For the past several years, I have been teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). During that time, I have noticed that most of my students are interested in learning to speak, but aren’t so interested in learning to write. It isn’t that they don’t want to learn it, but that writing can be difficult and intimidating. I do, however, believe that writing is just as important a skill as any of the others. In fact, I think the better you become at writing, the better your English will improve overall.
So, to help those of you who want to learn to write better (which all of you should), I’ve put together 5 easy steps to make you a better writer.
1. Read more. Seriously. Spend at least a half hour (an hour would be better) reading. It can be anything you want. From news articles online or in a newspaper or magazine to a blog. Or it could be a fiction (or non-fiction) book. Just make sure you read. And, while you do, don’t stress too much about understanding everything. Over time, you will see the same words and sentence structures and will begin to understand more that way.
2. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat. Watch TV shows or news broadcasts and, first, verbally repeat some of the things you hear. This, after all, is how most children learn their own languages. Then, you can start to write some of those sentences down a few times as well. You don’t need to write down everything you hear (though it might be interesting to try). Just write down some sentences you find interesting. After, make sure to re-listen to the show to make sure that you’ve copied everything correctly.
3. Write, Write, Write. You can do this in several different ways. For example, you can start a journal. It can be something that no one will even read, so you won’t need to worry about any mistakes you might make. Or you could try creative writing. As a fiction author, this is my favourite suggestion obviously. There are several writing prompts available online if you need help. Look them up and use them to start a story. Now, I know that some of you find creativity a little difficult, but that is something great about this exercise. Not only will you be practicing English, but you will be expanding your imagination as well. It will also help you begin to organize your thoughts in English.
4. Proof-read your writing. Here, you should go over some things you have already written and check them for spelling and grammar. They could be emails you’ve written or small projects you’ve done at school. You could even use your journal. But look over some of those old writings and find ways to improve them. Use a dictionary and grammar book (or the internet) to help. You might not be able to find all of the mistakes, but you will be able to find some. Plus, it will be interesting for you to look back over some things you’ve written, maybe things from years ago. You could also ask someone else to proof-read your writing for you. This will give you different perspectives on your writing, showing you things you might not have noticed before.
5. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Learning a new language can be difficult. And writing can be the most difficult of all. Try not to get too frustrated with yourself and your progress. Take your time and keep trying. You will improve with time, guaranteed.
I suppose I should add a sixth step here, and that would be to have fun. With everything you do, find things that are interesting to you. If you like gardening, read and write about gardening. If you like video games, read and write about video games. Don’t spend time working on things you don’t enjoy. It won’t help you improve. If anything, it will either bore you or frustrate you, and those are two things you don’t need.
Now, in addition to these steps, if there are any other ideas you come across be sure to try them. Experimentation is a way to keep things fresh and exciting. But, for now, I think the steps I’ve given will help. Please let me know what you think. I’m always interested in hearing other peoples’ experience with this process.
Good luck. And happy writing!