Learning a new language is a great way to boost your career prospects, explore new cultures, and to expand your mind positively. Perhaps your are part of a multinational team, and you need to communicate with team members in a language other than your native tongue.
When you are learning a foreign language, one of the essential steps in the process is learning to write well in that language.
Importance of Writing in a Foreign Language
Writing in a foreign language is important not only to master the language, but also to communicate effectively.
In this age of video chats and instant messages, writing an effective email is still the gold standard of formal communication. You cannot afford to make mistakes that garble your message, confuse your readers, expose you to lawsuits, or embarrass you.
Above all, it is always important to convey your thoughts accurately and clearly, even if you are writing in a foreign language.
How to Master Writing in a Foreign Language in 6 Steps
Does learning to write in a foreign language seem like a challenge to you?
Well, think of it this way: you have already learned and mastered at least one language – your native tongue. Agreed, you have practiced it endlessly since your birth, but the rules of the game remain pretty much the same.
We have distilled this process of learning in the following six steps:
- Read A Lot
Well begun is half done. And when you want to write expertly is a foreign language, reading in the language is the starting point.
The most accomplished writers in any language also read a lot. In fact, they read a lot more than they eventually write. Learn from the best – read as much as possible in the language you want to learn.
Reading makes you familiar with the structure of the language. You will learn the expressions, the colloquialisms, the idioms, and of course, the vocabulary. Use a translation dictionary for quick reference.
Read different things – find classic novels, magazines, modern writing, blogs, forums, and even social media websites popular with the speakers of the language (e.g., Weibo in China). Exposing yourself to different types of content will improve your comprehension skills.
- Master The Grammar
Grammar is the foundation, the bedrock of any language. Can you build an edifice on a weak foundation No.
Similarly, you will need to master the grammar before you can begin to write credibly in the language. The grammar defines the structure of any language – how the different elements of the language are arranged.
Once you have a solid understanding of the grammar, it becomes a question of finding the right words, and putting them in the right places.
Usually, for new students of any language, grammar is the ‘unglamorous’ part of learning. But remember this, solid knowledge of grammar will build up your writing skills effectively – there are no shortcuts there.
Learn the grammar, do the exercises, remember the corrections – you will win grammar sooner than your think.
- Start Simple
Before you start running, you have to learn to walk. Even when you are learning to write in a foreign language, start small and simple, and build it up from there.
Start with simple compositions, with simple sentences and easy words. The best way to achieve this is by writing on familiar subjects, like yourself, or your family. Write about a family trip to the beach, or write a small composition on your favorite pet. Another good exercise could be to write on your daily routine, or a regular task that you do.
Writing on simple and familiar topics keeps your effort focused, and improves the quality of your writing. You focus on getting the basics right before you take up more complex exercises that need abstract thinking.
- Learn Specialized Styles of Writing
If you are into physical fitness and exercises (and you should be), you will understand the need to exercise different muscle groups and cross train for best results. In learning to write in a foreign language, an analogy would be to learn specialized styles of writing.
For example, you could attempt writing professional emails, letters, career documents, and short stories, and formal documents like academic papers and business reports.
This way, you would learn to use the correct vocabulary and phrases for a particular style of writing. Actual usage in a practical situation will build up your writing skills, and varying it in different styles will improve your usage.
- Use Suitable Tools
Use different tools that can leverage and complement your efforts in learning a new language. Fortunately, there are several technology-based tools that can boost your learning process.
Learning through flash cards is a proven method to learn and memorize anything. Quizlet is a leading website that provides flashcards and learning tools – for free.
You will find plenty of high-quality flashcards and study sets on the website. For example, explore this study set for learning German.
Duolingo is one of the most popular language learning apps. The best feature of the app is its gamified approach to learning, with easy and effective exercises.
Pimsleur uses an audio-based approach to language learning, with a focus on sound exercise and actual speaking of the words. It is useful if you are looking to master the spoken language.
- Find a Guide
No learning aid or app can ever replace the need of a good teacher. A native speaker will catch your mistakes quickly, and guide you naturally on the nuances and finer points in mastering a language.
If it is difficult or impractical to find a language coach in your neighborhood, technology can help you. There are some good quality mobile apps and websites that can help you learn languages online.
Writing in a foreign language is the best learning exercise, and the results can be quite rewarding. Nothing quite improves your ability to master a language than writing it accurately and clearly. With just a little effort, the above six steps will help you improve your foreign language writing skills, develop fluency, and communicate better.