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A Combination Vocabulary and Geography Approach
Learning the Spanish name for nearly all Hispanic countries is not particularly difficult. With the sole exception of the island nation of the Dominican Republic (la República Dominicana), each country is a cognate (the same in spelling and meaning) of its English counterpart. However, there is a teaching opportunity using the associated nationality with each country. For example, a person from Ecuador is called un ecuatoriano, while someone from Paraguay is known as un paraguayo. So, many of the associated nationality labels must be memorized, though there is a discernible pattern.
Likewise, teachers can use nationality vocabulary drills to familiarize students with where our Spanish-speaking neighbors are located on the map. For example, where are the tiny South American countries inhabited by los ecuatorianos and los paraguayos? This article includes a geographical "factoid" for each Spanish-speaking country in our hemisphere, along with maps.
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Country and Nationality Data for Vocabulary Practice with “Factoid”
Capital: Ciudad de México
Factoid: Just south of the U.S. border
Capital: la Habana
Factoid: Just 90 miles south of Florida, the largest Island in the Caribbean
la República Dominicana
Capiital: Santo Domingo
Factoid: Shares the eastern half of the Island of Hispaniola with French-speaking Haiti.
Puerto Rico (Spanish-speaking U.S. territory)
Capital: San Juan
Factoid: The small island just east of the Dominican Republic
Capital - San José
Factoid: A lush, tropical country just north of Panama.
Capital: San Salvador
Factoid: Smallest Central American country. Located to the South of Guatemala and Honduras.
Capital: Ciudad de Guatemala
Factoid: Just south of Mexico
Factoid: Due east of Guatemala.
Factoid: South of Honduras, north of Costa Rica
Capital: Ciudad de Panamá
Factoid: Narrow country bridging Central and South America
For extra credit:
- What is the only non-Spanish speaking country in Central America? What is its official language?
Answer: Belize, English
Capital: Buenos Aires
Factoid: Largest Spanish-speaking country in South America. Just east of Chile in the southern most part of South America
Capital: La Paz
Factoid: Easternmost landlocked country in South America.
Factoid: Long, narrow country occupying about half of South America’s Pacific Coast.
Factoid: Located in the extreme northwest of South America.
Factoid: Located in the northwest between Columbia and Peru
Factoid: Second of the landlocked countries, just to the southeast of Boliva and due north of Argentina
Factoid: On South America’s Pacific coast just south of Ecuador and north of Chile.
Factoid: On South America’s south Atlantic coast, east of Argentina and south of Brazil
Factoid: Located in north central South America, east of Columbia and on the south Caribbean shore.
For extra credit:
- What are the official languages of the South American non-Spanish-speaking countries of Brazil, Guyana and Suriname?
Answer: Portuguese, English, and Dutch, respectively
- What nation in South America is the only European overseas holding on the mainland?
Answer: French Guyana
Teaching Spanish: Vocabulary Practice with Country Names
Learning the Spanish names for countries, languages, and nationalities is a good vocabulary builder for Spanish students. This series is a vocabulary-building list of world countries along with some interesting "factoids" on each.