Writing well in any language is hard word, but it can be especially intimidating writing in a second language. When writing in a second language you cannot always rely on your ear for what sounds correct, as you do in your native tongue, and searching for the right words may seem like a daunting task. Speaking from personal experience, as a student of languages, I sometimes feel limited in what I can say and express, and usually question if what I even wrote down made any sense. You will undoubtedly make mistakes in your French writing, but like with anything else in life, practice makes perfect. You have to come to terms with the fact that it is okay to make mistakes! That was the hardest struggle I had to overcome when I began my studies in foreign languages. By allowing myself to make mistakes I became a better writer, a better learner, and a better student. Moreover, though you use your grammar skills when you write, good writing in French does not come automatically from grammar and vocabulary exercises, though they do help, or even from being fluent in French. Effective writing in any language, comes from finding ideas worth saying, explaining them carefully, and arranging them in order that makes them clear to the reader.
Your writing experience in English will help you as you write in French. The more strategies you have to choose from, the better your writing will become. Having these strategies will no doubt aid in finding a writing process that works for you. I would love to share some writing strategies that I have adopted that have allowed my writing in French to blossom into something greater than anything I would have ever imagined when I was a student in IB French courses in secondary school.
1. Start by writing down everything. Write until you cannot think of anything else to say, even if it does not seem related to the topic you have in mind. You can always go back and change it or throw it out; there is no rule that states that your French writing has to be perfect when it first hits the paper, or in our digital age, our keyboards.
2. Write even if you do not know what you want to say. Often times writing helps you discover your thoughts. The process of writing may reveal to you, ideas and opinions that you did not know you had, not to mention things that you did not know you could express in French.
3. NEVER write in English, translating later into French. Do all of your writing, even the roughest drafts, in French. If you write in English first, your French will sound like “franglais”-- more English than French.
4. Do your writing in stages. When you work on a paper, divide the task into smaller subtasks. Doing so will help you feel less stressed and less overwhelmed with the task at hand. Do not feel like you have you proceed in a straight line from introduction to conclusion. Jot down ideas as they occur to you. Later you can organise them and add examples and details to explain them. If you try to generate your ideas and organise them at the same time, the task will seem insurmountable, but if you take it one step at a time, it will become manageable, even fun! Once I started doing this at uni, I no longer waited until the night before a paper was due to get started lol.
5. REWRITE. Rarely will you get it perfect the first time in English, let alone in a second language. The rewriting often lets you articulate an idea you had earlier but could not express at the time. As your revise, you may also want to consult a dictionary, grammar text, verb book, or your instructor to answer specific questions about the French language.
These are some of the strategies I use when I write whether it be an academic paper, exposé, or blog post for this website. Every language learner is different and what may work for me may not work for you. Thank you for coming to my TEDTalk, mdr, I am just joking. Let me know in the comments below what strategies you use, I may add them to the writing section of this site in the future. Happy studying!
French Language and Culture enthusiast, fashion trend-setter extraordinaire. My goal is to provide students with resources, materials, and insight that will help French Language acquisition less intimidating and more enjoyable.