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Improving your Foreign Language Writing Skills

There are many learners of English as a foreign language who manage to communicate with English speakers face to face, but are unable to write well.

When you speak to a person, you can help yourself with gestures and try to work your way around the unknown words. People will understand you even if you don't have a good grasp of grammar. With writing, it's a lot harder. You can overcome the hardships with our advice on how to improve writing skills.

The tips we give you are written with English in mind, but if you're wondering how to write in French, or need Spanish writing practice, they're good as well. The only problem you may have is finding people to talk to.

Improve your English writing skills
Image: courtesy of Pexels

Understand the value of failure
Many ESL students are paranoid of making a mistake. Making mistakes is "not right," or so they fear.

Think about how you learned language as a kid. You didn't learn grammar to the point of perfection before saying anything. What you did is you tried to imitate the speech you heard. And you made mistakes, lots of them. You can't learn anything without making a mistake. Try to change your attitude to making mistakes. It's not a failure, it's an opportunity to learn!

If you're just starting to learn a foreign language, you're going to make tons of mistakes at first. Your sentences will come out very weird and completely against the rules of grammar. You're going to improve as you go. But only if you don't feel terrified of making a mistake.

Read a lot
The first rule of learning a language is you can't learn to produce language until you learn to consume it. In other words, you can't start writing without reading extensively.

Sure, you can be able to create simplistic sentences in the context of your textbook, but that's not what writing means. Textbook exercises are great for developing certain aspects of writing. For instance, they're ideal for drilling a specific rule.

However, to be able to write on a variety of topics, you have to read a lot. What you read matters as well. You may help your writing a lot by just reading one huge novel. There are enough words in an average novel to make for your entire vocabulary. However, if the novel is not a contemporary one, you may not be getting the best vocabulary.

Reading news articles gives you an insight into the language that people actually speak nowadays. They're small too, so you don't have to strain your willpower by trying to read a huge volume in a foreign language. If you want to learn a bit of slang, read the comments section to the articles you read.

Implement new grammar structures
You're going to see new grammatic patterns every time you read anything. The more advanced the medium you read, the more difficult these patterns are going to become. You can't skip over them. Just reading passively isn't enough to make your writing better.

Whenever you find a pattern that you've seen a couple of times already, you have to work with it. Write it down, analyze it, create your own sentences with it. As you progress, you can start noting the patterns that you only see once. This is because you should have learned the basic ones by this time.

One of the common ways to do this is starting a diary. Write about your thoughts and experiences in the language you're learning. It's good both for your personal development and for studies.

Think, don't translate
This is probably the hardest part for many people to come to terms with. Here's how most ESL learners would start out speaking and writing. They come up with a sentence in their own language and then try to translate it. While it's a bit harsh to say that this is wrong, it's counterproductive at best. You can't do this when speaking, because you would stop for a minute to remember a word you need.

With writing, it's easy. You have to make an effort to stop doing it. Try to think in the foreign language. The sentences you come up with will be simple at first, but it's okay. The main thing is that you're developing your thinking and the ability to construct sentences. Also, thinking in a foreign language is good for you.

Start small
Sure, you can be terrible at first and may have to pay to have a research paper written. This should not stop you from practicing.

Start with the very basic structures. Try to explain the topic you're writing about with the simple words and grammar before going on. You will fail at basic grammar at first, and misspell words, but it's okay. You should know now that making mistakes is good for you.

Go bold
As you progress with writing don't be shy about experimenting with the difficult grammar structures and patterns. Some teachers advise against it and try to make you produce simple but correct utterances.

However, you can't make progress unless you're trying to leave the comfort zone and enter the learning zone. You can experiment with posh and cool sounding dry sentences like this:
Unbeknownst to the researchers, their paper was subject to an investigation from authorities.

You may make an error while trying to spell the word that introduces a conditional clause, or use the phrase "to be subject to" incorrectly at first. However, stepping out of the linguistic comfort zone will help you grow. Your college research essays will become better as well.

Analyze mistakes
Your writing is worthless unless you make an effort to correct your mistakes. When you look back on your writing, you're going to see how primitive it was. That's not something to be upset with. If you do see how bad you were, this means you're way better at writing now.

Another way of analyzing mistakes is peer review. Develop an essay from a research paper sample and have it checked by your friends. If you know a native speaker who'll help you out, it's even better.

Join a chat
The best way to learn the way ordinary people talk in your target language is by joining a chat or an online community. There are millions of small groups that discuss topics you are passionate about on the web. Join one of them and take part in a discussion!

You may feel humbled by their level of language at first, but as soon as you become a part of the group you'll find you're welcome there.