WRITING STRATEGIES for Foreign Language (Beginning/Intermediate Spanish)
A few key ideas:
· WRITING IS A PROCESS—you need to plan, write, re-write, revise, proofread, repeat as needed. DO PLAN AHEAD TO GIVE YOURSELF ENOUGH TIME TO REVISE
· DO NOT WRITE IN ENGLISH AND TRANSLATE INTO SPANISH!!!!!!
· DO NOT USE TRANSLATION PROGRAMS
· PROOFREAD, BUT DO NOT LET ANYONE RE-WRITE YOUR WORK (SEE THE INFO ON PROOFREADING)
· Be sure you understand the kind of writing you are being asked to do. There is a BIG difference between a personal reaction/self reflection, summary, analysis, creative writing, etc.
· Be sure to meet all requirements (for length, topic, grammar points to include, DUE DATES, how to upload to Moodle if required, etc.). If there is no check-list provided, make one of your own.
· Write in SPANISH (no English or Spanglish or other languages!)
· Give your composition a title
· Spelling and accents count. If you don't know how to type accents on your word processing program, see your professor or better yet, check with someone in IT. I recommend using Spanish Spell check (your word processing program should have one, but you can also use http://orangoo.com/spell/ ) *Not all errors will be caught with spell check (especially if an accent is missing for your usage of the word, but it exists without an accent as well)
· WRITE DIRECTLY IN SPANISH. DO NOT TRY TO WRITE IN ENGLISH AND TRANSLATE. NEVER USE TRANSLATION PROGRAMS. THIS IS CONSIDERED ACADEMIC MISCONDUCT. Many word order and sentence structure problems come from trying to translate English structures into Spanish. Either we tend to try to translate too literally, or we try to write sentences that are too complicated for our level of Spanish (especially if we are particularly good writers in English). For example, in English we might be able to say “Juan Carlos II is the current ruling monarch of Spain.” But in Spanish, I don’t know how to say “current”, “ruling” or “monarch.” Translating directly can get me into trouble. I will have to spend too much time with a dictionary (and run the risk of choosing the wrong word) and the structure often comes out very awkward or may even be incomprehensible. Instead, I want to try to express the basic idea with words and structures I know in Spanish. I can simplify to “Juan Carlos II es el rey” (an if I don’t know “king”, I might say “leader”). Most of the time writing assignments are meant for us to demonstrate that we understand concepts taught in the class, so try to use structures and vocabulary from this and previous classes as much as possible.
· THE DICTIONARY IS NOT ALWAYS YOUR FRIEND: Don't overuse the dictionary. For most of the 221 composition assignments, you are asked to practice the grammar and vocabulary we have been working on in class. Try to use as many familiar words and expressions as possible at this level. Use the dictionary sparingly. If it is necessary to look up a word or two, start with your class materials. Then try a good dictionary (it should have multiple entries for each word, provide the part of speech, and give examples in context). I recommend www.wordreference.com. When you look up a word, be sure to choose the correct part of speech (noun, verb, adjective, etc.) and usage for your context. If you aren’t sure, look up the word you’ve chosen in the Spanish side of the dictionary and see what English word is provided.
· Realize that you might need to SIMPLIFY your message. Many adults become frustrated with writing in a foreign language because they cannot use the complex phrasing (including sarcasm, humor, colloquial or idiomatic expressions, etc) that they do in their native languages. You are expected to produce writing commensurate with your Spanish level (beyond sentences with only a subject and a verb, but not necessarily sentences with multiple complex subordinate clauses). Again, much of your writing at this level will focus on demonstrating a particular grammar point. Make sure you use it, and any previous points studied in class, correctly. At this level you often need to sacrifice complexity and personality to achieve comprehension and grammatical correctness. Don't worry, if you continue with the language you will be able to use all (or nearly all) the linguistic elements that make you who you are in your own language.
· Organize your thoughts logically and include transitions between ideas. ALL writing must be organized (even if you are only writing a paragraph).
· Start with an introduction and end with a conclusion (even if you are only writing a paragraph). For multi-paragraph writing, be sure to include a THESIS statement at the end of your first paragraph.
· PROOFREAD for basic spelling and grammar errors. I recommend using Spanish Spell check, however, not all errors will be caught (especially if an accent is missing for your usage of the word, but it exists without an accent as well)
· BEWARE OF POTENTIAL PITFALLS THAT CAN LEAD TO ACADEMIC MISCONDUCT
? PROOFREADING: I encourage you to have someone proofread your paper (tutor, classmate, friend, etc.). HOWEVER, it is important that you and they understand what kind of help is acceptable. DO NOT let anyone re-write (or dictate) any part of your paper for you! If a native speaker (or someone in a higher level, or even your own level) goes through and corrects everything for you, the work is no longer your own!
? USE OF SOURCES. For most of your 221 writing you are not using any outside sources. However, be sure to provide proper citations and bibliography whenever using ideas not your own (complying with MLA format).
THE WRITING PROCESS:
Before you begin to write, at any level, you need to plan. Look at the assignment requirements (topics, grammar points, etc.) and be sure you understand what is being asked of you.
Once you understand the assignment, you need to take time for “pre-writing” or planning. This can take many forms (and the focus might be different for a Spanish composition on your daily routine vs a more advanced paper where you analyze a painting or piece of literature). You might start brainstorming words related to the topic. Once you have a topic and you have “activated your prior knowledge” through brainstorming, consider making an outline. Some people prefer to do this in a visual way using graphic organizers (http://www.eduplace.com/graphicorganizer/spanish/ ) to help plan.
Here are a few links to sites that offer advice for the pre-writing phase of the writing process (though they tend to refer to essays rather than short language compositions):
Try to write your first draft without stopping to look up words (mark words or expressions you aren't sure of and be sure to check them later). Let the ideas flow!
Remember that you don't have to include everything you came up with in your pre-writing phase (even though you do need to be sure to cover all the requirements, but you can check that after you finish your draft). Pick the best ideas and make sure they relate to each other and the topic.
Before you can revise, you need to make sure you have enough content. If not, you might need to go back to the pre-writing phase.
If you get stuck while writing, it can be helpful to talk through your plans. Have the person you are talking with take notes on what you say. When you look back at the notes, you can often find possible solutions to your block.
Another option to get past a block or to choose among several possible topic directions is to try several free-writing exercises. Set the clock for 3-5 minutes. Pick one topic or direction and write without stopping for that time. Then do the same for the next topic. Look at which one seems to be going better.
Proofreading and revision:
· We will do some practice of this in class and you will be required to bring a typed hard copy of your composition to class before it is due.
· This is mentioned above, but it bears repetition. I encourage you to have someone proofread your paper (tutor, classmate, friend, etc.). HOWEVER, it is important that you and they understand what kind of help is acceptable. DO NOT let anyone re-write (or dictate) any part of your paper for you! If a native speaker (or someone in a higher level, or even your own level) goes through and corrects everything for you, the work is no longer your own! Also, be aware that students might mis-correct something. The best idea is to sit with your proofreader and you hold the pencil. If they write at all, they should use pencil to circle potential grammar errors (NOT try to correct them for you) and to note any areas of confusion (due to grammar, expression of your ideas, organization, etc.).
· Learn to identify your own errors
· Learn to identify grammar points that are problem spots for you and take the time to seek out explanations, extra help, extra practice, etc.
· Read your paper out loud. Often you will find errors and awkward structures as you read aloud (whereas when you read silently you are more likely to read what you expect to see rather than what is really there). *** ALMA COLLEGE has a program on all of the public computers called Kurzweil 3000 and it will read Spanish (also French, German, and Italian) out loud. So, if you type a paper in Spanish you can listen to it read back to you.
· Give yourself enough time so that you can let your composition sit for a few hours (or a day or two), then come back to it and re-read it. Does it make sense? If any words or phrases don't make sense to you, they probably won't make sense to the professor either. Check one last time for common errors with agreement and check again to make sure you have met all the assignment requirements.
HOW CAN I PRACTICE WRITING?
Consider keeping a journal in Spanish
Find a pen-pal (much easier with email!)
Do free-writing exercises in Spanish (set a timer for 5, 10, or 15 minutes and write about ABSOULTELY ANYTHING in Spanish—this can be your shopping list, song lyrics, reflections on the day, ANYTHING. Don't look at a dictionary or any notes during this exercise, but don't resort to English either).