Giving Positive and Negative Feedback in Spanish for Work
Yesterday, during my daughter’s online classes, I had an opportunity to hear her teacher give feedback in Spanish to her and her classmates and it surprised me—in a bad way!
While my daughter is only 6, her teacher tends to motivate her young learners with positive feedback like ¡Bien hecho! (Well done!), ¡Wow! ¡Impresionante! (Wow! Impressive!), ¡Qué bonito! (How beautiful!), and avoids valuable, constructive feedback, which leads me to doubt the sincerity of her comments.
Let’s be honest—they´re not all Einsteins and Van Goghs! All teasing aside, the truth is that both positive and negative feedback work to help one another grow and by avoiding one or the other, we’re only hurting those we aim to assist.
This prompted me to write an article to help Spanish learners and business Spanish students like you to provide constructive feedback in Spanish.
I promise that after reading it, you´ll know better than my daughter’s teacher about how to give feedback in Spanish and get your students and employees motivated and eager to improve.
I’ll explain what good feedback is as well as how and when to give it. You’ll understand why it’s so important to provide both positive and negative feedback in the workplace and school settings. And in the end, you’ll find some useful expressions to use to provide feedback in Spanish along with some examples.
What Is Feedback and Why Is It Essential?
If you´re a businessperson who works in a big company, you already know that feedback is vital for any leader. Project managers spend years working on this skill to boost productivity and make their team members happy and engaged. If you know how to give feedback, your team gets things done in less time.
Feedback is also crucial in education. I’m a teacher and I’ve seen students lose motivation because they received no feedback, or worse, received unhelpful feedback. Witnessing this has inspired me to give constructive, valuable feedback to each of my students—that’s full of both negative and positive elements.
Not just teachers and business leaders are subject to mastering this ability. Sports coaches also need to provide constructive feedback to help their sportsmen learn new skills and improve their results.
It’s obvious then that giving feedback in Spanish is essential for Spanish teachers as well as for Spanish learners.
At some point in your learning journey, you’ll need to comment on your peers’ work or even on your teacher’s performance. And you’ll want to understand the basics of giving good feedback. This includes avoiding statements that are too harsh or direct.
For example, if you were to say to your classmate something like:
Lo estás haciendo mal.
You’re doing it wrong.
Or to your teacher:
No me gustan sus clases. No aprendo nada.
I don’t like your classes. I’m not learning anything.
It’s likely that both your friend and your teacher will react in a negative way to your feedback, which leads to unnecessary tensions—and what’s more, this type of feedback lacks helpful information to assist the receiver in improving.
It’s already hard for most people to receive criticism but if your delivery is too strong or unhelpful, then your student, peer, or your teacher won’t be in a state of mind to receive your words and take them to heart.
Characteristics of GoodFeedback in Spanish
There are some things we need to remember while giving effective feedback in Spanish, or in any other language.
1. Given at the Right Moment
This aspect is crucial. Whether you work in a company or in a school, you need to give time for improvement. There is no point in saying anything at the end of a project or academic year.
If you don’t mean it, don’t say it. Nobody gains anything by positive comments if they’re not true. So avoid saying ¡Bien hecho! (Well done!) if you don’t think so.
3. Clear and Precise
Coming back to our ¡Bien hecho! If you say it to your students, they´ll be happy but they won’t know why. It’s much better to say:
Tu resumen es muy bueno. Incluiste todos los puntos importantes y no hiciste ningún error de ortografía. ¡Felicidades!
Your summary is very good. You included all the important points and did not make any spelling mistakes. Congratulations!
Now your student knows exactly what they did well. This leads us back to why I wasn’t happy with the comments from my daughter’s teacher, who focused purely on general, positive comments.
If you need to give negative feedback and emphasize points to improve, be sure to also focus on what was done well. It’s like with a diet—a balanced diet is the key to developing in a healthy way.
Always set a positive tone. Imagine that you have a student who didn’t work at all during the whole class. Of course, you may say:
Hoy no has hecho nada. Que desperdicio de tu tiempo y del mío.
You haven’t done anything today! What a waste of your time and mine!
But you can also say:
Me hubiera gustado que trabajaras más. Así puedes aprovechar más las clases y aprenderás más rápido.
I would have liked you to work harder. This way you can get more out of the classes and you’ll learn faster.
Also, avoid words like siempre (always) and nunca (never) while giving feedback in Spanish. Generalizations are never true.
You never work!
Siempre lo haces mal.
You always do it wrong.
6. Focused on Reasons and Aspects to Improve
Always say what can be done better and how to achieve it. As I mentioned in my previous comment, there’s always a way to make this feedback in Spanish even better.
Me hubiera gustado que trabajaras más. Así puedes aprovechar más las clases y aprenderás más rápido. ¿Qué tal si en la siguiente clase participas más y tomas apuntes?
I would have liked you to work harder. This way you can get more out of the classes and you’ll learn faster. What if in the next class you participate more and take notes?
This is much better because, while it may be negative, it’s precise in what needs to be improved upon and directs the receiver to a solution.
How to Give Feedback in Spanish
I remember that last year with the boom of online classes, I started giving Spanish lessons to an American teenager. Previous to our class, he had been studying Spanish on his own and reached an intermediate, B1 level before he decided to get a teacher. There were major skill gaps in his usage of grammar, vocabulary words, and his pronunciation.
It was almost impossible for me to understand him—which is a delicate thing to tell a proud language learner who considers themselves proficient.
Instead of criticizing him with a response like:
¿Qué dices? No se te entiende. Tu pronunciación es espantosa, tendremos que hacer algo con esto.
What are you saying? It’s impossible to understand what you’re saying. Your pronunciation is horrendous, we’ll have to do something about it.
I chose to motivate him to feel good about the level he’s reached on his own and what he needs to do to get to the next level.
¡Wow! Me impresiona que tan lejos has llegado por tu cuenta. Tu gramática es excelente y tu vocabulario muy amplio. Ahora tenemos que concentrarnos en la pronunciación para mejorar tu expresión oral. Así seguirás mejorando.
Wow! I’m amazed at how far you’ve come on your own. Your grammar is excellent and your vocabulary is very broad. Now, we have to focus on pronunciation to improve your speaking. This way, you´ll continue to improve.
The Sandwich Feedback
Have you ever needed to say something negative about your team member or student’s performance but you didn’t know how?
Well, you’re not the first one with this dilemma, and various experts recommend the Sandwich technique.
What does it mean?
Well, basically you wrap bad things with good ones. So you say something positive, then you throw in all the negative stuff, and you finish again on the bright side.
While it’s easy to say, it’s not always easy to do.
Imagine you have an employee who’s always late to work. Of course, it’s unacceptable and you must do something to change their behavior. You could say:
Juan, si llegas tarde al trabajo un día más, considérate despedido.
Juan, if you’re late for work one more day, consider yourself fired.
But you will definitely get better results and keep a valuable worker if you consider giving the message in a different way:
Juan, me encanta tenerte en mi equipo. Tus análisis son siempre acertados y muy útiles. Para que uses todo tu potencial, me gustaría que llegarás más temprano a la oficina, así tendrás aún más tiempo para hacer tu trabajo con calma y así siempre podremos terminar los proyectos a tiempo. Por otro lado, me gustaría que le enseñaras a María cómo incluir animaciones en las presentaciones. Tú lo haces muy bien y le puedes ayudar mucho.
Juan, I love having you on my team. Your analyses are always accurate and very useful. In order for you to use your full potential, I would like you to arrive at the office earlier so that you´ll have more time to calmly do your work and thus we can always finish projects on time. On the other hand, I would like you to teach Maria how to include animations in presentations. You do it very well and you can help her a lot.
Did you see what I did there?
By praising Juan first on what he does well, and by emphasizing some of his talents, I made him more receptive to receive negative feedback.
Expressions to Provide Feedback in Spanish
Last and not least, let’s have a look at some expressions you can include in your feedback in Spanish. Remember to use the tips I mentioned earlier to create balanced and precise feedback.
Sabía que lo lograrías
I knew you would make it.
¿Has visto? Todo tu esfuerzo ha merecido la pena.
You’ve seen? All your effort has been worth it.
Algo que realmente aprecio de ti es…
Something I really appreciate about you is…
Creo que hiciste un muy buen trabajo cuando…
I think you did a very good job when…
Realmente me gustaría verte hacer lo que hiciste en este proyecto en todo lo demás.
I would really like to see you do what you did in this project in everything else.
Creo que tienes una verdadera habilidad para…
I think you have a real ability to…
Una de las cosas que admiro sobre ti es…
One of the things I admire about you is…
Me impresionaste cuando..
I was impressed when…
Me gustaría que mejorarás…
I would like you to improve…
Tú área de oportunidad es…
Your area of opportunity is…
Todavía tienes que trabajar en…
You still need to work on…
For example, you can tell your employee:
¡Felicidades! Creo que hiciste muy buen trabajo cuando explicaste a los clientes las ventajas de este tipo de promoción, eso demuestra tu verdadera habilidad para convencer a los demás sobre tus ideas. Todavía tienes que trabajar en tu lenguaje corporal y dejar de jugar con tu cabello durante las presentaciones pero no dudo que lo lograrás. ¡Buen trabajo!
Did you get it all?
“Congratulations! I think you did a very good job when you explained to the clients the advantages of this type of promotion. It shows your true ability to convince others about your ideas. You still have to work on your body language and stop fiddling with your hair during presentations but I have no doubt that you´ll get there. Nice job!”
If you´re a student you can tell your teacher:
Profesor, lo que realmente aprecio de usted es el tiempo que le dedica usted a la preparación de las clases. Me gustaría que nos diera más oportunidades de hablar para que podamos practicar todo lo que aprendemos aquí.
Professor, what I really appreciate about you is the time you dedicate to class preparation. I would like you to give us more opportunities to speak so that we can practice everything we learn here.
And now it’s your turn! What do you think about this article? What kind of feedback in Spanish would you give me? Leave me a note in the comments below!
You’re an expert now in how to give feedback in Spanish. You can start making imaginary comments on your employees’ or students’ performance or you can sign up for a free class with one of our friendly native speakers from Guatemala and practice providing constructive feedback in Spanish in the situations you need most!
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