Writing in Spanish can seem like a tall order, especially if you aren’t too fond of writing in your native language.
Even if you do like writing in English, doing so in another language can be a real challenge.
Stopping after every word to think about how to express a thought or sentiment in Spanish can get frustrating, but persistence is key to improving your written skills.
Writing in different ways and about topics you enjoy can keep things fresh and make it more appealing than simply writing the answers to robotic textbook questions.
Read & Reflect
With a language, you should generally try to focus more on the active elements, like speaking and writing, but the more passive parts like reading and listening can play a significant role in how quickly you improve overall.
If you can read and understand a lot of different information, then you’ll quickly become a better writer in Spanish. The opposite is also true.
“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
Stephen King was quoted as saying this, and it applies just as much to your writing ability in Spanish as it does in your native language.
To improve your writing skills in any language you should probably read a lot in that language.
If you don’t read, then how can you expect to produce sentences that aren’t just literal translations from English?
Find Reading Materials
The first step to writing better then should be to seek out reading materials in the target language Spanish.
The key here is that whatever you choose to read must be interesting to you.
Don’t feel pressured into reading the newspaper if it’s not something you would normally do.
Find resources in the subjects that you are attracted to in English. That way, you will have a much more compelling reason to read them, not just the fact that they will help you learn some new Spanish words.
Say you like gardening, you should go out of your way to find magazines or online articles on the topic in Spanish. This also applies to multimedia like videos and podcasts, but we’ll save that for another article.
Once you have a magazine, book series, or some online articles that you enjoy reading, all that’s left to do is work through them at your own pace.
You should try to do active reading, rather than just skimming through the text.
If you want to improve your Spanish writing skills you should highlight phrases or words that stand out to you, and look up those which you haven’t come across yet.
The more times you see a particular phrase or word used, the more likely you’ll be able to use it later on in your writing.
Keep A Journal
Another way to improve your writing is to reflect.
Once you’ve spent some time reading, it might be a good idea to open up a notebook and start a journal.
What this journal consists of is completely up to you, the only rule is that it has to come from you and cannot be scripted.
The practise of writing without a goal in mind will get you in the habit of producing phrases and sentences organically, so that they come to you more easily in future.
Especially after having read, you should have a general idea of common words and phrases used in Spanish writing.
You can then apply some of those to your own thoughts to produce a stream of consciousness style text, however short or long it may be.
It may be easiest to simply reflect on what you’ve most recently read. It could be as basic as describing an article and what you liked or didn’t like about it. Or if you feel like more of a challenge, you could write a response or rebuttal to an article you read.
Aside from reading and reflecting, you have the option to express yourself creatively through writing.
If you have a vivid imagination, or you’d just prefer to do something a little different, then getting creative with writing could be your best bet.
To get from beginner to intermediate Spanish can require novel approaches from time to time to keep your motivation high.
Creating an original story, or looking to music for inspiration can both be valid ways to improve your writing skills while keeping things fresh.
Write a Short Story
Nobody will expect you to write a novel in Spanish, but whatever level you’re at you could try to write a short story.
The beauty of short stories is that they don’t have to be more than a few hundred words.
While that may sound like a lot in the beginning, if you want to improve your writing you will have to put in the work.
What’s great about writing a short story as opposed to something less creative is that not only is it fun, but you can also create strong memories with certain words and phrases to maximise vocab retention.
It may even benefit you to focus your story around a few words or phrases that you’ve been struggling to memorise.
Linking all of these words together in a coherent narrative can make for lasting memories, which should help you recall the words when you need them.
Translate Your Favourite Songs
You wouldn’t think that your listening practise could help with your writing, but it can.
The goal here is to play your favourite songs, or at least a few that you like that are in Spanish, and then attempt to translate them.
If this is too difficult, then you can make it a reading to writing exercise by looking at the lyrics online.
Translating is a difficult skill to master, but there’s a lot of satisfaction to be had trying to capture the true meaning of the lyrics in your own language.
Whether you take a literal or interpretative approach to the translation, your writing skills in Spanish will improve.
Practice in Public
If you struggle to find the motivation, or you’re looking for extra accountability with your Spanish writing, maybe you should practice in public.
There’s a few great ways to do this, if you don’t mind putting your Spanish out there for the world to see.
The benefits of doing this are numerous.
For a start, you might start to lose some of the nerves you have surrounding your ability to produce the Spanish language. Once you hit publish and the world doesn’t end you’ll probably feel more confident going forward.
There’s also the long term benefit of having a public log of your Spanish writing. Imagine being able to look back a year, or even a few months, from now and seeing how far you’ve come.
Start a Blog
The first way to practice in public is to start your own blog.
It might seem intimidating at first, but after you’ve posted a couple of times you’ll soon forget what others think.
The reality is you aren’t going to accumulate a lot of followers, so why not treat it as a way to improve your Spanish writing and as a source of accountability?
You could set yourself a goal to publish a blog post every Friday for example. The content isn’t as important as the consistency. The main thing is that you post regularly, since that way you can track your progress and receive feedback if that’s what you’re looking for.
Post on Social Media
If you’re feeling especially brave, you can create a social media account where you can only post in Spanish.
Again, you don’t need to be concerned with ‘likes’, ‘follows’ or anything of that nature.
The main objectives are to reduce inhibitions, develop consistency, and write as much as possible.
It can be as simple as creating an account on Twitter and responding to posts made by the people you follow.
To get even more out of social media, you can set the language to Spanish, and try to only follow Spanish speakers so you can get reading practise too.
This is one of the best ways you can immerse yourself in the language without leaving the country.
Converse With a Native Speaker
While not necessarily public, practising with a native speaker via text can be an intimidating notion for some.
Especially if you’re just starting out, you might be apprehensive about starting up an interaction with a native speaker.
However, there are platforms which make it easy to text with a Spanish speaker, without needing to use e-mail.
One such app is Tandem, which does a great job of connecting you to Spanish speakers who you can practise your writing with freely.
The only thing you have to do in return is help your partner with their English, which should be easy enough if you’re a native speaker.