There are four basic skills that, no matter the language, we should learn equally.
Think of how many years you spoke your native language before you started writing something down. Something around 5 or 6 years, right?
If we want to learn a second language, we should follow the same process.
Writing is the last skill to learn on the list because it is arguably much more complicated than the other. But it’s not less important.
Actually, all skills complement each other.
If you like writing but are experiencing some issues with it, don’t worry, you will get there. Always remember that writing is a process, even in your native language.
It’s like learning how to ride a bicycle or drive a car. You won’t learn by reading a manual or watching others doing it. You learn by practicing.
You don’t need to become a professional writer to be a good writer. But if you want to learn Spanish properly, you should focus a bit more on this skill.
This post will give you 9 tips to practice and improve your writing skills in Spanish.
1. Read and never stop reading
There is no better way to improve your writing than by reading. As in any language, the more you read, the better your writing is.
So, read as much as you can in Spanish. Get into the habit of reading any Spanish language material you can, preferably read about different topics and use different texts.
Read magazines, newspapers, books, flyers, etc. Pay attention to all words, expressions and syntactic constructions. Go the extra mile, make notes of interesting phrases and look up new words; you’ll expand your vocabulary and improve your own writing structures.
No matter your current Spanish level, get into the habit first, and then you can slowly start scaling up the content of your reading.
If you feel confident enough with reading, we suggest reading quality writing—for example, short stories, newspaper articles, essays, and literature books.
You can read Gabriel García Márquez, Colombia’s most popular writer. He was awarded the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature and is known worldwide for his style. His work is not only a delightful read but also a great opportunity to learn about Colombian culture.
If you are still at a beginner or intermediate level, you can opt for reading children’s books. Read, for example, short and simple books like “El principito.” You’ve probably read it in your native language, so it’s a great opportunity to start reading in Spanish.
Furthermore, try reading out loud. It helps you memorize new words and helps practice your pronunciation.
Reading is a way to learn without realizing that you’re learning!
2. Make it part of your daily routine
Are you one of those obsessive list-writers? Do you write a daily to-do list, a grocery shopping list or a pro and cons list of any decision you need to make?
Do you have a personal diary, journal or travel book?
Or, what is it that you usually write on a daily or weekly basis?
Whatever it is, start incorporating those pieces into your Spanish daily practice.
If you think there are many types of Spanish writing practice for a moment, you can easily fit into your everyday life. You write more than you even realize.
Another way of practicing your writing is by getting in touch with friends and acquaintances from Spanish-speaking countries.
3. Take advantage of your relationships!
Write them a message in Spanish via WhatsApp, send them postcards. Tell them you are learning Spanish, and ask them to correct you when you make mistakes.
Lastly, use social media for good. Start commenting on your friends’ status and photos, write messages in Spanish and join Facebook, or LinkedIn groups focused on learning Spanish.
4. Try writing something every day for a month
Start some personal projects and time your writing activities.
What kind of personal projects can you start?
Let us give you some ideas:
- Dream journal
- Travel journal
- Short stories
- Cooking recipes
- Self-reflection of the day
- Describing places you visit during the day
- Create your own phrasebook
Yes, it’s as simple as it sounds. Choose any topic and commit to it.
Time yourself for 10, 20 or 30 minutes and create a goal for that time period.
After a month, review all your writing. Check if you find any mistakes and correct them.
5. Put pen to paper
Research shows that handwriting has enormous benefits to the brain and our learning process.
It employs our fine motor skills and engages various brain regions, switching on muscle memory and helping us remember words and phrases better.
Also, Paul Bloom, Yale Psychologist says: “With handwriting, the very act of putting it down forces you to focus on what’s important,” “Maybe it helps you think better.”
“When we write (handwrite), a unique neural circuit is automatically activated,” said Stanislas Dehaene, a psychologist at the Collège de France in Paris.
“There is a core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental simulation in your brain. “And it seems that this circuit is contributing in unique ways we didn’t realize.”
So, in your daily practice of the Spanish language, make sure you physically write your thoughts and ideas in a notebook or on a piece of paper.
6. Don’t try to impress
Choose quality over quantity.
Spanish -and any other language- could seem arduous and complicated when writing. But our best advice is “Start with short and simple pieces.”
Don’t try to impress your friends, colleagues or fellow students with complicated texts. It is better to start with a simple and clear text than with a long text difficult to follow.
We mentioned at the beginning of this article that learning to write in Spanish is similar to learning how to ride a bike or drive. Here, we would like to mention that it is also similar to running a marathon.
Some people want to write complicated essays, texts or emails, but they just start learning the language. They make many mistakes, and people can’t understand the message.
It’s like when a non-runner signs up for a marathon – even a half marathon-. They feel frustrated after just a couple of kilometers. But, if a non-runner decides to run a marathon, he or she should start training. Run every day for 10-20 min, run 3K, then 5Km, 10Km, 15Km, and so on. Eventually, he or she will be able to run a marathon.
Writing in Spanish is the same. You can’t expect to be the best writer from day one.
Lastly, the last piece of advice in this matter is:
Write about what you know how to write, not what you want to write.
Be patient, start with simple texts and scale up from there.
7. Learn proper punctuation
Have you ever been distracted by badly punctuated writing?
Punctuation is one of the things people pay less attention to. They think it is not that important, but the truth is that it is as important as the grammatical structure and the vocabulary.
It may seem small, but a well-placed comma or question mark can really affect the meaning of your writing.
When your work isn’t well punctuated, it gives the impression that you haven’t mastered the language.
Believe it or not, punctuation in Spanish is quite different from punctuation in English. It is not that we use different symbols, we use the same symbols (comma, exclamation mark, question mark, period, etc.).
The difference is that normally in Spanish, we tend to use longer sentences. We like to “talk” more. Our style is more rhetoric, generally speaking. We can write long paragraphs with just a couple of commas or semi-commas.
While in English, people tend to use short sentences to form a paragraph.
The only way of learning this is by reading a lot and writing a lot.
7. Use Linking words
Since we use a lot of words and sentences in a paragraph, we frequently use linking words.
Just by adding linking words, you will improve your writing significantly. You will avoid using short choppy sentences.
It will also help you to avoid repetitions and to build a better style in writing.
What are the main linking words in Spanish?
When we want to add ideas or to give more information about the same idea, we use the following connectors:
- Además (Moreover, furthermore, in addition, and)
- También (Too, also, As well)
- Además de (As well as)
- Incluso (Even)
The next connectors are used when we are contrasting ideas.
- Pero (but)
- Sin embargo (however)
- Aunque (although)
- No obstante (nevertheless)
- A pesar de (que) (despite/in spite of)
- Porque (because)
- Como (as)
- A causa de (que) (because of)
- Debido a (que) (due to, because of)
- Dado que (since, given that)
- Ya que (since, because)
- Puesto que (since, as)
- Gracias a (que) (thanks to)
- Por culpa (de) (because of)
These connectors express the consequences of the previously given information, and they are all used similarly.
- Entonces (then)
- Así que (so)
- Por lo tanto/por eso (therefore)
- En consecuencia (in consequence)
Dar ejemplos (Giving examples)
- Por ejemplo (for example, for instance)
- A saber (namely)
We normally use these words at the beginning of the sentence to summarize what we have said or written.
- Para resumir (to summarise)
- Para finalizar (to conclude)
- En pocas palabras (in short)
- En resumen (in summary)
- En definitiva (in brief)
8. Have another person review your work
Another great way to improve your writing is to get a native speaker to provide you with feedback.
Although it is an important practice to write as much as you can, there is no point in making mistakes and not knowing about them.
You will get used to using elaborate sentences or words that are not correct. Thus, it is as important as writing in Spanish to have someone who can review and correct your work.
You can ask a friend, family member, coworker or language exchange partner. Ideally, you should get some private Spanish lessons and focus on your writing skills.
9. Write and never stop writing
The more you write, the easier the words will start flowing from your fingertips.
As the old saying goes, “ Practice makes perfect.” In Spanish, “La práctica hace al maestro” (practice makes the master).
Never stop writing, and when doing so, talk about what you love.
There is nothing better than writing about food, friends, fun, or any kind of topic that brings you passion.
Ideas on what to write:
- Postcard project
- Social Media Profile
- Instagram Posts
- Personal Narrative (All about me)
- Describe a Typical Day
- How to… (recipe, fix something, etc.)
- Write about your family
- Your life as a kid
- Famous person’s life
- Describe a picture
- Movie or book review
- Controversial opinion piece
- What would you do if…
Remember that slow and steady wins the race; think big, but start small when it comes to writing.