Last month’s article ended with a short text in Spanish and I have actually bumped into a few people since then who told me they enjoyed translating it, but were unsure of a few details, so without further ado here is the text and the translation below:

“Cuando yo era niña jugaba todos los días en el parque con mis amigas.  Tenía un perro y me gustaba mucho andar con él a la playa.  Mi madre cocinaba al mediodía y yo siempre volvía a casa para comer.  La verdad es que nunca comía muy bien y mi madre se enfadaba mucho conmigo.  No veía mucha televisión porque había pocos programas para niños y además pasaba mucho tiempo en la calle.

Mi padre trabajaba hasta tarde y cuando volvía a casa por la noche me sentaba con él para contarle mis cosas.  Mientras tanto mi madre recogía la cocina y preparaba todo para el día siguiente.  Siempre iba a la cama a la misma hora y leía un libro debajo de las mantas antes de dormir.  Mi hermana dormía en el mismo dormitorio pero normalmente no la oía entrar porque ya estaba durmiendo profundamente.”

“When I was a little girl I used to play in the park with my friends every day.  I had a dog and I used to like walking with it (him) to the beach.  My mother cooked at midday and I always went back home for lunch.  The truth is that I never ate very well and my mother used to get very angry with me.  I didn’t watch much television because there weren’t many programmes for children and anyway (furthermore) I spent a lot of time in the street.

My father worked until late and when he came home at night I used to sit with him and tell him about my things.  Meanwhile my mother would tidy up the kitchen and prepare everything for the next day.  I always went to bed at the same time and used to read a book underneath the blankets before sleeping.  My sister slept in the same bedroom but I didn’t usually hear her come in because I would already be fast asleep.”

Well, I’m sure you got the sense of all of that, but those of you who wrote it out probably found that you phrased things slightly differently here and there.  This is exactly as it should be, because a big part of translation is interpreting or thinking “How would we say that in English?”  Actually, if I had written it in English in the first place I would probably have expressed quite a few things differently.  

Another thing you might be interested to notice is the different ways of translating the tense we have been studying.  Sometimes I have said “I used to go”, other times “I went” and still other times using the word “would” as in “my mother would tidy up”.

All three forms in English communicate the same idea of past description and sometimes the variation between them is as much to do with ‘style’ as anything else.  This is what makes this particular tense a little tricky if we are worried about word-for-word translations, but also perhaps it might give you an insight into how much harder English is to learn for foreigners.

How would you explain to a Spanish person learning English when to use “I used to go”, “I went” and “I would go”?!

There are quite a few other points of interest here, but first and foremost I wanted to illustrate the use of the Past Continuous Tense in a real context, so hopefully that has been achieved!

See you next month.

Jane Cronin’s ‘Step by Step Spanish’ articles are available as e-books at where you can also obtain Jane’s ‘Step by Step Internet Spanish Course’.