Truman School Holds English-Spanish Cognate Contest

Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Christopher Hoffman
Three Truman School families received free lunches today from Caffe Bravo, their prizes for winning top honors in a contest to name the most English-Spanish cognates.
Cognates are words in different languages that share the same linguistic root and are therefore similar in meaning and spelling. The contest’s challenge was to name the most cognates ending with “tion” in English and “cion” in Spanish. Examples: “competition” is “competición” and “concentration” is “concentracion” in Spanish.
The winner, the family of 1st grader Jose Marrero, submitted 149 cognates. The family of 1st grader Carlyssa I. Otero came in second with 125 cognates and the family of 8th grader Ivelisse Hernandez finished third with 123 cognates.
Truman Principal Roy Araujo noted that 76 percent of the school’s students are Hispanic and 36 percent are limited English proficient, some of the highest percentages in the district.
“I want to thank Caffe Bravo for donating meals to the winners,” Araujo said. “This contest bridges the language gap by highlighting similarities between English and Spanish. Coming up with cognates allows students and their families to learn about and appreciate both languages. The contest shows how we are different, but also how we are the same. It was great fun for teachers, students and families.”
Bilingual and ESL Supervisor Pedro Mendia-Landa said, “Contests like these are very useful because they make learning English less daunting and more approachable. Focusing on words that the two languages have in common empowers English language learners, showing that their Spanish helps them acquire English. This contest encourages students to take pride in their Spanish, while also helping them learn English.”
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Reginald Mayo said, “This contest is a great opportunity to showcase both English and Spanish. Students learn that the two languages have much in common. That makes it easier for kids to improve their English, while also allowing them to appreciate their Spanish.”
Mary Lou DiPaola, an English-to-Speakers-of-Other-Languages (ESOL) teacher at Truman, came up with the idea for the competition. Mary Lou’s husband, Caffe Bravo owner John DiPaola, agreed to donate the prizes. She credited Spanish teacher Marlin Rivera for helping conduct the contest.
“I thought that it was so important to make the connection between languages, considering that there are many English language learners in our school,” she said. “I also wanted to get the families actively involved. Spanish teacher Marlin Rivera provided me with invaluable help and support.”
The winners were crowned with cognate “crowns” and served meals that included chicken parmigiano, pasta with San Marzano plum tomatoes, pizza with fresh mozzarella.