I’m not a native English speaker but I do blog in English.
It’s a challenge for anyone to decide to start blogging in a different language.
For me as a Vietnamese speaker, obviously, I am making (a lot of) mistakes. Although I’ve tried my best, it’s pretty obvious from the way I write & the way I speak that I’m not a native English speaker.
Since I’ve been blogging/writing in English for more than four years now, I get asked this a lot, even more than before since I launched this blog, which is 100% written in English.
The most common questions I got recently are:
- How did you learn to speak & write in English?
- How to improve English writing skills?
- Does it require any special skills to blog in English?
… often followed by:
- I can’t blog in English because I’m not good at it.
- I don’t have time to practise.
- I’m not sure how people will react when they read a blog in broken English.
So here I am today for you!
My honest tips to improve your language skills & blog in English as a non-native speaker
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Tip #1: Read. A. Whole. Lot
Even to become a good writer in your mother tongue, the first thing to do before you start writing is to read. A whole lot of reading. The same goes to writing in another languages.
I normally read one English book per two – four weeks, depends on how interesting the book is and how busy I am with the kids.
By reading a books written and then edited by native speakers, you’ll learn so much about how they use words, phrases, expressions, grammar, etc.
That, my dear, is my number one tip when it comes to writing. Read!
Tip #2: Practise your skills
Because practice makes perfect. You cannot get any better after reading if you don’t apply what you’ve read to what you’re gonna do.
Practice your skills by writing and you’ll see you much it will improve after.
Actually, I have a notebook where I just write down phrases and stuff I heard regular Americans or British people would actually say in their everyday life. Then when possible, I’ll try to put them in my writing.
Examples I noted down are:
- This is bananas!
- Shut the front door!
- The whole nine yard
- [do something] and call it a day
- and even some very sentences but when put in special context, they have a totally different meaning.
In the very beginning, you may not be confident enough to start any writing job in English. That’s when a personal blog kicks in as your place to practise.
You can write as much as you want, make as many mistakes in the beginning as you want. The more important thing is that you have a place to write!
Tip #3: Find your courage & voice
Starting a blog in English for non-English speakers seems like a daunting task. Think about an English essay that turns into a sea of red scribbles upon its return a week later.
I know it so well since I’ve deleted dozens and dozens of blog posts throughout my journey since 2016.
But you’re not at school and this is your blog. So why not?
JUST. DO. IT!
Take tip #1 and tip #2 here, go read other blogs. Learn how they sound, the vocabulary they use, the way they write a complex sentence.
Then do your homework. Write and write and write until your own voice starts shining through and your confidence kicks in.
Of course there will be mistakes in the very early stage, especially if you’re not that familiar with writing in English (by writing here, I mean long-form content of 2,500+ words), but the more you write the less there will be.
Tip #4: Use tools (but NOT Google Translate)
Talking about mistakes, the good news is that there are many tools out there (for free) to help you check your mistakes and improve them.
I always use Grammarly whenever I write anything in English, both for my blog and (especially, duh) for my clients from Upwork. They offer a free version (with Chrome extension, too) which is for me quite good to use as a freelance writer/blogger.
If you happen to write more of academic papers/official writing, I recommend buying the pro version (which is $12 per month), which will come with more support, both vocabularies and grammar.
Hemingway app (free) is also an option, especially if you like something more colorful 😉
The other tip is to NEVER use Google Translate as one of your resources. It’s OK to use them to translate a few words or simple sentence. But when it comes to long-form content, Google is not your best friend.
Tip #5: British English or American English
Depends on your topic, target audience, audience demography and so on that you have to decide whether you’d like to blog in British or American English.
It may sound like a no-brainer, since it’s English anyway, but think about SEO. People who searched for tips to commute by underground will never have a chance to read your awesome article about subway commuting guide!
I myself often make this mistake, since I come from a country where English is even not considered second language.
At school, we studied something in between (with textbooks were written like twenty years ago). At home, we watched American movies, listen to American music.
But still, it’s difficult for a non-native to point out exactly whether a word British, American, or even Australian English. You just have to learn along way and be consistent with your language.
I once watched a kinda funny YouTube video about how different the three versions are. Here it is:
Tip #6: Ask for help
Have you any native speakers friends, ask for help.
Just make sure you don’t just assign them one hundred and one articles and ask them to proofread all of them, unless they owed you a great favor that cost them an arm and a leg.
I personally think it’s totally OK to reach out for help. Well, people don’t have to jump in and correct your every single mistake, but encourage them to correct you as per comments, DM or something similar is fair enough.
Tip #7: However, be aware of corrections!
Now, since I asked openly for help, there are sometimes some friends/readers dropped me an email correcting some of my writings.
(Oh Gosh even one of my clients did the same thing, and it was sooooo embarrassing!)
Back to the point. I was grateful for such support.
I mean I know my stuff here, and there’s no way I can write a full long-form article in English without making any single mistake. I even make small mistakes in my mother tongue, let alone in another language. C’mon.
However, of course, there will be people who are just waiting for you to make a mistake and bring you down. That’s how it is, simply put. Haters’ gonna hate.
Next time, just ignore them.
If people tell you to stop writing/blogging in English because you make mistakes, just show them your middle finger!!!
They are just jealous that you’re creating something beautiful, improving your language skills, and making friends from all over the world!
I truly hope those tips will be helpful for you, non-native speaker, to know exactly what I’ve done to gain more confidence writing and blogging in English, even when I’m not a native-speaker.