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6 Ways of Becoming a Better Writer in Your Target Language

Content 6 ways of becoming a better writer in your target language

A lot of the time, when people start learning a new language, they’ll focus primarily on their speaking skills. And that’s completely understandable. After all, language is first and foremost a medium of communication and what’s more direct than talking to another individual in their native tongue? But, in today’s world, where so much of interaction happens through text (just think emails, Facebook chat, or WhatsApp), good writing skills are almost equally important. And that’s especially true in the workplace, where written communication makes up most of the average day.

So, even if you’ve so far neglected your writing skills, read this post to finally become a better writer in your target language.

1. Start by reading

An excellent way of becoming a better writer is to first start by reading what other people have written before you. While books, magazines, and publications of every sort are your best friends, it’s especially good to focus on the type of material you want to eventually get very good at. If business is your cup of tea, read professional publications in your field, for creative writing, grab any piece of fiction, for informal writing, try to focus on contemporary literature and Internet forums.

Focusing primarily on just a couple of types of literature will help you hone in on the style of language you want to start using. Getting a hang of your industry jargon is fairly important to sounding professional, while contemporary sources, as opposed to reading Goethe or Dickens, will show you how the language is actually used today. So, find the sources that can provide you with the input necessary to learn those skills.

2. Join online chat rooms or forums

It’s equally important to learn how your target language is actually used by native speakers. For that purpose, online chat rooms and forums are an excellent source. You can start with platforms dedicated solely to those trying to improve their language skills. Participants in those groups are usually helpful and encouraging in your quest for writing excellence.

As the next logical step, you should look into joining chat rooms or forums visited primarily by the native speakers of your target language. By this point, you should be very certain of yourself in terms of grammar. You definitely won’t pick up too many useful grammar rules in online forums but, what they lack in formal writing, they make up in true-to-life language - an equally important lesson in this stage of your language learning.

And, again, focus on the type and topic of chat rooms what you find most useful. It’s important to keep yourself engaged in the discussion to keep practising your writing skills.

3. Write by hand

Writing by hand is a dying art in this day and age. Most of us definitely feel more at home behind a keyboard than clutching a pen. But, for the benefit of your second language writing skills, going back to pen and paper is a much better idea.

Not only will you lose the auto-correct function of your laptop, demanding you to pay more attention to how you write, the muscle memory of actually dragging the lines over a piece of paper will help you become more attuned to your target language. As a bonus point, it might just make you smarter in general.

4. In the beginning, less is more

At least when you’re just starting out your writing practice, it’s much more important to focus on getting it right instead of trying to set the world record of words written a day. Pay special attention to grammar, style, and structure of your text. All the while keeping your end-goal in mind. Write a few sentences a day, but try to get them as good as you possibly can. Make sure your grammar is up to scratch, try different wordings, play around with synonyms, and rearrange the sentences if you can.

After you’ve become very comfortable with your daily piece of writing, start increasing the volume. But always, always keep the focus on quality over quantity. Keep the increments increasing at a manageable pace, so that you have time to focus on what really matters - improving your writing skills.

5. Get feedback

Once you’ve got your writing to what you feel is the best version, approach a native speaker and get feedback on your work. This is a vital step in your process and the secret to constantly improving. Even if you’re at a high level of proficiency, a native speaker can point out anything that seems out of tune or recommend a colloquial expression that will take your writing to the next level.  Of course, you’d need to find someone with special training in this area. Not all native speakers make good teachers, so be sure to look for one with actual credentials in your target language.

At lower levels, however, just someone with a good command of your target language can help you. Remember those online groups or chat rooms you were supposed to join? Chances are you’ll find someone there to help correct your writing if you ask nicely. But once you’ve taken off the training wheels, you’ll probably need to get a professional teacher or proofreader to help you out.

6. Do something every day

As with almost every skill you want to acquire, good writing takes time and practice. That’s why it’s important to keep at it every day. Not only will you create good learning habits with this type of deliberate practice, having it on your daily schedule will help keep writing at the forefront of your mind. As with most language learning related activities, this is the true path to success. It might not be as quick as you’d like, but dedicated effort every day will get you farther in the long run.

Of course, it’s not really thinkable for most of us to take a couple of hours to sit down and practise writing, but you can always find tiny snippets in your day to dedicate to your goal. For example, you can listen to audiobooks on your commute, keep a journal at hand to jot down notes or tinker with your writing, and think in your target language. These are really only some of the tiny adjustments you can make to really start seeing improvements in your writing skills.

Conclusion

As with every other language skill, writing is a matter of practice. You need to stick to it every day to see improvement in the long run. It doesn’t only come down to doing something, but rather what and how you practice. For good writing skills, you need first to master grammar and then get to actually writing the types of texts you need. Pay a lot of attention to details and how you can improve your writing, instead of going for quantity. To support that, also keep up with your reading in the topics that interest you. Last but not least, always ask native speakers for corrections and feedback on your writing. They can give you tips you might not have even thought of and really help you become a better writer in your target language.

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This guest post was written by Liisi, a passionate language learner and teacher. Liisi has been learning a language or two since she was 4 and shows no signs of stopping. She also co-founded a website that helps people like her connect to private language teachers quickly and easily.