Especially if you’re using your target language for business reasons, there is really no way around writing. So much of today’s communication goes on in the written form that you really need that critical skill in your arsenal. However, practising corresponding in your target language is often complicated because, to get an actual feel for what real communication feels like, you often need a pen pal who would introduce you to the unspoken rules of their native language.
But, even without a pen pal, there are still a few steps you can take to improve your writing skills in your target language.
Start by reading in your target language
Reading as much as you can will definitely not only help your writing skills but also improve your whole knowledge of your target language. When reading, you can pay attention to sentence structure, style, punctuation, and a whole list of other aspects you need to know to start successfully writing yourself.
To really help yourself improve, read the types of texts you need to start writing. Of course, there is very little fiction in the email form but you can always also visit online forums and amateur writing boards to get an answer to any particular question. Reading both fiction and nonfiction in your target language, in the meanwhile, will introduce you to the general rules of your target language. The more you read, the easier writing will become.
Think in the language you’re trying to write in
Chances are that, when you start writing, your skills are yet not at a level to support a direct back-and-forth translation between your native language and the one you’re supposed to be writing in. And if that’s the technique you’re trying to use, mistakes will certainly start slipping in.
In order to change that, you should switch to thinking as much as possible in your target language when you’re trying to get words on paper (or, more likely, screen). That way, you’ll be more attuned to your target language and have a better overview of the type of vocabulary you possess to get your points across. It’s certainly better to write simpler but correct sentences than struggling with long-winded structured that you’re bringing over from your native tongue.
Practise writing by hand
You should also do some only for-practice writing exercises. Your practice pieces don’t need to be long but, rather, should focus on getting the grammar and style right. You can also choose to focus on a single aspect of grammar in each of your run-throughs, to keep your brain from overheating. So, try getting word order right the first time around, next focus on correct verb forms, and then turn your attention to punctuation, for example.
Another important bonus you can add to your writing practice is doing it by hand. While typing is a lot easier for most people and comes with the extra bonus of spell checks, it’s writing by hand that will surely give you better practice in the long run. Part of it has to do with exactly the fact that you don’t have a spell checker to fall back upon but also, writing passages by hand creates a certain muscle memory that will carry over even when you switch to the keyboard.
Try to get native speaker feedback
While looking for feedback on your writing can seem rather scary, it’s an important part of improving. A native speaker (or a professional teacher) can provide you with insight into the style and use of language that you’ll find hard to get on your own.
In this day and age, there are luckily several ways you can find someone to go over your writing for you. For example, Lang-8 is a community of language learners who can proofread and edit your texts, providing you with precious insight. For academic writing, Scribbr offers a great service, including checking for accidental plagiarism. Another option is taking part in language exchanges where you can find a partner to go over your writing (you’ll probably have to do the same for them, in that case). If you’re writing in English, there is also the free software Grammarly that you could try, although it mostly corrects punctuation and many of the corrections aren’t worthwhile. Of course, the best and easiest way would probably be to get your private language teacher to do the editing.
Conclusion – Read, practise, and get feedback to improve your writing
Writing is a vital part of everyday communication and it’s important to practise your written language to look professional and get your point across clearly. To get better, you should read as much as you can in your target language, in order to get a clear understanding of the sentence structure and punctuation, among other things. Next, start practising writing by hand and think in the language you’re trying to cover so that you create a certain “muscle memory” for writing. And don’t forget to ask for feedback on your work so that you can keep improving. The easiest way to improve your writing skills is to sign up for private lessons with our professional language teachers.