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Composing an Essay in Spanish: Strategies & Organization

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

If you need to write an essay in Spanish but do not know where to begin, you can use this lesson as a basic guide. Here, you'll find the components of an essay and the steps you should apply to write it.

What is an Essay?

In Spanish, the word 'essay' is ensayo (ehn-SAH-yoh). An ensayo is a short piece of nonfiction, with two main types: research or personal, where you usually do not need to do research. Either way, an essay has three basic components:

  1. La introducción is the introduction where you present the topic of your essay.
  2. El cuerpo is the 'body' of the essay. It normally has two or three paragraphs in which you would express the ideas you consider important for your topic.
  3. La conclusión is 'the conclusion' where you wrap-up your ideas so the reader stays with the main point you want to express.

Now, let's look at steps to successfully write your essay in Spanish.

Steps for Essay Writing

To learn los pasos (the steps) to write an essay, let's meet Stephanie, a flight attendant who has to write a personal essay for her company's magazine. If she were to write a research essay, then she would use APA or MLA style. Let's look at the steps Stephanie follows.

Define the Topic

The topic of an essay is the first thing to decide. Make sure not to choose too broad a topic. For instance, at first, Stephanie thinks it would be a good idea to talk about the usefulness of Spanish in the business world. Soon, she realizes this is too expansive because she would have to talk about banking, food, and numerous other industries. To limit the topic, Stephanie decides to write about how Spanish is useful at her job. Now, the question is, what main idea does she want her readers to understand? Stephanie wants her readers to understand the importance of Spanish in her position.

Draft the Introduction

Now, Stephanie can draft her introduction, which may require one or more drafts. A good tip is to define the verb tense you will use. Stephanie chooses the present tense to discuss the habitual use of Spanish at work. Let's look at her introduction, which uses three lines to quickly introduce the reader to the essay.

Todos los días, utilizo mi conocimiento del idioma español en el trabajo porque soy azafata de una aerolínea muy importante. Participo en vuelos desde Estados Unidos a América Latina y no solamente uso el español durante los vuelos sino también en diversas situaciones en el aeropuerto y en la oficina de la aerolínea. (Every day, I use my knowledge of the Spanish language at work because I am a flight attendant at a very important airline. I participate in flights from the United States to Latin America and I use Spanish not only during flights, but in diverse situations at the airport and at the airline office.)

As you can see, the introduction leaves the reader with the curiosity to read more because Stephanie uses Spanish during flights, as well as in the airport and office situations.

Outline the Paragraphs

Next, you need to define two or three supporting ideas that relate to your introduction. The clearer the ideas are, the easier it will be to compose them. For example, Stephanie decides to follow this outline:

  • First paragraph - describe dealing with Spanish-speaking customers at the airport
  • Second paragraph - explain dealing with Spanish-speaking customers during flight
  • Third paragraph - illustrate translating for non-Spanish speaking coworkers

This outline specifically defines the topic of each paragraph. Let's pick paragraph three to see how Stephanie wrote it:

También, a veces mis compañeros de trabajo que no hablan español tienen un cliente de habla hispana. Si estoy presente en la oficina, me llaman para que sirva como intérprete. Por ejemplo, hace un mes, la gerente de oficina tuvo un cliente de Argentina que no hablaba inglés y tenía una queja. Yo fui la intérprete de ambos. (Also, sometimes my coworkers who do not speak Spanish have a Spanish-speaking client. If I am present at the office, I get called to serve as an interpreter. For example, a month ago, the office manager had a client from Argentina who did not speak English and had a complaint. I was the interpreter for both.)

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