Last time I promised to share a few tricks that would help you to improve your second language writing skills. These are not ultimate truths (and maybe they will even they will be something obvious for you) and they don’t guarantee your second language will suddenly become perfect: in fact, they might not work for you at all. But I hope that at least they will inspire you to try or to come up with your own tricks.
I thought I’d be sharing all of them at once, but it turned out I have a lot more to share than I thought. This is why I decided to focus only on one or two tricks in a post otherwise the text would be too long and you’d have to wait for it much longer. Today comes the first of the tricks.
Do not translate
I have to admit that I sat for quite a while trying to decide which advice would be the most crucial, the most beneficial of them all. There it is: do not translate.
If you think in your native language and then trying to write down your thoughts in another language, you will find yourself struggling for the right words and correct grammar. Also, your text will sound foreign, because you are most likely to intuitively adapt grammar structures and expression from your mother tongue. As you can guess, it will make the later editing difficult as well, since you will see familiar and thus “correct” sentences. An awkward sentence will stand out more than a sentence that is incorrect but follows grammar rules of the native language.
If you are wondering how to follow this advice here’s the solution: learn to think in the second language. You can start simply by picturing yourself in everyday situations and “acting out in your head” dialogues and scenes in a second language – the same way you probably do in your native tongue. Then, confident or not, move on to picturing scenes or dialogues for your stories. Even if the words and grammar you use are simple, you making sure that when you sit down to write the sentences that will come to you will be already in the second language.
Do not worry too much about perfect grammar, you can wonder if it should be “could be” or “could have been” while you edit later. If you’re stuck with every sentence pondering whether it’s correct or not, it means you’re not really thinking in the language… Do you ever ponder in your head whether the thought you just had was correct or not? I guess except for rare occasions of actually pondering on grammar or amusing yourselves the answer is “no”.
I am not trying to tell you that grammar is not important because we all know it is. But unless you’re in your language exam giving a presentation, you don’t have to have it perfect the first time around, right? You can note your thoughts down and have the first draft ready to correct and embellish or you can be stuck at the very first sentence trying to decide whether to pick “wrote” or “written”.
So, which one you want to do?
Joanna Maciejewska is a fantasy and science fiction author who enjoys all things SFF: books, movies, and video games.
Her short stories appeared in magazines and anthologies in Polish and in English.
Her epic fantasy adventure series, starting with By the Pact, is available in ebook and paperback at all major retailers.