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Difficulties of Writing in English for ESL Students

difficulties writing in EnglishMany international students who are comfortable with the English language for everyday life skills and recreation find they have great difficulty writing in English. The students may be fluent enough to carry on engaging conversations yet struggle writing an essay for English class. Why is this?


Why International Learners Struggle with Writing

Writing is Not Speaking. One reason that is believed to be a cause of the struggle is because when writing an essay the writer does not have the opportunity to read the other person’s body language or expressions the way they would if they were speaking to someone. The immediate feedback from the person they are speaking to could let them know they were not being understood allowing them to make corrections as they speak. When writing there is no immediate feedback as they write. The writer must be as clear and concise as possible when writing. And that is a challenge.

Grammar Rules. Understanding grammar and conventions can make it difficult for international students to learn the rules of writing in English. Capital letters, punctuations, and many other aspects may need to be learned in order for the writing to make sense and convey what the student is trying to say. The comma rules are a good example of this because when a comma is placed in specific areas in a sentence it can change the meaning completely.

Vocabulary. Yet another issue in writing for international students is vocabulary. How wide is your vocabulary? The vocab required for academics is much more formal than daily use therefore the international student may be lacking in vocabulary when it comes to academics.


Writing Strategies for International Students

International students who find they are struggling with writing in English should take some time to work it out. Write and re-read what they just wrote to ensure it makes sense. International learners should practice writing skills as much as possible prior to beginning college and ongoing while in college.

Study, study and … study. Before beginning college the international learner would be wise to do some research on grammatical patterns, organization and development so that their writing will be coherent. They must understand and accept that it may take some extra work to be a good English writer. A good student is willing to work hard to become proficient even if it means keeping a dictionary handy. There are also writing guidebooks available that will help tremendously.

Take time. Students should allow themselves plenty of time when they know a writing assignment is upcoming. Being well organized with an outline or proper notes prior to beginning to write will also prove to be extremely helpful. If there is time and it is appropriate use the buddy system. Getting a second opinion or set of eyes on the writing piece before turning it in will give the opportunity to make changes before the assignment is graded. Feedback from peers and instructors will allow the student to improve in writing.

Get a tutor. If the struggle seems to be too much there are generally people on campus willing to do tutoring. Setting up tutoring sessions is a great way to overcome trouble areas especially those in writing.

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