top of page


My objective as a teacher has always been to offer the most effective language learning tools to my students. Being a multilingual learner myself, I have long appreciated the value of cognate recognition, where cognates are known as word cousins across languages. They have common origin, similar spelling, and frequently the same meaning. Cognate recognition is a handy instructional and learning tool. It allows students to "attach" newly encountered words to their first language and something they already know. Let's look at the example below:


This 50-word paragraph about JFK helps Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Italian students reduce their study time by 42% since nearly half of the words (21!) make up the cognate vocabulary. According to Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist, children connect new knowledge to an existing schema. In case of English Learners, it is the language they speak at home. The beauty of cognate recognition is that it requires no special skills. Curiosity, perceptive nature, and the desire to learn at the most! 


In class, my students have put their native languages to work and created a Class Cognate Corner. They maintain and revisit it by adding new vocabulary daily. It is a wonderful hands-on activity which does not only stimulate cognate recognition, but it engages and motivates my students to learn. The result is that they do better academically and in all subjects! 


First language is every learner’s biggest comfort zone. It is natural for students to apply the features from their native language to English; the process known as home language transfer. Language transfer can be positive as described above, but it can also be negative. The greater the differences between two languages, the more negative transfer is expected:

Negative Transfer.jpg

Language instruction makes limited usage of negative transfer as a resource. However, it frequently is the root cause of learners' persisting mistakes. If not addressed at the early stage of language learning, they become more difficult to reverse and fix. To address this, I have built a database of negative language transfer examples between English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Polish. Please see below! 

bottom of page