This post is a free bonus chapter to go with my book “Brave Language Learning.” You can get the full book here.
Today’s post is about one of the four language skills that’s really hard to practice: writing. Can you get more practice in foreign language writing without big changes to your routines? And how can you write more in another language when there is nobody to exchange writing with? These three changes can be easy to make.
1. Your to-do list
A good to-do list is something you can write often, and read often – and something that changes every day. Because you’re not usually sharing this with too many people, it doesn’t matter what language it’s in. Mine are usually bilingual – switching between Polish and English – and that’s fine!
Start writing your to-do list in the language you’re learning. It will slow things down a bit – since you’ll have to research new words and spell things more carefully. But it can be worth it: you write something relevant and based on real world around you; you consult this piece of writing often; and you have the chance to edit this – also in another language.
If you want more practice, switch grammar from one week to the next: use the first person + future tense one week (“I will return my books to the library on Tuesday”) and third person + past tense the next, imagining somebody (you) just completed the action (“Joe returned his books to the library on Tuesday”). You can even go for questions and more complex forms (“Did Joe’s books get returned to the library on Tuesday?”) – go for whatever challenges you enough!
2. Your productivity system
This is bigger than a to-do list, and bigger than its individual pieces. Usually, a productivity system will involve a task list, but also a calendar, a reference file, notes to self, reminders, tags, labels… For those of us who like getting things done, this is another chance to get a lot of foreign language writing practice.
Start with the things you use more often: your calendar, and your task / project list. (This can be more tricky if you’re sharing invitations / projects with others – consider this before translating everything to a language they won’t understand!) Then move on to labels, reference materials, notes, reviews.
If you can, go for bilingual setups: labels can fit two decriptions on them; notes and reminders can be written in two languages. This may look like doubling up on work, but again – it’s the best, strongest context possible, and the foreign language you write and read will be more easily remembered.
3. Your diary
For some people, the two steps above will be nicely summed up in something like a bullet journal. For others, the diary is their chance to be more blunt, rambly, creative, intimate. Whatever you use your diary for – there is a lot you can gain by switching to another language here.
If this feels like a big ask, start with one day a week. Feel free to add variety by choosing different styles and themes: write a very formal entry one day, and an informal one the next day – or switch from just recounting events to listing questions you had about the day.
This is your chance to write something more than a label or a sentence. It’s also your space to be as wild and creative as you like – diaries are rarely on show, so mistakes and experiments are welcome!
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