Writing in a foreign language to improve your language skills
“Have you ever taken the time to sit down and produce a piece of writing in a language other than your native one? It’s one of the best ways to get a better grasp on a foreign language!” The team at Regina Coeli explain how writing can help improve your language and speaking skills.
Writing is sometimes said to be a slow way of talking. It takes longer to put thoughts down in writing than it does to say them. When you put pen to paper, you actively think about the words you’re writing, about sentence structure and about if what you’ve written accurately conveys your message.
Writing improves your speaking skills, so even if you never need to write anything, grab a pen and paper anyway and start composing!
Positive effects of writing in a foreign language
If you write regularly, after a while, you’ll start noticing:
- Your grammatical accuracy will improve, also in conversations. You’ll get a feel for the structure of the language.
- The more you tap into your vocabulary, the faster you’ll recall words in conversations. Your vocabulary will grow as you look things up while writing.
- You’ll learn to better formulate your thoughts and substantiate your opinions.
Ideas for writing
So, writing is clearly useful when you’re learning a foreign language, but what in the world should you write? Well, you could try a few things:
If you're a beginner, keep it short!
If you’ve just started learning a language, write short sentences and messages - things like short emails, social media posts or WhatsApp messages. You don’t have to send or post what you’ve written, although it can be nice when people reply.
Give yourself writing assignments
Are certain grammar themes tricky for you? Then give yourself targeted tasks: write 10 sentences in the past continuous, write a formal letter politely requesting something, or write an argument which includes transitional words and phrases to make it clearly structured.
Book reviews are key
If your skills are already quite good, try writing a summary or a review of something you’ve read. Stick to the subject, but write it in your own words in the foreign language. Try drawing on the original text for vocabulary. You can also try to retell a story you’ve recently heard or read in your own words.
Keep a blog or a diary
Write blogs or keep a diary in a foreign language. You can also comment on any blogs you read. Write about subjects that interest you; it’s a great way to build vocabulary that you can also use in conversations.
Final hints and tips
There are certain things you can do to help improve your understanding of a language while writing. For example, try thinking in a foreign language while you’re writing in it. That way you won’t tie yourself in knots over the structure of the language. There’s nothing more difficult than trying to translate ideas word for word.
Reread and rewrite. When you have produced a piece of writing in a foreign language you should reread your work to check whether what you want to say is clear. Then try to identify if and where you could be more concise. After this, you should check if what you’ve written is grammatically correct and whether there are any synonyms you could use that might fit better within the text. You can also ask a native speaker to read what you’ve written and comment on it.
If you don’t have a native speaker to read your work, or you want some extra help with learning a new language, contact Regina Coeli. Founded by the Sisters of the Holy Order of St. Augustine in Vught, the Regina Coeli Language Institute offers personalised, innovative language courses in several different languages, including Dutch, English, German and Arabic.