Nowadays, learning a foreign language is a necessity. There could be many reasons. You may want to add it to your resume, communicate with foreign friends, or just simply challenge yourself. You probably already picked a couple of apps and started a few lessons to teach yourself. But aren’t you forgetting something? That’s right – writing!
Writing is one of the best ways to practice communicating in your foreign language. And it’s a skill you need to improve on if you want to truly master it. Whether it’s an email, chat message, a response to an online forum, or an entire essay or business plan, you will have to get things right. The question is: How does one even start to master writing in a foreign language?
Well, you’ll have to practice a LOT. Eventually, you’ll be able to write like a pro and communicate with native speakers with much ease. But for now, here are 7 sure-fire ways to improve your writing skills in a foreign language.
Read, read, read!
Just like how the young ones learn their first words from listening, you should also learn to read in a language before you can write it. Remember the magic words: To become a writer, you must think like a writer.
Reading in a foreign language allows you to become familiar with it. This also lets you expand your vocabulary, learn grammar, and get grips with the style before you even study writing. It’s basically a way to learn, except you don’t realize you’re already learning.
The key is to read as many different types of content in your foreign language. This could be anything from novels and magazines, to brochures and academic papers. This way, you’ll take in a broader perspective of the language.
Pay close attention to grammar
Writing well in your foreign language means having impeccable grammar. When speaking, it’s quite easy to slur declensions (there are many languages where native speakers do just that), which tends to hide grammatical mistakes.
But with writing, everything is black-and-white on paper – there’s just no way to hide less-than-ideal grammar. So to become a skilled writer in a foreign language, you need to have a good grasp of grammar rules.
Get a native speaker to review your written piece
When writing, it’s always helpful to get someone else to critique your work. Even when writing in your native tongue, it’s easy to commit mistakes and write things that sound a bit off, as the written word may sound different to spoken language.
So when you’re still trying to improve your writing skills in a foreign language, consider asking a native speaker to review it for you. They’ll be quick to spot errors and help you correct those you may not have noticed.
Can’t find someone to look into your work? There are plenty of online services you can turn to for help. The best writers services have professionals to help you review and edit your work in your foreign language, especially if you’re dealing with an academic paper.
K.I.S.S. (Keep It Short and Simple)
Assuming you’ve already built a steady foundation, it’s time to start writing! But how should you even get started?
It’s quite simple: Try to keep your piece short and simple. Begin by writing informal pieces that are not meant to be read by others (at least not yet). This way, you can concentrate on writing something you really want to work on – one that would keep you from getting discouraged.
Apply what you’ve learned about grammar rules to your writing, and then focus on one topic at a time. If you’re in need of inspiration, the Internet is a treasure trove of writing prompts to get you going. You can even look for prompts in English (or in your native language) which you can then translate to your foreign language.
Slow and steady wins the race. It’s perfectly fine to think big, but it’s better to start small when it comes to writing.
Write with style
Writing well in your foreign language doesn’t just end with mastering spelling and grammar, and proofreading your piece for errors. You also need to learn how to outline your work, write compelling introductions and conclusions, write simply yet concisely, and many more.
My advice is simple: Read lots of writing craft books and articles on writing to learn how to write with flair. Remember that practice makes perfect. This advice applies to both your chosen foreign language and your native language.
Be active in writing forums and communities
There are hundreds of thousands of forums and communities on the Internet, and they’re great places to get engaged in learning your foreign language through written communication.
Selectively hunt for communities that feel welcoming and friendly to you, and get involved. With a supportive community, you’re free to express yourself, and the members will offer constructive criticism whenever you need it.
Last but not the least, it’s important to remember that learning is not a race. Patience makes perfect, especially when it comes to learning to write in a foreign language.
For many learners, writing is often the most difficult skill to master. Keep improving your reading, listening, and speaking skills, start small and short, and work your way up to writing. Consistency is key!
Don’t get discouraged and learn to be patient with yourself. Instead of losing faith in your abilities, focus on the incredible and rewarding process of learning a new language and all the amazing benefits that come with it. Eventually, those words will no longer be “unfamiliar” to you and you’ll be the one writing them!
These are just some practical, actionable tips on improving your writing skills in a foreign language. Writing means having to think about how to properly order and structure a language – an important skill you’ll need to both understand and communicate in a foreign language. Make sure to give these tips a shot, and be amazed at how quickly you’ll improve!
Carol Duke is very keen on teaching students new, effective ways of learning. When not freelancing and blogging on education-related matters, Carol enjoys traveling, taking immense pleasure from visiting new countries. You can follow her on Twitter.