How to blog in English when it’s not your native language

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).

how to blog in english when it's not your native language

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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?

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  • Gigi

    Oh wow. Reading your blog I never would have imagined you weren’t a native english speaker. I like your tip about using Grammarly, I’ve been using it for college papers but I never thought to use it to proofread blog posts. I’m a native neglish speaker but I sometimes miss mistakes too.

    Gigi |

    • Thank you, Gigi. You’re too kind 🙂 It’s so easy to make mistakes when you’re writing, especially online when you’re in a hurry or you’re just tired and thinking about something else, so now I use Grammarly for everything!

  • Un post che mi calza a pennello per un italiano che aspira a scrivere in inglese

    • Ciao! Grazie per aver letto il post. Sono contenta che ti sia utile.

      Penso che scrivere in un’altra lingua non sia semplicissimo, credo che sia più difficile rispetto guardare un film in lingua straniera o cercare di intrattenere una conversazione con un madrelingua. C’è sempre una qualche svista, o un errore che non sappiamo nemmeno essere un errore.

      Ma alla fine è divertente, soprattutto quando si scrive qualcosa di cui si è appassionati. Richiede molto lavoro ed impegno all’inizio, ma il mio consiglio è quello di non gettare la spugna. Tutti gli errori che si commettono sono delle lezioni. Continuare a provare e riprovare è essenziale.

  • Thanks for the tip with Grammarly! I mostly copy and paste my text to Word and change the language to English then, but I saw that it misses mistakes sometimes 😀 I will try out Grammarly now 🙂 (For some reason I wasn’t able to comment on your post outside of the tablet app, do you know why? I use Firefox)

    • Definitely try Grammarly because it doesn’t just point out your mistakes like Word would do, but it also gives you a lot of tips based on the context.

      I have no idea about the comment issue; thanks for pointing that out, I will check it out.

  • Great tips – I am a non-native speaker too, having learnt English from preschool. I use Grammarly too. Leaving it for a day or two and re-reading is a great idea! Love your point on “Don’t worry too much” 🙂

    • I found that if I start worrying too much about the form when I start the first draft, it takes so much more time. It’s so much easier to focus on the thoughts at first and then edit, even if you have to edit a lot.

  • Ciao Sarah! I’m Portuguese and I’m, also, writing in English. I’m not afraid of major mistakes, but would love to have a more fluid and colloquial discourse. Your tips and suggestions are very interesting and I’ll be checking the ones I didn’t know.

  • I grew up in the States but was born in Germany and that’s where I reside at the moment. I do understand the difficulty writing in another language, sometimes It’s hard to say something the right way without changing the meaning of it.
    Great advice to not use google translator!
    Happy Friday xxx

    • Yeah! It’s so hard when you want to say something, but you can’t find the right expression in the other language, so you have to change the whole sentence because it doesn’t work.

  • Lucie

    Wow, this is what I’ve been looking for so long haha. 🙂 English is not my native language; it’s Czech but one day I decided to start writing a blog in English and I don’t regret because I met so many people and gained so many experience that there is no time to regret.

    Have a nice day
    Lucie //

    • That’s great! The best thing to do is to just start. Writing in English is a bit harder if it’s not your L1, but it can definitely allow you get in touch with more people.