3 Significant Facts About Spanish High Frequency Words

If you teach Spanish reading to beginning readers in the USA more than likely you are expected to teach high frequency words.

Here are 3 things you may want to keep in mind when teaching these words:

1. Spanish high frequency words are not sight words.
Sight words in English, are words that usually cannot be decoded phonetically or 'sounded out'. Because of this, we teach children to recognize them by 'sight’ that is, to memorize them.  Spanish however, is a mostly phonetic language, words are  decodable. They don’t need to be learned by ‘sight’.
Because many sight words are also the most frequently used words in the English language, the terms sight words and high frequency words tend to be used interchangeably. That, I think, is the cause of the confusion.  While we don't have sight words in Spanish, we do have words that are used more frequently than others.

  2. There isn't one particular list of Spanish high frequency words that is 'the  right list' for everyone.
Now this might be my own personal opinion but I've looked at lots of  Spanish HFW lists. When teaching reading in English the Dolch  or the Fry word lists are the most commonly used.  When teaching reading in Spanish however, there seems to be a multitude of different lists used. Some words are found in most  lists, others are not. You can find some of the popular lists here:
Real Academia Española
Spanish Pronto
I Teach Dual Language

Another popular source is 'la lista' found in this book:
LA LISTA is a list of  'words most frequently used in Spanish basal reading programs in the U.S.' compiled by Hampton-Brown. Although it was published in 1989 I believe it is probably not very different from what we'd find in more recent published basal readers.
These two books are Spanish frequency dictionaries and are also usually cited: 
And of course there are also lists provided by school districts and  basal readers publishers.

3.Your students will eventually learn to decode all their high frequency words.
 Some of the high frequency words have decoding patterns that are introduced later in the teaching sequence. Introducing those words as just high frequency words will give students a wider range of opportunities for reading and writing in the earlier stages of learning. However, you can learn to read in Spanish with the syllabic method without necessarily using this strategy. I know a lot of people that have learned that way. I am one of them!