La composición

Diego Rivera's typewriter, Guanajuato, Guanajuato, Mexico

If you take enough Spanish classes, you will have to write a composition in Spanish. By that time, you will know enough Spanish vocabulary and grammar to write a good composition. Here are a few rules you should keep in mind while writing la composición.

Think in Spanish! The worst thing you can do is write out the composition in English and then translate it into Spanish. You are doing double the work! Brainstorm for your composition using the Spanish vocabulary that you already know. Begin writing your composition in Spanish, without looking up words in your dictionary. Insert words in English to look up later. The main goal is to write out most of the ideas for your composition in Spanish. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar until after your finish the first draft, el borrador in Spanish.

Give your composition a good descriptive title. Only the first letter of the title is capitalized: La fiesta que le dimos a mi abuelita para su cumpleaños. If you use a proper noun in the title, it must be capitalized: Las vacaciones de primavera en Puerto Rico.

Pronouns are used less often in Spanish than in English. Once the subject is established, the pronoun is no longer necessary: María era buena estudiante. Siempre llegaba a clase a tiempo. Participaba en todas las discusiones de clase. Siempre sacaba buenas notas. In all of the preceding sentences, we know that María is the subject even though we do not use the pronoun ella. Do not use another noun or pronoun for the subject until the subject changes Un día su mamá no la levantó a tiempo. La maestra se preocupaba por María.

When listing a series of items, do not use a comma before the last item: Compré pan, queso y huevos.

There are two abbreviations in Spanish and you must use them: a + el = al, de + el = del

In general, commas are used less often than in English.

Do not translate everything into Spanish. If you live in River Oaks, do NOT translate it into Río Robles. Julio Iglesias is NOT July Churches!

Adjectives of proper nouns are not capitalized. Frida Kahlo es mexicana. Shakira es colombiana, Penélope Cruz es española.

Days and months are NOT captialized: los días – domingo, lunes, martes, miércoles, jueves, viernes, sábado; los meses – enero, febrero, marzo, abril, mayo, junio, julio, agosto, septiembre, octubre, noviembre, diciembre.

“With me” and “with you” are written as one word: conmigo, contigo.


Focusing on the Spanish exam

You probably have a few questions for me and so I feel obliged to explain my long absence from my blog. No matter what explanation I give or what excuses I enumerate, nothing will seem to justify me absence. Except, perhaps, only to me.

I mainly write for myself, and mainly for therapeutic reasons. I could tell you about how I was so busy last semester because I take teaching Spanish seriously. And how I spent a lot of time preparing for a Spanish composition class that I was teaching for the very first time. That meant I didn’t have any handouts that I love to hand out to students. Then, I had to spend a lot of time grading all those compositions!

Plus, I must also add that I was Assistant Coordinator for the Spanish Basic Language Program at UIC. Doesn’t that job title sound impressive? That impressive title permitted me to work many more hours per semester than I had anticipated. Oh, joy! That was time I was forced to spend away from the Internet! Whenever I did have free time, I no longer had the energy to write a blog entry. But now I’m on summer vacation. And I plan to make time to write as many blog entries as possible this summer. I won’t promise to post an entry each and every day, as I once boldly promised as a New Year’s resolution a couple years back. I try to forget about that unfulfilled resolution, but a couple readers constantly remind me. You know who you are.

Again I traduce

On the southwest side of Chicago

I was curious as to who is actually reading my Blog. So I did some snooping around, I mean some investigating. For some unknown reason, I keep getting hits from Russia. I can’t quite figure it out. My most viewed Blog entry is the one about Enrico Mordini, my Spanish teacher at Divine Heart Seminary. I guess I should go back and actually finish writing it and edit it since so many people are reading it. Now I feel embarrassed that I didn’t fix it up sooner. Another thing that really surprised me was the fact that people in Spanish-speaking countries are also finding my blog. I was wondering how they would read it since I mostly write in English. I went to the referring page and found that an automated translator could actually translate my blog into Spanish with a link on the search engine page. Wow! I mean, ¡Ay, ay, ay! The webpage is automatically translated into Spanish, but very poorly-written Spanish at that. Upon reading the translation, I realized that people in Spanish-speaking countries will think that I don’t know Spanish!

Let me give you a sample of some of these translations. Well, it actually starts out quite well. The title at the top of my blog is David Diego Rodriguez, Ph.D. without an accent mark on the “i” of Rodriguez because otherwise all these strange characters appear and distort my last name thanks to the mysteries of computers and the Internet. However, the translator actually put the accent mark where it belongs! The rest of the translations are rather sad. For example, under my name I write, “¡Hola! ¡Yo hablo español e inglés!” For some strange reason that phrase is translated as, “¡Yo hablo español electrónico español!”, which somehow fails to convey my original message. I suppose if someone really wants to read my blog, they will gladly plod their way through this computer-generated translation.

When my Spanish students write compositions, I ask them to do the best they can. I ask them to write the composition in Spanish right from the start. I know that the student will make plenty of mistakes, but that’s part of the learning process. Sometimes the original text is upstaged by all my corrections in red ink. That’s fine by me as long as they make a valiant effort to write in Spanish. However, I do not want a student to write the composition in English and then translate it into Spanish. That’s double the work! And of course, I can always tell when they write it in English and then use an internet or computer translator. Well, the output hardly resembles Spanish. In fact, in many cases, I cannot even decode what the student wanted to say in the first place. All the words are in Spanish, but the composition is incomprehensible! I always ask the student to rewrite such a composition, “but in Spanish this time.” About the only word that doesn’t lose anything in translation is the English word “no” that also happens to translate to “no” in Spanish. Even an automated translator gets this translation right!