This is for a handout to parents of a special education class. They speak no English, and the teacher speaks no Spanish. Thus general partial stock phrases are provided on the sheet and she translates only the activity needed.

In English the sheet would say:

I need to work on __.

In Spanish, would it work to say:

Necesito trabajar en __.

Keep in mind that it must be neutral and work for a variety of activities. Is the way 'en' refer to an activity equivalent to the English 'on'? Would another verb be better suited, such as 'practicar'?

  • It's ok for me. "Practicar" is a litle less general ("to practice").
    – leonbloy
    Aug 23 '13 at 18:01
  • Interesting. I always considered en to be like in. But the only other similar word I can think of would be sobre. Not a native Spanish speaker though, so I'm interested to see what others say about this!
    – WendiKidd
    Aug 23 '13 at 21:21
  • @WendiKidd "en" can mean "in" or "on" depending on context (in fact this is often a point of confusion for native Spanish speakers speaking English). For example, "ponlo en la mesa" = "put it on the table". You wouldn't say "ponlo sobre la mesa" for something like a bowl or plate.
    – neizan
    Aug 24 '13 at 10:10
  • @Meep it would help if you gave a few examples of the activities.
    – neizan
    Aug 24 '13 at 10:13
  • "...to work on..." could mean to improve or to practice so it may be better to use the appropriate one.
    – BrianA
    Aug 24 '13 at 15:24

Here is an answer from a Spaniard from Spain, which doesn't mean mine is better than the rest. However, I can tell from my experience that...

When you want to use the verb "trabajar" meaning "to improve" or "to practice" you can use it with "en", "sobre" and "con". For instance, "necesito trabajar en ello" = "necesito trabajar sobre ello" = "necesito trabajar con ello". The word "ello" could be substituted by what I need to improve or practice. It's very common to get rid of all these propositions when the object is clearly identified. For instance, I would say "necesito trabajar el temario para el próximo examen" rather than "necesito trabajar en/sobre/con el temario para el próximo examen".

  • Thanks, the possibility of dropping the proposition entirely does simplify it.
    – Meep
    Aug 26 '13 at 18:06

I'll show a few examples containing phrases with similar meaning to "I need to work on__".
None of the examples directly translate the word work.
It is implicit in some way. I boldfaced the cases:

Tengo que mejorar mis calificaciones.
Tengo que practicar más mi español.
Necesito esforzarme más en la dieta que estoy haciendo.
Debo tomarme más en serio las normas de etiqueta.
Debo prestar más atención a los reclamos de mi esposa.

  • Thank you. To go with Arturo's answer, a good general translation might be: "Tengo que practicar..." With no need for a proposition?
    – Meep
    Aug 26 '13 at 19:49
  • @Meep "Tengo que practicar mi español.": this is OK too. But it has less emphasis, I think. Anyway, I feel that is a good translation, also. (I am a native speaker spanish, so I can tell you what sounds good to me, or if the sense of the sentence seems to be mantained when I am hearing it).
    – pablo1977
    Aug 27 '13 at 5:04
  • Thanks! I think this will be a good solution then for a general fill in the blank format for a variety of actions then.
    – Meep
    Aug 28 '13 at 20:51

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