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With the world more connected than ever before, there are a lot of opportunities to study, work and live anywhere in the world. The thing is, if you’re going to study, work or life in a foreign country then you might well be pressed to learn and write in the language spoken there.
To be sure, that’s intimidating. It’s already hard enough to write in our own language. How much worse will it be to write in one we haven’t spoken since we were children? Quite, it turns out. For that reason, I’m here to help. Here are some of the ways that you can learn how to master writing in this way – as well overcome the fear of writing in a foreign language.
Being a perfectionist, it turns out, isn’t a good life choice. So, don’t go down that road. The first thing that you’re going to have to do is accept that when you first start to write in a foreign language, you’re going to struggle, make mistakes and not be able to express yourself. That’s simply unavoidable.
For that reason, the first thing you have to do is stop expecting yourself to write perfect essays. That’s both not realistic and – more importantly – isn’t going to help you master this art.
Instead, you have to see the mistakes you’re going to make not as problems, but as learning opportunities. Every mistake you make and that is corrected for you, gives you another opportunity to learn the intricacies of the language.
So, the trick isn’t not to make mistakes. The trick is to make sure that you make one type of mistakes as few times as possible by learning from it.
The quickest way to learn something is to get feedback quickly and often. Fortunately, today that’s easier than it was than ever before. Get one of the many different grammar and spell check programs out there and have it auto-check what you’re writing as you’re writing it. That will give you direct feedback as you’re making the mistake. And that, as many language teachers know, is incredibly useful and the quickest way to stop making that mistake.
Of course, if you can afford it you should consider actually sitting down with a tutor, as they won’t just tell you what you’re doing wrong but can actually explain why it’s a mistake. But online apps make a good alternative if that’s not in your budget.
If you’re finding that the constant searching for words is making it really hard to actually make progress with the essay that you’re meant to write, then consider writing it in your first language and then translating it into a foreign language.
Yes, this will require you to write the essay twice, but though it requires more writing, it can still be easier in the long run. After all, you’re splitting the actual writing of the ideas and the searching for the words into two separate sections.
As an added bonus, when you’ve translated into a foreign language, you still have the original essay which you can refer back to. This can be useful if you then sit down with that tutor I mentioned above, as they can show you how you would have translated statements more accurately.
If you’re taking a course or a class and somebody is critiquing your essay, make sure that they pay attention to what they actually say. The best strategy is to take what they’ve said and rewrite the essay using their advice. That’s a fantastic learning opportunity.
Perhaps the teacher will give your essay a second look after you’ve gone through it again. You can always ask them to. As long as you don’t expect it to affect the grade, a lot of teachers will be both impressed and eager to help. I mean, how many people show that kind of enthusiasm, right?
One of the biggest problems that you’re going to have in a language that is not your own is growing your vocabulary. After all, children are putting words into their heads at an astounding rate of six to 12 words a day. And they’re doing that right from the beginning.
So, if you ever want to catch up with a native speaker, you’re going to have to go out of your way to learn words at a very fast rate. The best way, by far, to do that is to read. This can be anything from a newspaper to books.
Some people will tell you that you should read with a dictionary by your side and look up every word you don’t know. If you enjoy doing that, that’s great. The thing is, for many people this makes reading unbearable.
For that reason, it might be better to not look up every word and instead try and learn things from context. That’s how most of us learn the meaning of new words anyway.
The problem with learning another language is that the hardest part is the beginning, where you can’t yet express yourself and you can’t yet understand the people around you. If you can get past that, you’ll find that it gets both easier to remember the individual words as well as to get into situations where you can use the language.
So, whenever you find yourself thinking, ‘this is impossible’ just remember that this probably the most difficult stage you’re at. It will get easier going forward. Cling to that for dear life and press onwards. Before you know it, you’ll have mastered writing essays in a new language and received all the extra benefits besides.