The importance of writing skills in language learning cannot be stated enough. But how are these seemingly unrelated skillsets, well, related? Learn more here!
This post first appeared on https://writingwildly.com/blog/importance-of-writing-skills-in-language-learning/ on 9 January 2022.
Writing is one of the most important skills of language learning and acquisition.
At the very core, writing is all about communication. So is speaking a language.
Being able to write well is not just about using bombastic and flowery vocabulary. It is about the ability to convey an idea simply and clearly for the receiver.
This is especially true when writing in a second language. It forces you to think about what exactly you want to convey and how to ensure that the message does not get lost in translation.
How does writing help you learn and improve on your language skills?
1) Writing as a language skill hones your ability to express yourself clearly and concisely
As someone who learnt four languages, when learning a new language, I will always be inclined to first think in my native tongue at the beginning. This means that the sentence structure of what you are about to say in the foreign language probably isn’t the natural way native speakers would communicate.
Thereafter, you will mentally translate what you want to convey in the new language. This is the standard process everyone goes through before they are able to think and express themselves naturally in the new language they have learnt.
So how does writing well help you learn a language better then?
Well, if you cannot even express yourself clearly and concisely in your native language, you are much less able to translate your message into another language in a way that is easily understood by the receiver.
In that sense, writing exposes you to what you are lacking in your native language as well. If your translated writing is based on your native language, and people aren’t able to understand that, then perhaps there are areas in your native tongue that need improvement as well.
This is how language and writing skills complement each other.
2) Writing in different languages exposes what you do not know
When speaking on the fly, you are likely to converse about daily life topics or revolve around topics you are familiar with.
However, in writing, you might be tasked to express thoughts and ideas on an unfamiliar topic.
This then becomes a true test of your communication and writing skills as you are now exposed to what you do not know, you are forced to search for new vocabulary to describe the unfamiliar topic.
This then enhances your language skills to be able to express yourself confidently on a wider range of topics.
For example, when staying in Thailand, I had minimal issues when communicating with Thai locals on topics surrounding day to day activities. I was easily able to tell the Taxi driver where to go and was able to order meals in Thai.
After I returned to school in NUS, I decided to take advanced classes to learn Thai in Singapore. That was when I really became captain of the struggle bus I struggled to write Thai essays on complex topics such as the education system, foreign workers and even the gospel in Thai!
Writing in different languages then exposed what I did not know how to say in Thai and helped build new vocabulary to enhance my Thai language skills.
3) Writing forces you to become more creative in expressing yourself
At times, writing requires you to think out of the box
How do you make your article engaging and stand out amongst the score of blogs and articles on the internet? Answer – by being creative and thinking of how to convey similar ideas in new, eye-catching ways.
How do you ensure relevancy across different target audiences? Answer – by coming up with different ways to bring your points across that will resonate with different groups of people.
Such skills are required in language learning because different languages are not a 1-1 match. For example, the common word “ageing” in the English language has no equivalent in the Thai language.
How should you express yourself then? One way to do so is to think of the properties of ageing skin. For example, ageing skin is likely to have wrinkles. An ageing skin might sag down as it loses its elasticity. Use those terms to express ageing skin in Thai instead.
And in turn, you will become more familiar with the alternative vocabulary you used to express yourself.
4) Writing provides you with a physical record of your language learning process
When writing in a foreign language, you can clearly see the mistakes you make along the way.
One thing I would suggest is that after completing one piece of writing, you leave it aside for at least a few hours to take your mind off it. Then return to it after that.
You’ll find that you’ll be able to spot mistakes you thought you had avoided
Keep all these pieces of writing with you. You can use them as notes to remember the mistakes you’ve made and remind yourself to avoid them.
So, how writing can help you learn a language you ask?
In plenty of ways!
As I’ve said, writing can not only help you work on your target language but also your native language as well. And all these will ultimately lead to you becoming a better communicator than before.
And that’s it! I hope these pointers have helped you gain a deeper understanding of how writing can help improve your language learning.
That said, when it comes to writing, there are plenty of tricks and writing frameworks you can use you diversify your writing style. And these will come in handy when you’re seeking to improve your language capabilities.
So, to learn more about the variety of writing tips and tricks out there, check out Writing Wildly’s blog for writers!
About the author – see the About page for more informationJoanne Tan is an aspiring polyglot and has so far mastered English, Chinese and Thai languages. She first started learning Thai in 2015 before staying in Bangkok for 5 months, and then continued studying Thai up to Advanced Levels at the National University of Singapore. In 2017, Joanne was awarded ‘Advanced Thai Proficiency’ by the Sirindhorn Thai Language Institute of Chulalongkorn University. Today, Joanne continues to teach her friends basic Thai speaking and helps her Thai friends actively promote Thai culture.