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Bilingual Education: Cognate Recognition, By Mona Lisa Tello

March 9, 2013

As of 2009, 21 percent of school-aged children in the United States spoke another language at home, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. This is double the amount found in 1980, and teaching this growing group of bilingual adolescents takes special skills.

Cognates are English and foreign words that are similar because of their Greek or Latin roots. Recognizing cognates is crucial for bilingual students:  if they can recognize the root of an unknown English word from their mother tongue, they will have a basic understanding of the word. Learning about cognates trains them to naturally scan for similarities between the two languages, so even if a student has not specifically learned a word, there is the potential to discern the word’s meaning.

The end goal is to help these bilingual students pass the Regents Examination at the end of the year, which includes complex science terms. Science terms are some of the strongest cognates, because so many have Greek or Latin roots.

About the author: Mona Lisa Tello, a New York-certified teacher, focuses on cognates with her bilingual students.


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