English is Not My First Language

The English language can be challenging at times for a native English speaker. When English is your second or third language it can seem nearly impossible. However, with hard work and practice it is possible to have a good handle on your writing skills.

Before you begin writing your paper consider the following:

  1. Read the Instructions Carefully. Before you even begin writing, make sure you have a good understanding of what the assignment is asking you to do. Look for clue words in the question such as: analyze, compare, argue, evaluate. These clue words will give you an idea of how to answer the question. If you are unsure of the meaning, ask your professor or someone in the lab for clarification.
  2. Short and Simple. If you are not comfortable using long. complicated words and sentences, don’t. It is better to get your point across in short, concise sentences than getting lost trying to create long, elaborate sentences.
  3. One Paragraph, One Idea. There is no real rule on how long a paragraph should be. This can make things complicated if you are not comfortable with your writing. A good rule to follow is that a paragraph should have one topic or idea. If you start a new idea or topic, you need to start a new paragraph.
  4. Use an English Dictionary. Not all words and expressions translate perfectly to English. For example, in Japanese the expression “hai tenshun” means that a person is excited. However, when this is translated to English, it means high tension, which describes someone who is very nervous or stressed. To avoid confusion to your reader, make sure you look your word up in an English dictionary.

Writing can sometimes come naturally or easily for some people. For other people they need to practice their writing skills in between writing assignments.

Below are some ways to practice your writing:

  • Read. This seems silly as reading and writing are two different skills. However, they are very closely related. When you read you become more familiar with vocabulary and how to use it. Look at the sentence structure and patterns the writer uses. Read magazines, newspaper articles, books, anything that interests you and keeps you reading.
  • Write. Keep a journal. One way to improve your writing is to write a lot. One way to do this is to keep a journal and practice ‘free writing’. Free writing is an activity where you write down your thoughts and feelings without stopping to worry about spelling, grammar and punctuation. This allows you to get more comfortable with your writing
  • Practice. There are so many activities available on the internet that allow you to practice your writing. Take an online quiz to practice your grammar or your punctuation. Also use the resources that are available to you in the writing lab.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you are unsure about something, ask someone for help. Ask your professor, submit your writing to Smarthinking or Writing Lab Tutors