Monday, 25 May 2015

How to Avoid Essay Writing Pitfalls When English Isn't Your First Language

English is one of the most common languages in the world. It is spoken across several countries including the United Kingdom, Canada, United States of America, New Zealand, Australia and parts of South America. However, it is also a language used worldwide in the tourist industry and in the world of business and commerce. It is no wonder therefore that so many individuals wish to learn how to write, speak and understand the English language, and why so many students choose to undertake their academic study in an English speaking country.

However, being sufficiently fluent in English that you can undertake fulltime or part time study of a subject of any nature within an English speaking country is no mean feat! Whilst you may feel that your grasp of the English language is sufficient for you to get by on campus, make friends, interact and participate in your classes and even hold down a job, when it comes to writing English, there are lots of errors and areas for concern that individuals whose second language is English need to be aware of, and do their best to avoid. Unfortunately, proofreading errors and editing errors plague even the brightest native English speaking individual and affect their marks. So achieving strong coursework or essay marks on the proofreading front is particularly challenging for those students who have English as a second language.

Students for whom English is a second language find that they not only have to worry about what to write in their essays and coursework, but they also have to think about how to write it. It almost doesn't matter how long you have been studying English and how fluent you think you may be in conversing in the language, when it comes to writing down the language, nothing is ever as comfortable as your native lingo.

So, what are the key things to consider as a non-native English speaker when writing an essay in English?

- The language needs to be sufficiently complex and academic in style. There is most definitely a distinction between the language you use when writing blog posts, letters, emails and when generally chatting to others and the language you use when writing an academic piece. Academic language is complex, not simple, and this can be a difficult concept to grasp for everyone, not just those for whom English is their second language.

- Sentences are constructed backwards in comparison to most European languages. So adjectives go before the noun in English, not the other way around as is the case in most languages derived from Latin.

- Spellings are different for words that sound the same depending on their meaning; such as 'Their' and 'There'.

- Quotations are now usually reported within single quotation marks as opposed to double speech marks.

- There are two particularly common referencing styles used by English speaking Universities or Educational bodies. These are the Harvard Referencing Style and the Oxford or Cambridge Referencing Style. You should always check with your tutor to find out which type of referencing style you are expected to use in your essays, but if in doubt, remember that these two referencing styles are most likely to be accepted by English speaking Universities.

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