fruit.

As to be expected, this process works in reverse as well. Spanish speakers studying English discover that translation can be as simple as removing the vowel at the end of their words. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn’t. As a native English speaker observing this process, the errors are quite amusing.

Me: ¿Qué era ‘gato’ en inglés?
6 year-old: ¡Gat!

Me: What’s this? [holding up picture of a firefighter]
7 year-old: ¡Bomber!

Me: ¿Cómo se llama esta? [pointing to window]
5 year-old: ¡Ventan!

Me: ¿Cómo se dice en inglés ‘sucia’?
9 year-old: ¡Suci!

Me: ¿Qué significa ‘vaca’ en inglés?
6 year-old: ¡Vac!

All of the above occurred after the quoted student had at one point been taught the vocabulary in question. But when memory fails, hoping for a cognate is your best bet. And it provides endless entertainment for me.

(If anyone is dying to know, a remote control is a mando, sano means healthy, gato is cat, firefighter is bombero, a window is a ventana, dirty means sucia, and a vaca is a cow. There. I would have felt irresponsible had I not included that)

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One Response to Gats and perrs and cognates

  1. Laura Walker says:

    I was teaching cooking years ago and had 1/3 of my class who were newcomers from Mexico and spoke no English. I was translating recipes myself and hoping for the best. We were making thumbprint cookies. The part where it says to poke the cookie dough with your finger and fill with jelly I translated this way: "Con tu dedo, hace un hoya en la masa", instead of using the word "hoyo". Oh well, at least I was trying.

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