It may be that you need to pen emails or documents in a language that is not your native one as part of your job, or you are simply trying to master another language for your own interest, with writing an important part of that process. Whatever the motivation, writing in your non-native language is a tricky skill to learn, and requires a huge amount of practice. Indeed, think about how writing in your own language is an ability that many have failed to master. Even more importantly, think about all the time and effort that goes in to writing what is required in your mother tongue. Think of all the thought that goes into it, especially when it is a subject that you are not so comfortable with. The challenge when writing in another language is exacerbated due to your relative unfamiliarity with the language. Although time is needed, these five steps will help you get to wherever you want to be with your writing in a foreign language.
Read in that language
“So many students have asked me down the years how they can improve in their foreign language skill, and the first question I ask them is ‘Do you read in that language?’ Reading really is the gateway to improvement because by involving yourself in that activity you are becoming increasingly familiar with the structure of sentences and the common habits of writing in that language that may differ from your own. Learning to write in another language and neglecting reading is akin to learning the guitar when you never listen to music,” advises Kirk Saunders, an educator at Via Writing and Academadvisor.
Read as much as you can, and try to make the subject matter as enjoyable as possible so it is something you derive pleasure from doing. If it’s a chore, you will do anything in your power not to do it, therefore stalling your progress.
Grammar is the basic building blocks of a language, and grammar is different in ever language. What everybody does when they attempt to start learning a new language is they directly translate from their mother tongue, and this creates all manner of mistakes because that doesn’t factor in the change in structure that a new language involves. If you want to write cohesively in another language, you need simple grammar which will help you build your sentences in the right way.
Keep it simple
People quickly get frustrated with a new language because they just cannot do what they can do with their native language, and do it quickly. Patience is a virtue here, but so is keeping it simple. Long-winded, complex sentences simply increase the likelihood of making mistakes, so keep the subject simple and write shorter sentences that get immediately to the point. Walk before you run, as they say.
From hiring a personal tutor to attending night classes, from completing an online course to using online writing tools, there is a plethora of help available when learning and mastering a new language, but you need to be smart about how and when you use this help.
“In the case of writing, ask professionals or native speakers to review your work and make suggestion regarding where you can make improvements. Using native speaker sis a little risky because that doesn’t take into consideration whether they are accomplished at understanding and teaching your own language. Just because you speak English, does that mean you inherently understand it and could explain it to others,” warns Regina Goldman, a teacher at Let’s Go And Learn and My Writing Way.
It’s amazing how many native speakers do not fully understand punctuation in their own language – the prevalence of instant messaging applications is only making the situation worse. Punctuation forms an integral part of the written word because it connects ideas. If you are failing to use punctuation properly, at best your writing will be hard to read, and at worst it will be unintelligible. Learn the simple punctuation rules involving commas and periods, (don’t worry too much about colons and semi-colons, for example, at the beginning) and practice framing simple sentences using that punctuation. Reading, of course, will help here again as you will see the punctuation in action.