1. Read in English
When you want to master a language, you can never read enough.
Every new book, short story or article you read teaches you new words, new ways to formulate sentences, and more natural ideas on how to use the language. They go to your subconscious and slowly start becoming more natural to you, until one day you notice that you start to think in English and know that you’re on the right track.
The easiest way to get started with reading in English rather than your own language is to pick up a non-fiction book on a familiar, interesting topic. Non-fiction tends to be easier to follow than fiction (fiction authors use tricky words to touch their readers’ feelings) and reading about a familiar topic makes it easier to guess what the author is trying to say to you when you don’t quite understand the words he’s using. Don’t use a dictionary unless you really have to – just skip the parts you don’t understand. If you make your reading feel too much like work, you’ll lose the fun in it, and the habit of reading won’t last for long.
2. Listen to native speakers
Blogging is a form of public speaking, which is why one of the best tips for making your text come alive is to write as you speak.
But if you don’t speak English every day, this is a rather tricky advice to follow. So, one thing I have found useful in practicing conversational writing is to watch and listen natives speak.
The Internet comes to rescue here through podcasts and videos from speaking events. Pick your favorite speakers and listen to them deliver their message. You will learn not only about how they use the language, but also how to captivate the audience, and a bit about the topic at hand.
3. When writing in English, think in English
This is one of the most important tips that separate a decent foreign language writer from a lousy one. The lousy writer thinks in his own language and then tries to translate his thoughts to English. But that simply doesn’t work: the idioms, grammar rules, and cultural differences make text written in this manner sound clumsy and unnatural.
Finnish is probably one of the extreme cases when it comes to grammar. In Finnish we concatenate a big part of words together (for example a railway station would be called railwaystation in Finnish) whereas English is full of small words. We have no future tense. We don’t use prepositions but suffixes… The list of examples could go on forever.
That’s why every time I set out to write in English, I push all my Finnish thoughts far to the background and don’t even look back. Then I pretend to be English speaking until the work is done and I can move back to my Finnish self.
I suggest you do the same.
The best way to learn anything is by throwing yourself out there and practicing. With writing practice is even more important. In fact, I would give you the same advice even if you were considering writing in your native language. But of course, it’s even more important when writing in some other language.
When you are just starting out with your blogging, you should write something every day to really get your writing routine developed. After a while it’s OK to drop the pace a bit – although even then, if you want to become best at what you do, keeping up the habit of daily writing helps a lot.
Write in different styles: lists, humorous posts, serious posts, interviews, and if you have the time, even text that is completely unrelated to your blog. Just to get more practice.
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