Learning to write all over again

I might be crazy, but I’ve decided to keep a blog in Spanish. I’m not linking it to FB – but if you want to read it, you can find it here: A Través de la Niebla (Through the Fog). Actually, if you speak Spanish, I’d appreciate feedback from time to time. Learning to write in another language involves going through the process of learning how to write all over again. I suddenly feeling a lot of empathy for my students – all those times I’ve returned papers slathered in red ink.

The theme photo for my Spanish-language blog 'Through the Fog' - courtesy of the California landscape.

The theme photo for my Spanish-language blog ‘Through the Fog’ – courtesy of the California landscape.

It’s been a long time since anyone has offered substantial corrections on my writing in English. Even when I get paper reviews, the writing itself is never the issue. Maybe there are some suggestions for rewording. If anything, I’m more harsh with my own writing than anyone else. I’m know I’m a harsh editor with my students too. If it makes them feel any better, I’m including a photo below of ONE PAGE of edits from my current manuscript (in English).

Messy editing! But it must be done!

Messy editing! One page at a time…

There are two factors that make writing generally easy for me in English (except when I don’t know what I really want to say). And now, these same factors make it difficult for me to write well in Spanish:

1) In English, I have fully internalized all the rules of grammar. I know what sounds right without having to think too much about the rules.

2) I’ve accumulated a rather broad English vocabulary in my several decades on this planet. It allows me to say things in new and different – and sometimes interesting – ways.

While I can generally carry on a conversation in Spanish, and get my point across, I don’t have those rules of grammar, or that massive vocab list to support my writing. I think this is what some of my students struggle with in English. I know I struggled with them when I was an undergrad.

So, to improve my written Spanish, I’m re-adopting up a practice I began as an undergrad, one that I wish more of my students would adopt.

One of the best learning experiences I had as an undergrad was in the office of my English professor. When I got a C on my first essay, I needed to know why (ok, I was/am a bit of a perfectionist – I NEVER wanted to see that grade again!). My professor sat down with me for an hour, and we went through the paper word by word, line by line, until I had a pretty thorough understanding of what I needed to do to improve the paper. I incorporated those suggestions, corrections and tips she gave me into every other paper I wrote. It worked. I got an A in the class – and in many other English classes after that. But she wasn’t the only professor I visited. I visited them all – always with drafts of my paper. Every professor had some new insight that improved my writing. And my science professors had very different insights and suggestions.

I can’t imagine learning how to write any other way.

So, now it’s Spanish. If you make your way to my blog, you’ll see my post about podcasts – the pretty version first, and the first version with all the corrections at the bottom. Many of my errors are there because I have not internalized the grammar. But there are many things here that I will be keeping in mind when I write my next Spanish blog post. The corrections come from my Spanish teacher, Helena – She’s great at telling me when I’ve used the wrong preposition, the wrong gender, or the wrong article. I need someone to tell me that.

But I’d be happy to have others provide insights – so if you know some Spanish, please head on over! ¡Que disfrute!

A few of my study aids. There are several more. I'm a book geek.

A few of my study aids. There are several more. I’m such a book geek. And, if you’re wondering, there is a Spanish-language book on general climatology in there.

 

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