I’ve always loved writing. At my parents’ house, there are still boxes under my bed, full of notebooks I filled with half-written stories and ideas. I have tons of files on my old computers and on my flash drive with more stories and essays. I’ve changed my mind several times on what I like to write most, but I’ve never fallen out of love with writing. I’ve done it my whole life, and I’m not planning on stopping anytime soon.
Since I’ve had so much practice with writing, especially for school, I like to think I’m fairly good at it. Since I learned to write a five-paragraph essay, structured, written thought has come fairly easily for me. When I first began writing serious papers, it took me awhile to get to the point I wanted to make. I would have to go through several rounds of edits to shorten and clarify my thoughts. But as I did it more and more often, it got easier. Now, if an assignment requires an essay, I can crank out a pretty good paper within a few hours to a day. While I might make a few changes afterward, I typically say all I need to say with relative ease. (Of course, every piece of writing could use some editing. But when I also have to block out time for other things, a few hours to a day for a fairly high-quality essay is pretty good.)
But that’s all for essays I write in English. With Spanish, I’m finding it’s a different story. Throughout my Spanish classes, I’ve had to write a ton of papers. They started out short and simple, as ways to practice vocabulary, sentence structure, and specific grammar rules. As I got farther along, they began to get more complex. They became less about practicing the language and more about engaging with the culture. I learned more vocabulary, and essays in Spanish started to get almost as easy as essays in English.
Almost is the key word here, though. I got fooled into thinking I knew Spanish well enough to use the same one-day process I use for English papers. So last weekend, that’s how I wrote two papers for my capstone — one Saturday, one Sunday, and done. Then a few days later, I got them back from my faculty adviser, and while overall the papers were okay, my grammar was all over the place. I figured out very quickly that I need to take a few steps back in my writing process for Spanish papers. Ideally, here’s how it should go:
- I need to make a list of grammar mistakes I make often, using already-graded papers as a reference.
- Start the paper at least a week before the due date. (This means I need to be diligent about finishing the books I’m supposed to be writing about on time, too.)
- Take one or two days to write it, and then let it sit for a day or two.
- Read back through the paper, fixing any glaring mistakes, and polishing it if need be. Make sure I’ve put everything in the paper that is required.
- Go over it again, this time with my list of common mistakes, and fix those.
- Finally, either run through a grammar checker or have someone else look over it. Or maybe even both.
It’s a much longer process than my one-and-done style. But it will help me write better quality papers. And I think that the more Spanish I read, the better my writing skills will get. That’s a big part of how I learned to write well in English, after all. It makes sense that it would work that way in Spanish.