The concept of writing an essay in another language sounds simple at first. After all, you only need to translate your thoughts from your native tongue to the target language, right?
Absolutely wrong! This assumption cannot be any farther from the truth. For English-speaking students writing in Spanish, translating your essay ‘word for word’ leaves you with an incoherent text. And as a result, you will end up with a lot of grammatical blunders.
Spanish grammar rules differ from English language guidelines significantly. Besides, some general rules regarding sentence structure are different for English and Spanish. In fact, only a language expert from an essay writing service can write a flawless essay in both languages.
But since you won’t have any external assistance during your Spanish exam, let’s go through some noteworthy differences between essay writing in Spanish and English.
Here are seven notable cases to monitor in your Spanish essay writing exam:
1 – The gender confusion
The ‘gender’ dilemma is the most significant challenge students face when studying Spanish in the initial stages. In English, every noun has only one (neuter) gender, apart from gender-specific nouns like ‘blonde – blond’ or ‘fiance – fiancee.’
But in Spanish, words can change form depending on their gender. For example, ‘good’ translates to ‘bueno’ (male) or ‘buena’ (female). So, you can say ‘buena chica’ but not
‘bueno chica’ in Spanish. Whereas in English, it is simply ‘good girl/boy/cat’.
Although these gender-based distinctions are changing in modern academia, you still need to pay attention to them when writing your Spanish exam. And when you are transcribing an essay from English, omitting these errors is quite easy.
2 – Word order
In most cases, English and Spanish follow the SVO word order— subject, verb, object. English language rules try as much as possible to stick to this arrangement, except in poetry and creative prose.
Moreover, Spanish grammar rules are more flexible with this SVO word order. You can move the verb to the end of the sentence for emphasis, especially in long sentences. So, it is quite common to see Spanish sentence constructions that use the SOV word other.
Besides, you can use the double negation also in Spanish, which is frowned upon in English.
3 – The ‘flexible’ noun
Nouns can function as verbs and adjectives in English. In these cases, these nouns are called attributive nouns. Here are some phrases that feature attributive nouns.
- Animal rights advocate
- Farm animal campaign
- Women government officials
- Basketball talent seminar
But Spanish language rules are not so flexible with nouns. Phrases with more than two nouns are often separated by prepositions like de, de los, de la, or para.
- talento de baloncesto – basketball talent
4 – The position of adjectives
A hairline rule in English is that the adjective always precedes the noun it modifies. The only exception applies to words borrowed from other languages.
- The good boy
- The actor extraordinaire (exception)
In example B, the word extraordinaire has a French origin. Hence, the placement at the end of the sentence.
But in Spanish, descriptive adjectives always come after the noun, except when you want to adjust the meaning slightly.
- El chico pobre — The poor boy.
- El pobre chico — The boy in a pitiful state.
5 – Phonetic differences
Spanish and English often have words with the same spelling but different meanings. These words are called heteronyms. Sometimes, these words have the same spelling and meaning but different pronunciations. These words are called interlingual homographs.
But as language learners, we often fall into the trap of pronouncing words with our native phonetic rules.
If your Spanish language exam has a phonetic section, beware of sounds and how they differ from English.
Here are some key examples:
- invasión — pronounced [im·ba·sion]
- Admirable — pronounced [ad·mi·ra·ble]
- General — pronounced [heh·neh·rahl]
6 – Spanish dialects
Spanish dialects differ according to your locale and your teacher’s place of origin. Although these differences are usually subtle, they can ultimately affect your overall score.
Think of English exams; if you spell words using British English instead of American English, the teacher might deduct points.
Therefore, always use Standard Spanish in academic writing. Get rid of informal language and slang in your writing. Some of the colloquial expressions become part of your vocabulary when you associate with native Spanish speakers.
7 – Punctuation differences
Most punctuation symbols are the same in English and Spanish. The period, comma, colon, and semicolon all have the same usage in both languages.
However, the English language allows the use of a question mark only at the end of a sentence. Alternatively, you need two question marks when asking a question in Spanish punctuation.
- How are you?
- ¿cómo estás?
Similarly, exclamations use different punctuation signs in English and Spanish.
- I speak Spanish!
- ¡Yo hablo español!
Writing a Spanish exam will challenge your understanding of the grammar rules guiding the language. However, you can ace the exam through constant practice to master the critical differences between Spanish and English. Remember to look out for the SOV and SVO word arrangement. Polish your grammar and use only Standard Spanish in your writing. And most importantly, pay attention to punctuation and spelling errors.
About the author
Amanda Dudley is a lecturer and part-time academic writer at EssayUSA. She is a qualified academic instructor with a Ph.D. from Stanford. Amanda is also a native English speaker with an intermediate understanding of German. Nowadays, she works with graduates and undergraduates, providing academic assistance with History-related courses. She also assists students with disabilities.