However, it turns out one of the most helpful ways to improve your writing in your second language is to write about your own writing process. You can find out more about the validation of this statement here: Transforming ESL Writing Fear Through Autobiography.
Below is an introspective technique that I recommend for both language teachers and students designed to increase writing ability in your second or other language. It is called the Writing Sketch. (For a set of exercises to help facilitate writing your autobiography and telling your own story in a second language, see the Life Sketch.)
InstructionsCompose brief paragraphs for each section below to begin compiling an autobiographical sketch of your second language writing experience. Answering the preliminary questions about your first language will help you reflect on how you learned to write in your new language and what that experience has been like for you, while also providing a current assessment of your writing strengths and challenges. This exercise concludes with helping you develop a plan to begin improving your second language compositions.
Learning to Write
- What is your first language, and do you listen, speak and read in that language?
- Are you comfortable writing in your first language? Describe the kinds of writing you have done.
- Can you write in other languages? If so, state the kinds of writing you have done.
Learning to Write in your Second Language
- Describe why you decided to learn your second language.
- Describe your most helpful second language instructor, and how that person taught you to write.
- Describe your most challenging second language instructor, and how that person taught you to write.
Second Language Writing Strengths and Challenges
- Describe what it is like for you to write in your new language when you are given a writing assignment.
- Describe your most memorable second language writing assignment.
- Describe your most difficult writing assignment in your second language.
- When you prepare a writing assignment in your second language, what challenges do you encounter?
Improving Your Second Language Writing
- Describe one writing challenge you want to work on.
- What kind of help do you need to meet this challenge?
- Write a brief plan for working on this challenge to review with your peers and instructor.
Writing Sketch Prep Sheet
DirectionsTo compose your sketch, reflect on each question below and make notes. Then, prepare an outline and write your piece. The purpose of this exercise is to help you gain writing awareness, rate your second language writing skills, develop a plan to improve future compositions, and discuss it with your instructor.
- Name your first language and describe how you learned to write in your mother tongue.
- Why did you learn your second or other language and how long have you studied it?
- When you have to prepare a writing assignment in your second language, what comes to mind?
- Describe how instructors have taught you to write in your new language and the methods they used.
- Who have been your best second language teachers, and why are they important to you?
- Describe your three best second language writing experiences and why they are important.
- Rate your writing skill in your second language, and list your writing strengths and challenges.
- Develop a plan for improving your academic writing in your second or other language. Include goals, writing resources needed, and completion dates. Meet and discuss your plan with your teacher and implement the plan.