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Speaking a lot of English isn't always the fastest way to improve

Kevin Naglich
Founder, Deliberate English

You probably spend a lot of time looking for people to speak to in English. After all, if you want to speak more fluently, it makes sense to do it a lot.

While that's true, speaking isn't always the fastest way to improve. When you speak you have very little time to think, notice mistakes, and receive corrections. This makes speaking more useful as something to practice what you already know versus learn things that you don't.

On the other hand, writing is a powerful way to help your speaking ability. Why? Because both writing and speaking involve producing a language. In other words, you're exercising the same parts of your brain.

Speaking is like giving a concert. Writing is like practicing your instrument.
The more you practice, the better your concert will be!

I know what you're thinking: I never know what to write about! I promise it's a lot easier than you think to come up with topics. A simple google search for "conversation starters" is all you need to have an endless source of inspiration.

Now that you have a topic, what next? I recommend a 5 step process:

  1. Write the first draft of a mini-story in English
  2. Translate your story back to your native language
  3. Improve your story by entering your translation into an online translator
  4. Get feedback from a native speaker on your improved story
  5. Review feedback and practice using anything new you learned

Here are some tips to make each of those 5 steps as impactful as possible:

  • You only need to write around 100 words. No need to author a novel!
  • When you translate back to your native language in step 2, don't just translate word for word. Be as expressive as you normally would.
  • My favorite online translator for step 3 is DeepL. In my opinion, it provides the most accurate and natural-sounding translations. Plus, it lets you easily modify the translation to better fit what you're going for. The idea here is to update your story from step 1 with suggestions from the online translator.
  • Don't know any native speakers? Worried that you're going to annoy the ones you do? The best way to get feedback on your writing in Step 4 is to use an app like HiNative. HiNative lets you post in a community where anyone is free to comment and reply to your request. You'll usually get feedback within an hour or so.
To use HiNative simply start a new question, select English as the topic, ask for help making your story sound more natural, paste your story, and click ask.
  • Once you get feedback from step 4, add any new expressions, sentence structures, or corrections you received to your "collection". A great way to do this is with an app like Anki that makes it super easy to review expressions via short daily quizzes.

And there you have it! A five-step process to improve your English through writing. If you start to use this technique as part of your daily practice habit I'm confident you'll start to notice big results!

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