Language challenge 5

Writing

I work with a wide range of language learners. Some of them love written exercises – because it means they don’t have to speak, and they have a bit more time to think about exactly what they want to say. Others hate it when I ask them to write because they know that their speaking skills are at a higher level than their writing skills.

If you’re learning English as a hobby, you may not need to write. However if you need English at work, the chances are pretty high that you’ll need to do some writing at some point and it’s a skill that shouldn’t be neglected when it comes to improving your English.

I can remember spending way too long agonising over emails in German. Those are minutes of my life that I will never get back. It’s good to want to get everything right, but if you are a bit of a perfectionist, as I was, it can actually get in the way of producing the text yourself. Clearly you need a higher degree of accuracy in your job application or a presentation that the whole company will see, but day-to-day correspondence doesn’t need to take as long as I used to allow it to.

Other people have different problems. They don’t enjoy writing in their own native language, so it’s not so easy to sit down and write a longer text in another language.

My problem with writing Turkish was that I had plenty of complex ideas, but I didn’t have the vocabulary to talk about them. Large chunks of every sentence were missing and it was a chore looking up so many words. Here, doing more reading and listening activities can help because it allows you to develop your vocabulary, which in turn helps when it comes to writing or speaking.

I often tell my students to practise when noone is looking. Don’t wait until you have to write a proposal in English. Write on your own so that you get into the habit of doing it. It’s great to get some feedback from a teacher or language partner, but try to find a reason to write regularly, because this will help you to grow in confidence and it usually speeds up the process too.

I still make mistakes when I write German emails, and it still annoys me when I spot an avoidable mistake after I’ve hit “send”, but the fact that I correspond in German so regularly now means that it doesn’t take as long as it used to.

If you want some ideas about what you can do to improve your writing, you can check out my writing page.

If you are looking for some one-to-one help, I also have a more specific writing course for learners of English.

Action

Can you identify one or two activities that you can do to help with your writing skills?

More from English with Kirsty

After 3rd February 2016, the whole challenge will be available as a PDF. Sign up here for your copy:

Kirsty working with students



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