Daily Life · School tips · Work

Do’s and Don’ts of Writing an College Essay in a Second Language

While going through school I have been helping my brother-in-law with his essays as well as writing my own. Background – he immigrated from Peru several years ago and while his english is pretty solid(speaking), his writing is a weak point. Let’s be honest – most people who are fluent in english (reading, writing, and speaking) like naturalized citizens struggle with writing a solid essay. This list compiled down below are a few things that will help you learn to write a better essay in english if it’s your second language. I do have to say that I believe it would help with writing in any other language but I won’t swear to it.

  1. Do Organize – I’ve said it in previous posts and I’ll say it again – organize before you write. This is probably the most important step to writing an essay no matter the language. You have to organize your thoughts – write it in bullet points, do a brain web, anything that helps you get organized. It always amazes me how people ask me to read their essay and it’s so unorganized. Your brain might make the connections but I guarantee your readers will not.
  2. Do NOT Write it in Your First Language – This was new to me when I started reading my brother’s essay. He would write them in spanish and then use Google Translate to translate them into english. Now – I love Google Translate. It’s how I am able to communicate with my mother-in-law, but using it to translate more than a few sentences is a BAD idea. I know that writing, particularly in english, is very difficult, but try speaking what you are going to write as you are writing it. It will help you learn the flow of what you are trying to communicate. The problems I have found in essays that utilize a translation website are: grammar, missing words, incorrect sentence flow, and mistranslation. If you are unsure about a word – yes look that up, but do NOT use it for the whole paper or even sentences. It becomes choppy and looks like something expected out of an elementary school student.
  3. Do Read – I know that sounds weird, especially in the age of TV. That being said, however, you must read. Read and re-read your essay. Read other essays, books, magazines, and literature. No – subtitles do not count. This will not only help you become more accustomed and acclimated to the language but it will also help your grammar skills. Amazingly, I can tell who reads and who doesn’t simply by the style of writing they employ. If you aren’t going to read a book or don’t want to – please re-read your essay at least 3 times out loud. Give breaks in between your readings. It is most important that you read it out loud though, this forces your brain to find all the discrepancies your ear will hear.

I hope these help the writers out there that are struggling. Personally, I hate doing peer reviews and reading an essay that is so unorganized, choppy, and ill-written; so I’m sure my professors do also. It’s ok to need help – that’s why schools offer tutoring. It’s ok for it not to be perfect – that’s why you are in school. But it is NOT ok to not do your best and try to find a shortcut to doing a decent essay. When you get out of school – you will need these skills. Improve yourself in the safety of the classroom now – the working world is far less forgiving.

Daily Life · School tips

5 Easy Tips on How to Write a Great Essay!

Now, I’m not going to tell you that I’m an enlish major – because I’m not. I’m a nursing major, but I have written my fair share of essays and I have always gotten atleast a B+ or better on them by using these 5 tips:

  1. Brainstorm – even if it’s a prepicked topic from your college professor, brainstorm! Why? Because creativity is key. You need to stand out from the pack. Find a new way to put a spin on that topic that none of your classmates will think of! Use as much or as little paper as you need – do not limit yourself. Personally I enjoy using a Whiteboard – I can write and erase as needed and if it’s big enough – it makes a great way to step back and actually see it from a different angle – no pun intended.
  2. Outline –  I cannot stress this one enough! I have multiple friends who try to do it in one sit down and even when your brain is working at high power – it is almost impossible to do. Outline your paragraphs/main points all the way down to each sentence. This is especially important if you are new to writing in english. If people would do this then they would be able to sit down and write out an essay in a matter of 30 min.
  3. Watch your verbs – Always use strong verbs. When writing an essay do not use helping verbs. Use strong action verbs.
  4. Use your resources – People always think that they can do quotes and research off the internet. The internet is full of unreliable sources however. Use the library – it’s free, it has free resources – the librarians will be more then happy to point you in the write direction. Even alot of colleges have free libraries so if you are in highschool – start making use of the local college libraries.
  5. Check your self before you wreck yourself – Always proof read your essay atleast 3 times. The first time read it aloud – mark it up with a colored pen. Go do something else and then come back and read it a second time – silently. The third time – read it aloud again. The best way to find the errors in your writing is to read aloud. You get a sense of how your essay will sound outloud.

These are the best 5 tips I have to writing an excellent essay. While they won’t make it perfect they are my immediate go to’s anytime I have to write for college. I would also recommend getting into the right headspace to write – get a beverage, go to the bathroom before hand, turn on music that has no lyrics (like film scores). All of these will help your creativity flow and you to be able to sit for a while before you start writing. Any tips you would like to share? send them to me or leave a comment!