Journaling is one of the best ways to improve your Spanish. Why? Because you not only put into practice what you have learned but also, and most importantly because you connect emotionally with what you are writing.
“A personal journal is an ideal environment in which to become. It is a perfect place for you to think, feel, discover, expand, remember, and dream.” Brad Wilcox
Journaling in Spanish is so important because what you write is relevant to you, the words you use are the words you need to express your soul. And because you connect emotionally with those words, they will remain burned in your memory. Pretty cool, huh?
The key to being able to express in a manner that feels and sounds authentic passes through not only understanding who we are in our mother language, but also in our target language.
We are different in every language we speak and, in a way, when we learn a new language we are “creating” a part of ourselves in that language. What better way to explore our voice in that language than journaling?
The 2 approaches to journaling in Spanish
There are different approaches to journaling in the target language, so before I dive in how to improve specific grammar points in Spanish through journaling, I want to explain a bit the two main approaches.
- The free-flow approach – Start writing without looking up words in the dictionary. This forces you to use the words already at your disposal. When you can’t find a word, simply use the term in your mother language and, once you are finished, go back and look up the words you didn’t know.
- The look-up approach – Start writing and look up any unknown words as you go along. This is recommended if you are a beginner because you still have a limited vocabulary.
“A journal is your completely unaltered voice.” Lucy Dacus
How to Practise "ser & Estar" with Journal Prompts?
General, introspective journaling in Spanish about anything and everything that crosses your mind is a fantastic practice to connect with yourself, understand who you are, what you think and how you feel. But if you are doing it mainly to improve your Spanish, it may feel a waste of time. That’s why having a guided, focused journaling experience will combine self-expression and self-discovery in Spanish with the practice of those tricky Spanish grammar structures that cause you so many headaches.
In this blogpost I share with you 10 journaling prompts in Spanish to practise “ser vs. estar” in the different levels.
10 journaling prompts
▻ ¿Quién soy? ¿De dónde soy? ¿Cómo soy?
▻ ¿Cómo estoy en este momento y por qué? ¿Dónde estoy y cómo es ese lugar?
▻ Describe el lugar donde vives.
▻ ¿Qué está por hacer en mi vida? ¿En mi día?
▻ ¿Qué es importante/esencial para mí? ¿Por qué?
▻ ¿Qué cosas o comportamientos están bien o mal para mí? ¿Por qué?
▻ ¿Qué estoy por hacer y por qué? (estoy a punto de hacer o tengo ganas de hacer)
▻ ¿Para qué está el dinero (para qué sirve)?
▻ Piensa en los momentos en que no estás para bromas. ¿Cómo te encuentras? ¿Cómo describes tu estado de ánimo?
▻ ¿En qué estás hoy? ¿Qué ocupa tu tiempo o tu mente?
Ser & Estar Guidance
Before you start writing, I invite you to read the following explanations so that you understand the underlying grammar and can use the verbs correctly.
· BEGINNER PROMPTS ·
We use SER to talk about WHO we are, to talk about our identity from nationality, gender, profession, physical appearance… All those things that describe you go with SER because SER is ESSENCE.
In line with this idea is that we also use SER to describe the ESSENTIAL characteristics of something. So if you want to describe the essential and identifying characteristics of your house, your country, your city, your neighborhood… you will use SER.
If, on the other hand, you want to talk about the state of something or someone, you will need ESTAR, because ESTAR is STATE.
So, anything that is mood, susceptible to change or result of change goes with ESTAR. Mood doesn’t identify someone, right? Mood is something that we experience as a result of an event or situation. Then, mood goes with ESTAR. However, is a certain mood is constant for someone to the point that describes that persons’ essence, then you will need SER. The same goes with things. For example, cleanliness or dirtiness is considered a “state” (Mi casa está limpia = My house is clean) because it doesn’t help you identify the essence of the house, but if your house is always clean and is easy to clean, then you can use SER because cleanliness is something that describes the essence of your house.
Finally, the place where you are doesn’t describe who you are, so you need ESTAR.
· INTERMEDIATE PROMPTS ·
Estar por hacer expresses the idea of something is yet to be done but it is in the “to do list”.
We can express an opinion in Spanish with SER and ESTAR depending on the structure. Very common impersonal structures that introduce opinion are “es importante, es fundamental, es esencial, es terrible, es nefasto….” followed by the infinitive or by “que + subjunctive”.
We can also express our judgment of a situation with “estar bien” (it’s good/correct) or “estar mal” (it’s bad/wrong) also followed by the infinitive or “que + subjunctive”.
· ADVANCED PROMPTS ·
Estar por + infinitivo expresses two ideas. It is used to talk about what someone is about to do but also to talk about what someone has the intention or would like to do. For example:
– Mi vecino de arriba tiene una fiesta en su apartamento y está haciendo mucho ruido. No puedo dormir y le digo a mi pareja: “Estoy por subir y decirle que baje el volumen”. In this situation, I am not expressing that I am about to go up and tell him to turn the music down, but that I intend to do it, want to do it and I am getting close to do it.
Estar para is used to talk about the use of something. For example, “el dinero está para ahorrarlo” or “la casa está para vivirla”.
No estar para expresses the idea of not being in the mood. No estar para bromas means that I am not in the mood for jokes.
Estar en ello equals “to be on it, working or handling it”. We use this expression to either repeat what someone told us to do. Juan told me “¿puedes mandar un mensaje a mi padre?” and I am already doing it so I respond “Estoy en ello”. Or we can also use it to repeat something that we said before. Juan is drunk and on the verge of passing out so I tell my friend “Creo que debemos llevar a Juan a casa”. My friend dismiss my idea saying that he is fine and I respond “Yo estoy en que debemos llevarlo a casa”.
As you can see, journaling can be a laser focused task to practise your grammar in combination with self-expression and self-exploration.
Can you think of any other questions or journaling prompts to practise “ser” and “estar” ?
If you are a regular journal writer in the Spanish but you either have no one to correct your words or you feel you are repeating the same structures over and over and you would like to have a guided journaling experience to optimize your Spanish learning, “Spanish Masterheart” is what you are looking for.
“Spanish Masterheart” is a membership experience that includes guided journaling and audio journaling, guided meditations in Spanish, reading materials and other practices to connect your brain with your heart so that you can express your true voice in Spanish.