5 Steps to becoming a better writer in your second language

In writing, like in speaking, it’s important to distinguish between fluency and accuracy. Usually the biggest problem that learners have with respect to writing skills is a lack of fluency, not accuracy. For example, writing a short semi-formal email can take hours because you’re just not used to writing. The problem is not so much the grammar and syntax, but the vocabulary and lack of experience writing.

Here are 5 easy steps that you can take to improve your writing fluency (and accuracy).

road_8_grandeStep 1: Create a written plan
If you really want to improve your writing, before you start you need to create a plan. And it’s very important to write down your plan. It can be something simple like “for the next 30 days I will write in my journal for at least five minutes per day.”

There’s a good article about setting objectives in Forbes magazine: Why you should be writing down your goals.

Step 2: Write in a journal every day
Practice every day (or almost every day). I recommend writing a daily journal. This can be done in a traditional paper journal or you can write your journal in a Word document on your computer or your tablet.

You should write for a minimum of 5 minutes each day, and not worry too much about grammar. The objective here is to build up writing fluency (=quantity), not writing accuracy (=quality). That’s not to say you shouldn’t try to write accurately, but the quantity should have priority over the quality, at least at first.

Step 3: Incorporate new vocabulary into your writing
Many times students spend time “learning” vocabulary, but they forget to incorporate these new words into their production (speaking and writing) so their vocabulary knowledge doesn’t actually increase. You should incorporate new words into your writing in any way possible; even if they are “crazy” ways. If you have fun with this, it will work better.

Read Use it or Lose it if you want to learn more tips about increasing your vocabulary knowledge

Step 4: Get your writing corrected
The above activities will improve writing fluency (=quantity), but you will also want to have your writing corrected from time to time; that way you will become aware of any serious errors that you might be making and be able to correct them in future journal entries.

If you are currently studying a foreign language formally, you should ask your teacher to correct some of your journal entries. Ask them to only correct the more serious errors. If you do not currently have access to a teacher, you might want to try the website Lang-8.It provides a platform for native speakers of different languages to correct non-native learners’ writing. Simply write something and post it on the platform and a native speaker will correct it for you.

What do you have to do in return? Correct someone else’s writing in your native language.

Step 5: Revise past writing
A great way to see your progress is to go back to journal entries you wrote one, two or three months ago. You will be able to perceive your improvement, which will further motivate you to continue to improve.

When you revise past entries, don’t be afraid to make corrections or changes. Writing is a process and going back and correcting/changing your work is a healthy way to improve and become aware of your weaknesses and strengths.

It’s time to put pen to paper! 🙂