Spanish language How to instantly learn hundreds of Spanish words

This article was written by Dave Clark for US Institute of Languages and is republished here with permission.

I want to dispel a myth about speaking Spanish. Many English speakers mistakenly think you can just add the letter 'o' to English words and they'll instantly become Spanish. Although this does work once in a blue moon, more often than not it doesn't work at all and just causes confusion. I have heard many Americans in Latin America use this flawed technique and suffer from a large communication gap.

Here are a few techniques you can use that will work most of the time (keep in mind there are exceptions and these won't always work). These techniques all involve suffixes or word endings:

  1. -ty = -dad
    university (universidad), activity (actividad), intensity (intensidad), ability (abilidad)
  2. -tion = -ción
    activation (activación), vacation (vacación), action (acción), fiction (ficción)
  3. -ssion = -sión
    session (sesión), passion (pasión), depression (depresión), aggression (agresión)
  4. -ive = -ivo
    active (activo), passive (pasivo), relative (relativo), intensive (intensivo)
    Partly because of this technique, people ineffectively try to put an 'o' on the end of any English word to turn it into Spanish.
  5. -ly = -mente
    recently (recientemente), actively (activamente), relatively (relativamente), effectively (efectivamente)
    This technique isn't as reliable in taking words from English into Spanish but can help you better decipher the meaning of written Spanish words.

Moral of the Story: When you really need to guess a Spanish word, these techniques can come in handy. They can also be very useful in helping you decipher written messages. However, you must remember that that are many exceptions to these techniques. Unfortunately they aren't fool-proof.

¡Buena suerte! (Good luck!)

Copyright © 1999-2005 US Institute of Languages All rights reserved.



These are just a few of the most common spelling equivalents; to learn many more, see Spanish/English spelling tricks.


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