Generally, Spanish students write better than they speak. This is due to a variety of reasons. The simplest explanation would be that writing involves a lot less confidence and real-time interaction. You have more time to look over your words, grammar and sentence structure without the pressure of someone looking you right in your face. There is also the complete lack of pronunciation worries. All you have to do is spell more or less correctly and you’re going to get your point across, while we all know slipping up on the emphasis or a single letter when speaking can drastically change your meaning or even make you incomprehensible.
Face it, writing is the easy way out.
Interestingly enough, around year 6 of my Spanish studies, I switched. I became better at speaking than writing. This was due to two factors: increased laziness in proofreading and increased confidence.
Let’s focus on the confidence.
Don’t over think your words
I knew a lot of Spanish students who would think so hard about their sentences it was just painful to watch. They would cut into conversation with a thought, only to bring the conversation to a screeching halt as they conjugated mid-sentence. Half the time I’d forget what the sentence was about before they even finished it. This is not a thesis paper, it’s a conversation. It’s okay to speak more simply. Wouldn’t you rather use easier vocabulary and grammar and be understood rather than sound like a bumbling idiot trying to use all those fancy words you learned in school?
Correct yourself and move on
When speaking in any language, you are going to make mistakes. Even in your native tongue you are bound to get tongue-tied or stumble on occasion. Do not let slip-ups ruin your flow. Just correct yourself and keep talking. As long as you are close to correct, chances are you will be understood.
Learn from your mistakes and improve for next time
The beauty of writing is that you get to see all those red marks and corrections and learn from your mistakes. Try to do the same when you speak, just wait until after you finish speaking! If you are kicking yourself for using the preterite instead of the imperfect or switching up por and para, just work on it for next time and congratulate yourself on a conversation well done. Confidence is almost as important as your grammar when it comes to speaking a foreign language.
Check out these other articles about How to Speak Spanish.
Featured photo credit: Lyndon B. Johnson gives a speech to ILGWU members, November 1, 1960. by Kheel Center, Cornell University