Tag Archives: how to write in Spanish

How to survive writing essays in Spanish

How to write a better essay in Spanish
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Writing an essay in Spanish is a rite of passage for Spanish students reaching a certain level. Most students dread the thought of writing an essay in general, and when it’s in Spanish, well that just makes it all the worse. The good news is that writing essays in Spanish will only get easier with time. Once you’ve got one under your belt, the next one won’t be so bad. The other good news is that there are some concrete. Here are some tips:

Warm Up: Before you open up a word document and settle down to stare at a blank screen, get your Spanish brain moving. I know, you think you don’t even have a Spanish brain, but you do! You have to pull it out. Listen to a bit of music in Spanish or watch your favorite telenovela. Once you hear some Spanish, your brain will kick into gear and come up with the phrases you need to write more easily. Then do some reading or research related to your essay to get some more academic language bouncing around in your head. Now it’s almost go time!

Make an outline: If you haven’t made a habit of organizing your thoughts for essays in the past, it’s time to give it a try. Writing in your native language is challenging enough and requires some planning so that your writing is well-structured and makes sense. Writing in a second language is even more challenging, so help yourself out and make a well-structured and detailed outline. This will give you direction while you’re writing. With your outline in hand, expand upon each point as much as possible.

Try to write in Spanish…don’t translate! This is probably the most challenging tip. For those truly looking to learn the Spanish language, it’s important to take the plunge and make the effort to write in Spanish from the start. It takes some practice, but once you start thinking in Spanish, your writing will sound more natural. When translating, although you’re still practicing Spanish, you’re losing out on the most advanced stage of language-learning: production. Practicing this ability is the best way to improve. Make sure you write your outline in Spanish as well. Your outline is your guide and using Spanish will help ensure your thoughts initiate in Spanish as well.

Keep wordreference.com and rae.es open: Inevitably you’ll run into words and conjugations that you can’t remember. Two excellent websites to help you with translations, definitions and conjugations are Wordreference and RAE. Wordreference is most useful for translations and even includes a forum for phrases and idiomatic expressions not usually found in just any dictionary. RAE is the Royal Academia Española’s official website. Here there is a dictionary, only Spanish to Spanish obviously. For your purposes as a Spanish learner, a comprehensive conjugation of each verb is included by searching for the verb in the dictionary, and then clicking on the blue “conjugar” option.

And, of course, if after finish your writing you would like to have your Spanish essay proofreaded drop me a message!

Common Nonnative Mistakes for Writing in Spanish

At times, writing in Spanish to practice it can be frustrating because the mechanics, nuances, and terms of Spanish language do not translate perfectly to your own native language. Therefore, even learners with a high level of proficiency may still find themselves making nonnative mistakes in their writing after years of practice.

The influence of your native language on the acquisition of a second language is known as language transfer, and this influence can be either positive or negative depending on the similarities between the two languages. Although experience is the most beneficial way to avoid making second language writing mistakes, it can also be helpful to make yourself aware of the most common writing errors that individuals with your native language tend to make when learning a particular second language.

For native English speakers acquiring Spanish, one of the most frequent and noticeable types of errors is making a word order mistake. In both English and Spanish, the basic word order consists of the subject, followed by the verb, followed by the object. In sentences that have this simple structure, the transfer of English to Spanish is actually beneficial because the word order is reinforced in both languages. On the other hand, there are notable differences in the word order of the languages when we get to more complicated structures. For example, in English, the adjective precedes the noun, as in ‘the white cat.’ In Spanish, however, the adjective follows the noun, as in ‘el gato blanco.’ These types of writing errors are easy to make because the learner must think about the language in a manner that is structurally different from how he or she is used to thinking in the native language.

Additionally, another common error for English speakers learning Spanish is the failure to apply the properties of grammatical gender. Spanish has two genders: masculine and feminine. These genders are referred to as ‘grammatical’ in nature when they do not refer to the sex of a living being. For example, the word ‘casa,’ meaning ‘home,’ is a feminine noun in Spanish. The assignment of the feminine gender is completely arbitrary; thus, it is difficult for the nonnative speaker to acquire. When writing, the Spanish learner must not only remember the gender of each noun, but must also be sure to assign the appropriate gender to the article and adjective within the same phrase as the noun. If we want to write ‘the red house,’ in Spanish, we would have to write, ‘la casa roja.’ Each word in this phrase has the –a ending, which is common for feminine words in Spanish.

To make things even more complicated, the rules for marking words as either singular or plural also differ between the two languages. In English, the writer must be sure that the subject and the verb match in number, as in ‘the girl walks’ versus ‘the girls walk.’ When writing in Spanish, it is important to remember that the article, noun, verb, and adjective must match in number, as in ‘la chica camina’ versus ‘las chicas caminan.’ Luckily, the rules for making items plural in Spanish are fairly regular, so this is something that will likely become easier over time.

Learning Grammatical Gender in Spanish

Grammatical gender is one of the most difficult concepts for a native English speaker to acquire when learning Spanish. In Spanish, grammatical gender refers to the masculine and feminine properties of words and phrases.  Although these properties are referred to as ‘gender’ features, they have nothing to do with masculinity or femininity in the way we would generally use gender to describe men and women. Thus, a masculine noun is not any more ‘manly’ than a feminine noun. These arbitrary language features do not exist in English and are very challenging for the native English speaker to acquire when learning Spanish.

Look at the spelling

A new Spanish speaker may want to begin by learning some basic Spanish nouns, including the pronunciation and spelling of the words. Some common themes for introductory chapters of textbooks for learning Spanish include foods, classroom items, basic greetings, and clothing. One trick to help you remember the gender of the noun is to look at the spelling, as a majority of feminine nouns end in –a, and the majority of masculine nouns end with an –o; however, there are some exceptions to this rule, such as the masculine word ‘dia,’ meaning ‘day.’

Be careful with your grammar

If you have learned the gender of the noun, you can take the next step and apply the gender features to the rest of the phrase. In Spanish, the gender of the noun also applies to the gender of the determiner (‘la’ for feminine and ‘el’ for masculine, both meaning ‘the’ in English) and the adjective, if there is one. So, if you want to say, ‘the white cat’ in Spanish, you would say ‘el gato blanco.’ Notice that the phrase has all masculine forms the masculine article ‘el,’ the masculine noun ‘gato,’ and the masculine form of the adjective, ‘blanco.’ Since the noun is masculine, the whole phrase should take the masculine form.

Acquiring grammatical gender in Spanish is something that takes a lot of practice and dedication to learning the language. English speakers may become frustrated with this linguistic feature because it seems simple on the surface, but it is difficult to apply in when actually speaking the language. Grammatical gender is a property that can really separate the native speakers of Spanish from the non-native speakers. Don’t worry if you make mistakes sometimes learning a language is hard, especially when there are elements of that language that do not exist in your native tongue!

If you still have problems with this or any other thing, you can send your Spanish texts to proofread!

Some English rules that doesn’t work well in a Spanish text

Spanish culture copywriter
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As copywriter in Spanish I am used to folllow clients rules in order to get the post they want. However, the experience has taught me that one of the best services you can provide to foreign clients is feedback about how they original ideas will work in the Spanish market. Here I offer 3 English speakers clients’ rules that don’t work well in Spanish.

1. Be simple, fast, easy.

When writing in English you are asked usually to keep your sentences as simple as possible. But, the truth is that a very easy text in Spanish looks poor, childish and even boring.

Spanish is much more difficult language than English, and you have a lot of verb tenses and the, always hated by learners, subjunctive mode. Spanish native speakers use all these board possibilities, even if their culture is not very high.

Of course, I agree that when writing in Spanish you need to be fast and easy. But being simple is not so good idea. As writer you don’t have to use a difficult vocabulary that is true, and you have to be clear. The point is being clear sometimes mean don’t being as simple as English speaker would expect in the phrases’ structure.

2. One piece of information in each sentence

This is in the same line as the point 1. One peace of information in each sentence can be boring and the reader can think any of these three things:

a) You are stupid.

b) You think the reader is stupid.

c) a) and b) are correct.

And you don’t want your clients marking these options so treat them like adults.

3. Talk in second person

This instruction works as a general rule, but you need to have into consideration two aspects about it.

First, in Spanish we usually use we instead of you when you are trying to explain something. Are you writing a tutorial? Then you can use something like “we will do that and then we will do this” getting as friendly text as using you.

Second, storytelling also sells, and when you want to talk a story, you can use first person to make it more engaging. This makes you look as another person equal to the reader.

In short you need to write in the same person you would talk to a friend, but this doesn’t mean you have to avoid first person.



Proofread a Spanish text: written accents (II)

Time ago we talked about written accents in Spanish in order to proofread a Spanish text. Today we will look to written accents when two vowels go together.

In Spanish we have two kind of vowels:

  1. Strong vowels are “a”, “e” and “o”.
  2. Weak vowels are “i” and “u”.

When a strong vowel goes with a weak one, it usually is one single syllable. For example: cuerda.

When there are two weak vowels it also is one syllable such as: ruido.

But, when there are two strong vowels, they will be in different syllables, as for example: caer that is pronounced ca-er.

In general, you need to follow the rules stated in the previous post about written accents (you have the link in the first line of this post). So in the word “consideración” as the stressed syllable is the last one and it ends with an “n” it needs a written accent. If that is the case the accent will go in the strong vowel. Same happens with “después”. If the two vowels are weak the written accent goes in the second one. The same works for two strong vowels.

But, when these rules about the syllable don’t work, you need to mark the vowels with a written accent. You will understand with the following example.

In BIOLOGÍA, I is weak and A  is strong, so it should be one syllable, however in Spanish we say BIO-LO-GÍ-A. To separate the I and the A you need the written accent. In BIO as the weak and strong vowels are together you don’t need any accent. Also, there is not such word in Spain with more than one written accent.


Proofread a Spanish text: written accents.

Proofread Spanish
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Proofreading a Spanish text is not just focusing the grammar and the spelling. There is another important factor that  you need to take into consideration, which are the written accents.

One of the basic rules to put written accents need you to classify the words into three categories.

Words called “agudas”

In these words the stressed syllable is the last one.

You need to put a written accent in these words when they finish in a vocal, or in “s” or “t”.

For instances: París, Colón, Jesús and Mamá.

Words called “llanas” or “graves”

In these words the stressed syllable is the second-to-last.

You need to put written accent in these words when they finish in a consonant different to “s” or “n”.

For example: Ángel, ábol or fácil.

Words called “esdrújulas” and “sobreesdrújulas”

In these words the stressed syllable is onte previous to the second-to-last.

These words always have written accent.

In the future we will talk about more rules for written accents in Spanish, but from now, try to don’t skip any of the ones commented above.


How to do quotes in Spanish academic texts

Spanish freelance proofreader
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One of the most demanded proofreading things is check the references in the text.

In Spanish as in English you need to reference every author from who you take ideas or statements. Most journals have their own rules for referencing, but they are very similar too.

You will likely need to reference the author surname plus the publication data of the work in the text, and then in a final section of the paper you will have to add a reference list in alphabetical order.

In short quoting in Spanish is quite similar to quoting in English, and here the issues usually come because the author don’t know how to quote properly in English either.

Here you can see an example of quoting rules followed by many Spanish journals.

And now, take a look to some

Tips to make quoting easier

  1. Every time you read a book or academic journal that you feel you can use in the future, add it to your reference data base. There are some software to help you with this, but if you don’t want to spend money, just use an Excell.
  2. Every time you quote someone in your text, add the full quotation. Sometimes people just write a little reference, like the surname or the title of the work, and then when the full paper is finished complete all the references. This is, in my opinion, a mistake. It is much better if you create your references in the time you are quoting it, when all the details are still fresh.
  3. Always do the quotation in the same way. This is a need of the academic rules so you must do it anyway, but it also helps you to don’t miss any important section of the quotation. If the editor is before the place of publication in one quotation, all the rest should be in the same order.

I am used to doing academic texts for myself so I can check your reference list or do many other proofreader tasks.

Don’t hesitate to contact me.

How to write an academic work in Spanish (II)

Today’s post comes from this post about the structure of an academic text in Spanish.

This time I will focus in the person in which the text should be written. Should I have to write in first person? Or impersonal? Or what is the same when writing my academic report I need to use YO such as he efectuado or a passive voice like se ha efectuado.

In Spanish academic texts you can use both first person or impersonal. But once you opt for one way you need to keep it all along the text. So you can’t start talking in first person and finish talking impersonal. That is one good reason to hire someone to proofread you Spanish academic text.

It is common to use the plural of the first person, like hemos realizado even when the author of the paper is a single one.

If you want to publish the paper in an academic journal you need to read their requirements. Sometimes they specify if you have to use impersonal or first person. If there is not information about the subject I would suggest to user impersonal way and passive voice because some people would find first person too informal for an academic writing.

However, it depends more on the reader that in a real well-known rule.

How to write an academic work in Spanish (I)

Many foreign students of Spanish need to do university research works for their Spanish class, and it is always hard to find a guide about how to do this kind of academic texts. I will share some tips to those who sometimes need to write an academic text in Spanish.

I don’t want to do a very large article so I will divide the full content into various posts.

Today I will focus in

The structure of an academic text in Spanish

First of all you need an introduction (in Spanish introducción) in which you have to talk about three main things.

The topic of the text or what the text is about.The goal of the text or what is the value added to the reader. The methodology used or how you achieved that value. Also, you can talk about the most important conclusion, though this is not mandatory and maybe you want to keep something to the rest of the text.

After the introducción, you could start with some theory written by experts about your research topic. Don’t forget to add all the references in the text body and in the end of the article. How to quote in Spanish is a long topic, and maybe I will write a post about it in the future.

The theory part cold be called marco teórico, but it is very common that people use more suggestive titles that give an idea about what the text is about.

Once you have shown that you know the previous theory related with your research topic, you have to explain how you developed your research and the results that it gave.

Then you have to write the conclusions, in which you should summarize the new things that your research have add to the world.

Lastly, you need your reference list in alphabetic order. Some authors put the references in the footer if each page, but this is old fashioned and now we are trending to the final list in a full body page.

If you don’t feel comfortable with your text, you always can hire a proofreader.