Learning a new language is never easy. Learning to think fast, read and write in a new language to keep pace in your job with native speakers is a tough, but often essential, undertaking. Consider the following five tips to help improve your English, especially essential business writing skills. And by the way, these tips work for native English speakers as well:
1. Read. The more English writing that you read, the better. It’s okay to read online blogs (like this one, for instance!), but keep graduating to more complex and lengthier material. And don’t just read business books and journals. Find magazines and fiction books that interest you, or favorite authors to follow, and read their work.
2. Keep notes. As you read, keep plenty of notes. If you can mark up the material you’re reading, then use a highlighter or pen to mark words that confuse you, or maybe vocabulary you want to use in your business writing. You can look them up as you go or do so later; that’s a matter of personal preference. But it helps to keep track of words and grammar rules that either trip you up or that you will want to use again.
3. Look for help. If you have trouble with a word or idiom, add the word or phrase and its meaning to your ongoing notes or a personal English dictionary. Keep it in your smartphone or in a paper notebook, whatever works best for you. Turn to a friend or colleague for translation of phrases and idioms that make no sense to you when translated literally. You would be surprised how willing colleagues are to help non-native English speakers better understand business jargon and American idioms. Online quizzes and courses are other sources of help.
4. Journal. Writing often nearly always improves one’s writing. Writing in English should help a non-native English speaker learn to more readily form thoughts and complete sentences, and is excellent practice for business writing. However, it’s not necessary to write about business topics to practice writing. In fact, if you’re writing during free time, you’re much more likely to stick with it if you write about a subject you love. Journal about your children, your garden or the books you read, for example.
5. Seek and accept constructive criticism. Asking a friend who is an excellent writer, and a native speaker of English, to review your writing can improve your business writing. Native English speakers can spot small nuances in tone and style. Just remember – if you ask for a review or seek help, be accepting of constructive criticism. It’s never easy to open one’s work up for review and feedback, but once you ask, keeping it positive contributes to learning and helps your reviewer know that you appreciate the help.
At Business Writing That Counts, we’re helping non-native English speakers improve their business writing skills with a webinar, tip card and personal coaching. Learn more about Business Writing Essentials for Non-Native Speakers.