Improving your writing in another language that is not your mother tongue (unless you are bilingual from birth) is daunting. Here are a few ways to improve your writing in another language. But I warn you! It’s not something that you can do overnight. Improvement takes time and dedication.
Just like when you are learning to ride a bike or to play tennis unless you get out there and start pedaling or pick up a racquet and ball you are never going to improve. We have to make mistakes to start to improve on them. Learning English is the same. Start writing. It could be writing emails, a diary, a blog, short stories or songs. Don’t worry about making mistakes, just by practicing you will improve.
A perfect and relatively pain-free way to improve your vocabulary is by reading. It could be novels, newspapers, magazines, recipes or film reviews. Choose something to your level though. If you are a beginner and you try to read the Financial Times you will probably last 5 minutes before you give up. The BBC has some great resources for reading, listening, watching and some even come with activities.
Yes, I know. For most of us, grammar is possibly the least ‘fun’ part of learning a language but it’s very important when writing. Poor grammar in writing may give a feeling of a uneducatedness or you may sound less convincing.
Lower level learners should study grammar basics prior to attempting to write complicated projects. Grammar Monster is a good basic website to help you but there are many more. My bible of English grammar is English Grammar in Use. I use it with nearly all of my students. It’s clear, concise and has activities related to each grammar topic. There is an intermediate and advanced book but would recommend the intermediate for advanced students. Proficient students that absolutely love grammar should go for the advanced book (in my opinion).
Try to avoid directly translating from your native language. This is nearly impossible for lower level learners but for intermediate and advanced learners this is possible and it’s an excellent way to help you to stop doing direct translation when speaking (very common).
Write from the heart
Nothing is more convincing than reading something and getting the feeling that the author is writing from the heart. There are so many writing styles, you just have to find your own. If you are writing for a scientific journal there might not be much room for personal expression and feeling but if you are writing on a topic you really enjoy, it can make writing not only enjoyable but also a way of improving.
I hope these tips help to guide you towards better writing in your second language.
If you are asking yourself if it is really worth all the hard work have a look at my previous piece ‘Learning a language: is it really worth it?’.