3 Ways to Improve Your Writing Skills as a Non-Native Speaker
Without losing your identity in translation
I’m not an English native speaker. I’ve been learning English since I was 4, but my mother tongue is Spanish. And while I love my romantic native language, I prefer to write in English. To be honest, I think I write better in English than I do in Spanish.
Writing in a language that is not yours is a difficult task. It gets easier with practice, but still, it takes a lot of energy. While many non-native writers have the ability to think in English, some of us rely on our native language to structure thoughts and then translate them into proper English. This constant game of thinking and translating thoughts can be exhausting and counterproductive for communication.
But being a non-native writer also comes with benefits. One of them is that we tend to double-check wording, spelling, and structure. Second, we are more likely to find mistakes and errors because we are less biased. Third, we can be more creative and bold in our writing.
But if we want to get to our readers we have to make sure they get our message. And no matter how much you practice a language that’s not yours, or how talented you’re with language and communication, there’s always space to improve.
But to improve your non-native writing skills you don’t have to lose your identity and the beauty of your origins.
In this short Editor’s Notes, I go through 3 ways to improve your writing skills as a non-native speaker without losing the charm of being a foreigner.
1. Read more than you write
There is no better way to learn how to write than reading from prominent authors. The more you read from different writing styles and topics, the more you’ll appreciate their difference and learn their details.
Don’t just read native writers, read the original work from non-native speakers. There are outstanding exophonic writers like the French-Canadian Jack Kerouac, author of “On the Road” or the author of “Lolita”, the Russian Vladimir Nabokov. There’s plenty we can learn from non-native writers, especially how to write correctly in a foreign language without losing our identity and voice.
But you can also find amazing non-native writers on Medium, or any other blogging platforms. Be sure you follow and read their work. Analyze their voice, their style, their structure. Search for commonalities, think about what makes them stand out, what makes their writing unique. And why not, ask their advice. Maybe they’ll tell you how was their experience as non-native writers and they can give you tips on how to overcome the challenges.
2. Have a writing buddy
Other than just relying on an editing tool like Grammarly or ProWritingAid, which I highly recommend, you should think about having a native speaker writing buddy.
Having a writing companion is not just a great way to get you motivated and reach your writing goals, it will also help you improve your writing skills.
One of the main challenges for non-native writers is that we usually think in our first language and then translate those thoughts into English. But the issue with translation is that most of the time we focus on the meaning of words and not the meaning of sentences. When we use translation tools or dictionaries we tend to forget about the context and the story as a whole. This usually ends up hurting the readability and value of our writing.
Having a native writing buddy can help us overcome these challenges. A writing partner gives an external look to our work and can catch mistakes, awkwardness, and structure issues more easily. They’ll give a native scan at your writing and help you improve its readability. Plus, having a writing friend is a very effective way to keep you motivated even when you don’t find the spark or the energy to write, and you can learn from each other.
3. Join a writing community
Better than one writing partner is having an entire community of writers to rely on. A community is a powerful space for writers that share common goals, values, and motivations. A place where we can share and communicate our ideas, give and receive honest feedback, talk about and fight our fears, and improve our writing skills.
If you believe in the power of collaboration, cooperation, and networking for becoming successful writers, then join a writing community. There are plenty of opportunities and ways to join these spaces, Facebook groups, slack groups, discord teams, writing cafés, or meet-ups. It’s up to you to choose the one that fits your goals and ambitions.
At the brave writer, for example, we have created a slack community where our writers and readers can connect with like-minded humans. Here, writers are welcome to share their stories, drafts, doubts, questions, and advice. It’s also a place where new collaborations and friendships are born. If you want to join us you are welcome.
When you join a community of writers you don’t only learn to improve your craft by getting advice from talented peers, you also come to realize you’re not alone in your struggles. You’ll find non-native writers like you and you’ll be able to share and reflect on your experience.
If you want to improve your writing skills, join a community that is built upon a safe, nurturing, positive, and supporting environment. If you join the right community, you will definitely grasp its value.
You are a writer, no matter what’s your native language. Yes, we may struggle and we can feel lost in translation. But being a non-native writer is also a beautiful thing. We get to dream without borders, we get to learn from different cultures and accents. We give new meanings to words and charm our audience with our imperfect expressions.
We can improve our writing skills in a second language without losing our identity and the beauty of our origins. To genuinely improve as a foreign writer you should connect with peers, learn from their experiences, analyze their craft, ask for support. But never forget that being different is a wonderful thing, and as a foreigner, you can give as much value to natives as they can give you.
So, whatever you do, don’t lose your identity in translation. Your imperfect writing makes it beautiful. Just keep writing.
Lacking of original ideas for your next post? Try these 7 creative ways to come up with writing ideas.