Determining usage frequency of spanish/english cognates

“Gracias a su belleza, Koh Tachai se ha convertido en un destino turístico popular para turistas tailandeses y extranjeros, lo que ha llevado a una aglomeración y la degradación de los recursos naturales y el medio ambiente”, lamenta el Gobierno del país.

The above quote is from an article in El País regarding new tourist restrictions to a popular island. My question is about the usage in spanish of cognates that have very low frequency relatives in english. Did you have to use the dictionary for ‘aglomeración’?

The spanish word Aglomeración (and it’s english equivalent Agglomeration) denotes a crowd, a clustering together, a collection of things, or a congestion. In english this would certainly be a very low frequency word. However, from it’s usage in the El País article particularly since it was part of a spoken quote, I get the impression that it is slightly more common. I’ve seen other examples of this conundrum in the past and so I’m wondering how do you know when low frequency english cognates are really average or higher frequency spanish words? Would I get the same blank stare if I casually used “Aglomeración” in a spanish conversation as I would in english? Ultimately I suppose it would be easy enough to navigate around such problems by using a different word. I think the answer to this will help me decide if such words are worth paying attention to by way of lingqing and memorizing.

Thank you

You raise an interesting question here.

Do you want a general rule to decide whether a given cognate is frequent or not? What form would an answer to that question take? A long list with frequencies of use in percentages?
I’ve learned English, French, Italian and (some) Portuguese, as a Spanish native speaker and I’ve encountered that issue time and again. Even in my current study of Russian I come to terms with it from time to time. At the end of the day it’s just another variation of vocabulary learning, not very different from “false friends”.
You read and listen and gradually get acquainted with the use of a lot of words. They include cognate words with similar meanings and range of use, completely unrelated words, cognates used with different meanings and cognate words with similar meanings that are used in different contexts and with different frequencies.

I remember that a friend couldn’t believe that “apology” was a normal, everyday word in English. In Spanish “apology” (coming from ancient Greek, meaning " a speech in defense of someone/something") is a very formal word, used either in religious/philosophical contexts or as a legal term “Apología del terrorismo” is an offense in Spain, e.g. I understand that this may come as a surprise, just as the use of “aglomeración” but all you can do is take note and accept it.

To answer your question, “aglomeración” in Spanish (while a bit formal) is not unusual. Sentences such as “No me gustan las aglomeraciones” can often be heard in normal conversation. You wouldn’t get any blank stares for using it.

Another example, so you can see this issue is normal and part of the process of learning:
A Spanish friend of mine once used the word “tranquilize” to mean “calm down” in conversation with English speakers. In Spanish “tranquilizarse” is completely usual and colloquial. He got some blank stares plus the reassurance from one of his listeners that “Oh, yes, the word does exist in English”. Of course, my friend never forgot again to turn his “tranquilize”'s into “calm down”'s :slight_smile:

On a practical note, my personal advice when confronting words such as this is:
Notice the meaning, use your knowledge of the English word to understand what it means and probably consider it “known” for Lingq purposes, if you think you can recover the meaning next time you encounter it.
Don’t rush to include it into your active vocabulary until you get a better idea about when and how often it is used. After all, you can express the same idea in a variety of ways, including by using sentences or phrases (which I think is the most advisable thing for language learners to do)
“No me gusta que haya mucha gente”

Thanks for your reply, that was brilliant. I really like the tranquilize anecdote. It’s these kinds of nuanced discoveries that are really making language learning so very fascinating and enjoyable for me.