Writing in a Foreign Language


Writing in a Foreign Language: How to Do It and Why

The guest post you’ll enjoy today was written by a Greek man who is currently studying Norwegian in Norway. His name is Dimitris Polychronopoulos. He blogs on yozzi.com in his eight strongest languages. In this article he will talk about how to become a better writer. Enjoy!

Sometimes we reach a certain level of a foreign language and we just want to keep going. Maybe we’ve lived and worked in the target country for a long time. Maybe we work academically or professionally in the language. Maybe we haven’t gotten as far along as we would like to in the target language and we have long-term goals for a particular language. It may be that we need to pass a proficiency test in the language for a variety of reasons.
When we want to improve in a foreign language, it makes sense that we need to practice our writing skills. Chiara posted in Runaway Daydreamer that improving our writing skills was one reason to keep a language journal.

In the Disqus comments below Chiara’s blog post, one of the readers named Lu added that keeping a language journal helps us see our limits, while another named Dylan mentioned it was boring to keep a journal. If we recognise the value of keeping a journal as a way to improve our writing and if some find keeping a language journal boring, then how could we make it more interesting so that more people would find a reason for keeping a language journal or diary?

How about focusing on writing about things you’re already passionate about? That way you can share your interests with others. Just imagine the excitement of being able to talk about things you already are passionate about in your target language as well as in your native language.

In addition to keeping a physical handwritten language journal, there are a few ways to practice your writing skills on the Internet as well.

My Top Tips for Writing in a Foreign Language

You can try a new app called HiNative where you can write a short sentence and ask a native whether it sounds natural.

If you’d like to write a couple of sentences or a paragraph, you can use lang-8.com where natives will be able to correct your writing and provide feedback.

If you have a longer entry, of 500 words or more, you could post it on yozzi.com to receive feedback on your writing skills.

What are some other ways language learners have their writing checked? At the Polyglot Berlin Gathering in 2016 I was able to talk to about 50 avid language learners about how and why they improve their writing skills in foreign languages. After getting their feedback, I posted this article on Medium that shows the top nine ways language learners have their writing corrected.

Some of the attendees at my presentation didn’t think they’d have anything interesting enough to write about. That got me thinking that we all have something interesting to share with the world, so I made an article with some suggestions on what to write about.

If you are not advanced enough in your target language to write an article, then consider writing short paragraphs about things you do in your daily life and what you want to do the following days, weeks, months, or years. Post them on lang-8 to get corrections from native speakers.

If you are more advanced and able to write an article of 500 words or more, submit it on yozzi.com and then send the URL of your post out via email or social media to people who know that target language better than you do. They can then use yozzi.com to provide feedback on your writing and you can check out what recommendations for improvement are being made. Look at the feedback and make a list of the kinds of mistakes you’re making. Then create a new article using the kinds of grammatical structures and expressions that you’ve been struggling with in order to gain more opportunity for practice and to internalise the improvements.

Since yozzi.com is a new site, I’m looking for a test group who would be interested in being the first ones to post guest blogs and try out the editing system to help others improve their writing. You’d be able to provide feedback on the look, feel and user friendliness of the site. 

It surprised me when I asked about 50 language learners at the Polyglot Berlin Gathering how they get feedback on their writing in their target language. The second most common answer was that they don’t seek any feedback whatsoever.

Your Turn

How about you? Do you like to have your writing corrected? How do you get feedback on your writing ability in your target language?

Chiara Grandola

Hey there! I'm Chiara, also known as Claire on the language learning community. I'm deeply in love with any form of art, different cultures and... guess what?! Yes, languages!