Words derivation. A very useful practice for intermediate levels

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By Georgina Palencia.

Lee este artículo en español.

Remembering vocabulary is one of the most frequent difficulties for second language students to face.

There are many useful strategies for them to use: word lists, memorization, mind maps, word family branches. However, there is one that is not frequently, because it deserves a bit of explanation and attention from the teacher, and it corresponds to intermediate level learners.

Let’s go to share an idea of vocabulary expansion Spanish practice; not by memorization, but the autonomous creation the student can do once he recognizes the paradigm of word derivation; just as a native speaker does without even thinking about it.

Look at the following table to identify what is similar in the categorized words columns; that is the base or root of the word. Then, identify how it changes, especially the suffixes, so you can see what the particular changes are in each category. Remember, this is just a tiny example to illustrate how this process works.


Being aware of words derivation process in Spanish allows you to:

– Deduct meanings of related words by their bases.
– Recognizing when you know a word you know at least 4 related ones.
– Create more words with new grammatical functions: feminine and masculine, singular
and plural (compasivo / compasiva / compasivos / compasivas)
– Create more words with minimal changes in meanings, such as diminutives or
augmentatives: sorpresita, sorpresota, estudiosito, inteligentísimo.
– Recognize the changes of meanings in double adjectives or even double nouns. Because being loved is not the same as being a lover.

Are we clear so far?
In my opinion, recognizing the productivity of the referral process and the
usefulness in its practice, helps us enormously to expand vocabulary and be
more effective in what we mean. Finally, we will be more fluent when speaking.
Every bit of word is a little world in the meaning production.

Writing this article, I found a sample, just a sample, of 1300 nouns ending in
the suffix -dad.

So, little by little, as we become familiar with the bases of words, we will
recognize, even if we begin by guessing or intuiting, those which are supported
by the suffix -dad, and how they behave. For example, one of the characteristics
of suffixes behavior ending in -dad is that they are feminine words, and we write
the article la before the word.

I will give you a small list:

Novedad / Territorialidad / Representatividad / Gobernabilidad / Electricidad /
Consanguineidad / Probabilidad / Legalidad / Globalidad / Gramaticalidad / Particularidad /
Radicalidad / Atemporalidad / Disponibilidad / Actualidad

And remember, from each word, you can practice creating their corresponding
adjectives, verbs and adverbs. For example: particle, particularize, particularly.

How much vocabulary do you have then related to the same idea?

Finally, I want to share with you an agreement we reached in Presente Perfecto when we
teach. Why waste this practice giving examples like that sample above? It’s not that those or
any of the 1000 or more possible are not useful, they all are. But we are committed to starting
with those who reinforce not only linguistic knowledge but also human values. We would
start practicing by:

Civilidad / Dignidad / Bondad / Generosidad / Felicidad / Genialidad / Amabilidad /
Flexibilidad / Sociabilidad / Religiosidad / Honorabilidad / Honestidad / Solidaridad / Fraternidad /
Respetuosidad / Jovialidad / Sinceridad / Humanidad….

And we would also derive their corresponding adjectives, verbs and adverbs, such as:
civic, civilize, civilized.

A language teacher is also a coach, but not only in your process of new resources acquisition
and their use. It is through language that we express who we are.

Language communicates. Language builds.

We not only want to promote in you a communicative competence but a communicative

As your language is, your world is, and the better yours is, the better everyone’s will be.

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