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What Is Second Language Writing?

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  • Written By: E. Reeder
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 30 August 2017
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Second language writing refers to writing that is completed by a non-native writer and speaker of a language, such as Spanish, who must write in another language, such as English. The written language used in second language writing is not the native tongue of the writer. Being somewhat less familiar with the second language may make it harder for the writer to put together correct and easily understood sentences and paragraphs. Even if someone has studied a second language for several years, becoming proficient at writing it well can remain a challenge.

There are different categories of people who may need to use second language writing. Business professionals living in foreign countries, students whose parents have emigrated, and university students attending college in a foreign country may all need to learn to write in a second language. They also may need to learn to speak it and be able to use it socially and professionally in a fairly short amount of time. This can be challenging but also can be an advantage, because companies often want to hire people who are bilingual.

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Just as there are difficulties in learning how to speak a foreign or second language fluently, there also are many challenges and common problems in second language writing. People who are writing in a second language may experience problems with verb tense, word choice, sentence structure and figures of speech. People trying to write in a second language or to translate from the second language to their native language also may find it difficult to understand nuances such as colloquialisms, slang, nonstandard usage and technical jargon.

There are various strategies to help people learn to write in a second language. Elementary and secondary school students often have the opportunity to learn from teachers who can help them learn to read, write and speak in their second language. University students attending school in a foreign country might have to work with a tutor to improve their skills quickly. Many universities around the world also offer programs to help these students acquire their second language.

Business professionals in new countries might have professional development opportunities offered through their companies. If not, they still will likely be able to take college courses to help them with second language writing. Immersion in the language, writing and culture is a strategy that proves successful with many people in the situation of having to learn to speak and write in a second language.

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bythewell
Post 3

@irontoenail - I don't know, I read somewhere that people who are taught two languages as children tend to not be as proficient in either language as people who only learned one. It makes me wonder how well the average person can ever really write in a second language. Maybe the brain can only truly learn one language.

It's very difficult to pick up all the subtleties of a language if you aren't immersed in it as a child at any rate, so it takes a genius to pick them all up as an adult. Of course, most of the time you aren't going to need all of those subtleties when you're writing for work, or whatever. You just need to be able to put things clearly and I'm sure most people are capable of learning that.

irontoenail
Post 2

@Iluviaporos - Yeah, you need to lose your embarrassment and just write. Think about when you've read writing in English as a second language. You might have teased the person a bit, but you didn't think they were dumb or anything, did you? Hopefully you were supportive and anyone who is there to help you with your writing will be supportive as well.

Personally, after you get past a certain part, it might actually be a boon to be writing in a different language. I'm sure it can help to broaden your creativity and understanding of a situation to be able to express it in more than one language and once you conquer most of the grammar difficulties you'll probably sound charming to the native speakers.

lluviaporos
Post 1

Immersion is the best way to learn a foreign language. It's really difficult to do that a lot of the time, because even if you're living in the country, there will probably be groups of ex-pats around who you can connect up with and the temptation will be strong. Living in a foreign country, particularly with a foreign language, can be extremely lonely and difficult without support.

But, the quickest way to learn a language is through having to speak it and think in it all the time, so switching back and forth isn't going to help you. If you only have a limited amount of time, this is even more important. And if you need to write in this language, try to read in it, as much as possible. The more you do, the easier it will be.

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