Writing development, from your friends at EC San Francisco

Writing is considered to be the toughest of the four major language skills.  In many cultures, there is relatively little expectation that people will ever do much original writing, and the expectation for students to write is limited.  However, in the US, writing is one of the primary ways that students are expected to demonstrate subject knowledge, and no student, even in Math and Science, can be expected to graduate without at least some skill in writing.

Obviously, to develop ones writing skill to the level needed to get into an American university, and to succeed there, requires time, dedication, and the help of professionals (such as the staff at EC San Francisco).  You can learn vocabulary on your own, you can study grammar from a book, but to develop the needed facility with language that skilled writing requires, you need some trained outside help.  You can’t learn what you are doing wrong in an essay simply by writing a lot of them.  You need someone to read them.

That said, there are some simpler approaches that can get you more comfortable with writing in English.  I had one student who made hugely effective use of a journal.  Every day, whether he felt like it or not, he wrote in his journal.  It might be as simple an entry as a description of the weather, or as complex as a heartfelt expression of his homesickness, and depression about his “slow” progress.  Once a week he let me read it, and make suggestions for improvement.

This was a challenge for both of us.  I was faced, essentially, with multiple genres, from pure descriptive writing through narrative autobiography, and into the fringes of self-analysis of personal psychology.  For him, he had to write every day, even if he didn’t want to, or felt he had nothing to say.  And I must say, I was amazed at his progress.  I never asked him to rewrite anything, but over time, with his persistent practice, and my suggestions, he made great strides.  I had hoped his grammar and vocabulary might improve slightly, and they did, although the improvement was not slight, but significant.  More importantly, as he forced himself to express feelings and ideas in English every day, he became increasingly confident in his ability to use English as a tool for communicating complex ideas on paper.

I suspect that this technique will be helpful even without outside help.  Think of it as skill practice, just like learning to shoot hoops in basketball.  You don’t need a game to do this in  –  in fact, the game makes it harder.  But if you can, see if you can get an outside pair of eyes, with a good knowledge of English, to look it over.  Come on down to EC San Francisco, even!  We’d love to see you, and I’m confident we can help you attain your goals if you are willing to work with us.  Or, if San Francisco isn’t your thing, check out the other EC centers worldwide!  We’re here to help.

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