How to learn hundreds of Spanish words immediately

A top secret and really smart way to learn a language is looking at the language(s) that you already know and what they have in common with the language that you are trying to learn, in this case, Spanish.

We never really start from zero. In fact, without knowing it there are loads and loads of words that are exactly the same or very close.

With languages, I love the thought of having “a pool” (our native) or “pools” (if we know any other languages) where we store what we know. The brain keeps looking and checking for what it needs and brings it out so we can have conscious access to it.

So, an adult brain always tries to connect to existing information, that’s why it really makes sense to link it back to what you already know. The more bridges that we can create to assist in finding the information and bring “the pools” together, the easier and faster the brain will find it.

So, let’s build bridges to link and create new connections!

First step… Let’s look at the obvious

Many words have travelled across countries and have kept their English origin. Technology is a great field for this (email, chat, video, blog). Also popular brandsmusic styles (pop, rock, jazz), sports and sports related vocabulary (fútbol, penalti, tenis, rugby, golf), travel (hotel, overbooking, jetlag, parking) or the business world (marketing, briefing, target, manager) amongst other categories contain numerous words that have been “adopted” and sometimes adapted slightly to fit into Spanish and become part of it.

So, even before you start, these word categories can give you instantly a good amount of words. Look out for them!

Next stop… Cognates!

Cognates are words that are the same or very similar in different languages. Basically, hundreds of words that you may not realise you already know in Spanish!

Many of them are very easy to predict as they follow a pattern. By changing the ending slightly and adjusting the pronunciation, you instantly have access to an incredible pool of vocabulary! Take a look at this:

-ous > -oso  curious > curioso; delicious > delicioso; mysterious > misterioso; numerous > numeroso, etc.

-sion>sión  conclusion > conclusión; decision > decisión; division > división; profession > profesión; supervision > supervisión, etc.

-tion>ción  Information > información; interpretation > interpretación; identification > identificación; representation > representación; recommendation > recomendación, etc.

-ance>ancia  Distance > distancia; ambulance > ambulancia; France > Francia; tolerance > tolerancia, etc.

-ct>-cto exact > exacto; correct > correcto; insect > insecto; act > acto, etc.

-ant>-ante  importante > importante; elegant > elegante; distant > distante, etc.

There are quite a few more endings like the ones above that can be easily applied so you can start building the language by yourself! And by applying these simple rules, you are ready to expand your vocabulary straight away!

More on Cognates

According to there are 25,000 frequently used English words that are unmistakably understood by Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian and Catalan speakers, among others because of their shared origin. And, equally these words in those languages would be recognised and understood by English speakers.

25,000!!! Now, I titled this email how to learn hundreds of Spanish words immediately, to make it more manageable. But if you really want to go for it and stretch yourself, you can see that you have not just hundreds, but thousands of words at reach.

Top tip: Just watch out for the odd ones out which are known as “false friends”! They look the same or really similar, but their meaning has evolved to something else. For example: embarrassed/embarazada (pregnant!); constipated/constipado (to have a cold); preservative/preservativo (condom!); hay/hay (pronounced “eye” there is/are); exit/éxito (success).

My advice… Have fun looking for them and getting to know them and don´t be put off by the possibility that you might get the meaning wrong. The proportion of false friends compared to the “real friends” is tiny and the prospects of expanding your Spanish pool by looking at cognates… huge! And once you make a conscious mental note that these two words “are not friends”, your brain will remember it. Maybe you could think of a funny story to remember them by?

So my last question is critical… How can YOU build and strengthen the bridges between “your pools”?

I love looking at word patterns and enjoy playing with them. That combined with images I can visualise and relate to. It all helps me create links. Some people may prefer to read and see the words in different contexts and then write them down, others create fascinating stories to help them remember and, others use mind-maps, pictures, flash-cards or colours to help them associate the two. Some record themselves, others may need to move while they think or listen to whatever they are trying to learn.

But ultimately… What could help you? It is really your turn to think creatively, do some trial and error and above all have fun with it! And once you’ve cracked what works for you, you’re definitely onto a winner and you can keep working and refining your method.

What other words can you think of for each category?

Keep looking for them and try to use them as soon as you can so your brain starts to store them in your “Spanish pool”, build bridges and your brain will find them a lot easier when you need them.

Happy learning,


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