Consuming French or Spanish media is all fine and dandy when it comes to listening/reading comprehension, but what happens when it's time to write papers? Today, we're going to focus on how to edit your writing in Spanish and French with the help of a few online tools.
Tips and Tricks
When writing in a foreign language, you will undoubtedly struggle with vocabulary and grammar, and it can be frustrating to stop and start the writing process to look up the French word for "hill" or the subjunctive form of "haber." In order to avoid falling into this rut, don't stop the writing process to look up unknown words or verb tenses. Instead, as you come across words simply write the word in english, and make a note to look up the word later. The same goes for grammar: if you can't remember the right form of a verb, simply write a form that you do know, and look up the correct form later.
When it comes time to look up the words/phrases that you don't know, make sure to use trusted dictionaries to ensure that you get a good translation. My favorite two online translators (which are available in both French and Spanish) are WordReference.com and Linguee.com. WordReference is perfect for looking up single words, and gives you multiple translations, so that you can find the perfect translation. Linguee can also be used to look up individual words, but it's main attraction is its ability to find phrase transliterations. For example, say you wish to find the French equivalent of "the cat's got my tongue". You could never search this phrase in WordReference as it consists as more than one word, and since it is an idiomatic phrase, translating it word by word would not be accurate. By searching its database of French-English (or Spanish-English) archives, Linguee can find you multiple past transliterations of the phrase, so that you can get an idea of what the best transliteration would be. I especially like Linguee because I can see many different possible transliterations of a phrase, and by choosing the most popular one, I can be fairly certain that I have the best translation. And get this: WordReference and Linguee are both available in app form! Perfect for on-the-go translation, either for writing or reading.
Now that you've written your essay, it's time to fine tune and check for errors. First, look over your paper yourself - check for gender accordance, simple misspellings, and other small errors. Next, ask a peer or mentor to review your paper. A fresh set of eyes can make all the difference! Finally, take your writing to an online editor (check with your professor before doing this. Some professors encourage using online editors, others do not). Bon Patron is my favorite editor for French, and its sister site, Spanish Checker, is my favorite for Spanish. An online editor will scan your work for simple grammar mistakes such as misconjugated verbs, gender accordance, and other common grammar mistakes. The editor will not fix your mistakes, it will only point them out for you to fix.
After editing, I like make what I call a "Take-away" note. Basically, I look over what needed to be changed in my paper, and try to find mistake patterns (did you struggle with the difference between preterite and imperfect? Did you have a lot of gender accordance errors?). On average, I usually find about four to five patterned errors in my paper, which I write down on a post-it note and stick to my rough draft. By doing this, I can identify what I need to work on, which helps me study smarter and prepare better for upcoming tests and essays. A Take-away note should take you about five minutes max, so it's definitely worth the time!
And there you have it! A comprehensive guide to writing a paper in your foreign language of choice!