So you added yet another foreign language tn the list of goals you want to reach? That’s great! You probably chose your favorite app and started following bite-sized lessons on a daily basis. Aren’t you forgetting something? Writing! Writing in a foreign language is an aspect you have to improve if you want to truly master it.
Chances are, you didn’t choose to learn a random language out of momentary inspiration. You intend to use it in some way. So, you’ll definitely find yourself in a situation when you’ll have to do some writing in a foreign language you're learning.
Whether it’s an email, response to a forum thread, or an entire academic paper or business proposal, you’ll need to get things right.
The question is: how do you master writing in a foreign language? What if you haven’t developed good writing skills in your own language? Is this goal still within reach?
Yes. You’ll have to practice a lot, but you’ll make it. Here are five steps that will lead you to success when writing in a foreign language.
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1. Find the Right Mindset: It’s a Process
Keep reminding yourself that you won’t achieve perfect writing skills overnight, especially when it's writing in a foreign language we’re talking about.
This will be a long, challenging process. If you make a long-term commitment to an organized writing practice, you’ll keep seeing progress.
Researchers from Saint Xavier University, Chicago, Illinois, found that the organizational skills had a massive impact on a student’s capacity to complete homework and receive good grades. It’s clear: people’s organizational skills are a crucial factor in any learning process.
How do you get into the right mindset? Understand that this process will take time, and organize your days in a way that allows you to commit to it. Practice writing daily! When writing in a foreign language becomes a habit, you’ll know you’re on the right track.
2. Read More
Find the best works of literature written in your target language. You can push things further: list your favorite books in your native language and find translations in the language you’re learning. You’ll notice how the translation is not obvious.
That will teach you a valuable lesson in writing in a foreign language. You don’t think in your native language and try to translate the thoughts. Instead, try to think about the meaning and you'll find the best way to express it in the foreign language.
Don’t limit your reading practice to books. Read daily news, blog posts, articles, and other types of high-quality content in the language of your choice. When you see writing in a foreign language in its best form, you’ll be closer to achieving good results with your own words.
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3. Get Some Feedback
Lauren Daniels, a professional writer from Best Essays, explains why no one likes getting feedback on their writing in a foreign language:
“When someone indicates a mistake in your writing, they shake up your self-confidence. You were sure you got it right. You checked and you edited. You didn’t expect mistakes. That’s why people are so stressed out when waiting for a native speaker to evaluate their writing.”
Does this mean you should just write for yourself? Absolutely not! You’ll gain solid writing skills only when you’re ready to make improvements. You’ll show you’re prepared when you ask for corrections and you accept them.
You can always connect with native speakers and ask them to correct your writing in a foreign language, or you can hire a professional editing service if you’re working on something really important.
4. Keep Working on Your Grammar
The popularity of “techspeak” can make you think that no one cares about grammar anymore. But Kyle Wiens, founder of iFixit, wrote a great article for Harvard Business Review, explaining how important grammar is, especially when writing in a foreign language.
“Everyone who applies for a position at either of my companies, iFixit or Dozuki, takes a mandatory grammar test. Extenuating circumstances aside (dyslexia, English language learners, etc.), if job hopefuls can’t distinguish between 'to' and 'too,' their applications go into the bin.”
When you’re communicating with someone in writing, a lack of proper grammar leads to a negative impression. Mastering the grammar of a foreign language is a never-ending process.
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5. Understand Style When Writing in a Foreign Language
The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. is a classic guide on proper writing. These rules are applicable to writing in any language. Get the book, read it, and implement its tips into your practice. There are three main rules to follow:
- Get rid of unnecessary words
- Avoid passive voice
- Use parallel construction
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, it is simple! The simpler your writing style is, the more readable your content will be. When you’re writing in a foreign language, you’re showing off with the new big words you just learned. Don’t do that. Stick to simple language and the communication will flow naturally.
Most people don’t like completing assignments when they attend a language learning course. And writing in a foreign language is often the hardest part of all.
But, developing strong writing skills is an important part of the process. When you set your own goals and you commit to the writing practice, you’ll see great progress really soon.
Are you learning a new language? How do you like writing in a foreign language? Let us know some of the tips and tricks you use to help you perfect your style!
Karen Dikson is a tech-savvy teacher and creative writer from New Jersey. Her works have been published on HuffPost and other well-known resources. She enjoys helping her students achieve their most ambitious goals. Connect with Karen on Twitter.