Writing for Modern Languages

Students often assume that writing in a foreign language is wildly different than writing in English. This is understandable and even appropriate to some extent. After all, differences in a foreign language’s grammar, syntax, and vocabulary are significant. And although an analysis of a literary work in Spanish or French will have a similar purpose as an analysis in English (the interpretation of a text), important elements like audience, organization, voice, format, convention, style, and approach will likely vary according to language, culture, and context.

Despite linguistic and cultural differences, students should not “forget” the basics of good writing that they have been learning in English classes for years, like introducing the topic in a way to interest the reader, constructing clear thesis and topic statements, and paragraphing. Drawing from their extensive background as writers of English will help students produce well-organized, well-written texts in a foreign language.

It is important to remember that there are certain guidelines that all college students writing in a native or non-native language should follow, like properly citing sources and avoiding plagiarism. And when English and foreign language instructors use a common language for talking about how to write, the instructional message becomes even clearer: learners acquire the principles of writing in any language both faster and better.

While consciously using her knowledge about writing in a native language, as a student progresses in foreign language proficiency she must also gain knowledge about how many aspects of writing in the foreign culture work in order to produce context-appropriate, sophisticated writing.

This page is designed to steer students in their acquisition of native-like writing skills. In making good use of its resources, students will improve their foreign language writing and be guided to think in a different way while and by using a foreign language. The mental gymnastics that foreign languages require help students begin to think differently—to visualize angles and perspectives that monolinguals do not see. This heightened linguistic awareness and the ability to communicate effectively in writing (no matter what the language) will surely serve them well in all sorts of future professions and endeavors.