I started studying English in elementary school when I was about 8 years old. That makes almost 10 years of formal education in English. Wow, that’s a lot! Yet, I feel like I started speaking English for real just about a couple of years ago.
English is a mandatory subject here in Italy. But I did not learn anything useful until I was in high school. And even then I could not speak properly and I could not understand a full conversation between two people.
Then something happened. During my fourth year of high school, I was introduced to the wonderful world of tv shows in their original language. I started slowly, watching series with Italian subtitles. Then I switched to English subtitles. Now, most of the times I just watch the show.
I also started studying the language independently and practicing it. I discovered a lot of things that they didn’t teach me in school, I started speaking without worrying too much and I’m at a point where I can understand basically everything I read (yes even hard scientific papers) and almost everything I hear (it actually depends on the accent of the person, which makes me feel so bad).
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Writing in a foreign language is the hardest for me. I had such a hard time during the IELTS exam because you can’t use any aids like a laptop or even a dictionary. When I write on paper, sometimes I stare at the word I just wrote and think “That looks wrong, let me try to move the letters around”. So, how am I writing a whole blog in English?
I don’t worry too much
When I was in middle school I went to Spain and even thought I was learning Spanish and I wasn’t half bad at it, I refused to speak there. Then I grew up and I realized I threw away a great opportunity. So now I don’t care too much anymore. I just talk, or write.
I just start writing a post and I don’t care if something gets underlined in red by the spell-checker. I just type away all my thoughts. When I feel like I’m done, I start editing. Sometimes editing takes a lot of time, I like to double check everything. But I can take all the time I need. My concepts are all there already and I don’t have to worry I’ll forget important points.
I have Grammarly installed
I have no idea how I survived before discovering this tool. I genuinely think Grammarly is the world’s best grammar checker and it’s also a great automated proofreader. It also includes a plagiarism checker, but I never used it before because I never needed it.
After you sign up, you can either copy and paste any text written in English into the online text editor or you could install the free browser extension. I thought I didn’t need yet another extension on my browser, but I was wrong. I got this post proofread by Grammarly. But now I also get all my emails proofread, the comments I leave on my other blogs, and even my Facebook status.
A lot of amazing features are free, but there’s also the option of going pro. I tried the upgrade because I suggested Grammarly to some of my friends and after they signed up I got some weeks for free and it was a life-changing experience.
I leave it for a day or two and then re-read it
If you don’t need to publish your post as soon as you finish writing it, leave it for a day or two. Then re-read it, you will probably find some minor mistakes you didn’t get the first time because you already knew the content of your post by heart.
I do not use Google translator
Sure, Google translator is good for a rough translation of a sentence in a language you really can’t understand. But if you need to find the right word, or if you want to double check a meaning, please avoid it. Sure, nowadays it’s a little better than it used to be. But, please, don’t just copy and paste the translation you’ll get from it.
When I want to check the meaning of a word, my go-to online translator is WordReference. It offers a lot of language combinations, you can hear the pronunciation of the most common words, and you can also conjugate a verb. For synonyms I use thesaurus.
Do you blog in your first or second language? Do you have any tips on writing in English when it’s not your native language?