Learning writing and composition

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Axon
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Learning writing and composition

Postby Axon » Tue Apr 16, 2019 8:10 am

I learned to read early and pretty much never stopped. Thanks to that and about 17 years of school, I feel confident in writing on different subjects and for different audiences. In English.

When I write in other languages, though, it always feels very stream-of-consciousness and is never as clear as I want it to be. I wrote a quick little thing in Chinese on iTalki and was proud of myself until I got two separate corrections that both said "this is really confusing and hard to follow, maybe next time put some English in so people can understand." :cry:

I know that I have to master the basics first, and the basics in English started from weekly paragraphs about "My Family" and "What I Did This Summer." I'm thinking I probably need to keep doing short compositions until I can regularly write at the level of an elementary schooler, and perhaps even buy a composition textbook for children. I don't care if my style remains basic - I just want to be able to communicate ideas in writing and have them understood.

Is good target-language writing style something that can come from massive exposure alone? What are your experiences with improving the quality of your TL writing?
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Flickserve
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Re: Learning writing and composition

Postby Flickserve » Tue Apr 16, 2019 8:45 am

What Chinese grammar have you done before? It would be good to write in an English version.

I had the same issue as you have had. In the end I gave up writing for a while. Improved my listening, which then improved my spoken expression and my writing has improved without going much past basic grammar structures.

Note the following points with Chinese corrections:

- Spoken Chinese can sometimes be quite different from written Chinese.

- Some corrections are superfluous. I had some people private message me saying that some corrections by other people were not needed.

- Occasionally the correction can be wrong.

- Sometimes Chinese people like to show off a bit and give some over eloquent corrections.
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Axon
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Re: Learning writing and composition

Postby Axon » Tue Apr 16, 2019 9:59 am

Flickserve wrote:What Chinese grammar have you done before? It would be good to write in an English version.

I had the same issue as you have had. In the end I gave up writing for a while. Improved my listening, which then improved my spoken expression and my writing has improved without going much past basic grammar structures.

Note the following points with Chinese corrections:

- Spoken Chinese can sometimes be quite different from written Chinese.

- Some corrections are superfluous. I had some people private message me saying that some corrections by other people were not needed.

- Occasionally the correction can be wrong.

- Sometimes Chinese people like to show off a bit and give some over eloquent corrections.


I took some Chinese courses in school and read through some Chinese grammars then, but I haven't studied grammar for a long time. I can read informal articles that are a step up from spoken Chinese yet not quite to the complexity of a book - stuff like "Things You Shouldn't Bring To Thailand" and "This Third Grader's Essay Shocked His Parents." I have no trouble with the structures in those, and no trouble using Chinese all day with my boss at work.

And yeah, I think snowflake's log especially shows that there are tons of opinions about correct writing style. I know that some of these articles are likely to have typos or strange sentences. The same thing happens with that genre in English. At the very least, though, I'd like to get to that standard of understandability.

Perhaps it's that I usually try to write things about myself and my experiences, and what I read is rarely that genre?
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Flickserve
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Re: Learning writing and composition

Postby Flickserve » Tue Apr 16, 2019 10:19 am

Might be worth revisiting a little how to structure a sentence.

Person, time, place etc
因为...所以
如果...就

See how you get on with that.
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Aiya.Lianxi
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Re: Learning writing and composition

Postby Aiya.Lianxi » Thu Apr 18, 2019 5:49 pm

Ultimately, middle grade and high school textbooks in TL can help. If you can find books targeted at language learners studying to get into Chinese colleges, they will go over essays, and other things we learned in middle school and high school.

This is the book I used for Japanese. If you have a Chinese or Taiwanese friend, ask them if they can help you find a middle grade or high school essay or writing textbook. Or even websites they use as references, like Purdue OWL is for every college student anywhere.

Read short stories and articles in your target language, and analyze the sentence beginnings, connections, modifiers, and ending patterns. And if you're truly adventurous, try a Chinese creative writing or nonfiction writing book, where they can lay out the standards and the do's and don'ts.
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Axon
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Re: Learning writing and composition

Postby Axon » Fri Apr 19, 2019 12:07 am

Aiya.Lianxi wrote:Ultimately, middle grade and high school textbooks in TL can help. If you can find books targeted at language learners studying to get into Chinese colleges, they will go over essays, and other things we learned in middle school and high school.

This is the book I used for Japanese. If you have a Chinese or Taiwanese friend, ask them if they can help you find a middle grade or high school essay or writing textbook. Or even websites they use as references, like Purdue OWL is for every college student anywhere.

Read short stories and articles in your target language, and analyze the sentence beginnings, connections, modifiers, and ending patterns. And if you're truly adventurous, try a Chinese creative writing or nonfiction writing book, where they can lay out the standards and the do's and don'ts.


Thanks! I live in China and have access to all the textbooks Chinese students use. Recently I took a look at some writing books for ages 9-12. What made you go straight for the high school level instead of starting out younger?
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Re: Learning writing and composition

Postby Sahmilat » Fri Apr 19, 2019 1:21 am

I got this advice on 4chan of all places on how to write better in English, but I see it applying just as well to an L2

>1. Copying passages.
This exercise consists of copying passages, word for word, from whatever it is you wish to imitate. while doing so you should concentrate on the specific syntax of the writer. However, to make proper use of this exercise follow the following rules:

a.) Do not spend more than 15 - 20 minutes copying at one time. If you spend much longer you will not be actively concentrating on the words and will be merely mechanically copying them.

b.) You must do the copying with a pen or pencil, typing is too fast and it will not allow you to pay proper attention to what you are imitating. Copying by hand will allow you the time to observe the choice and disposition of words, the pattern of sentences, and the length and variety of sentences.

c.) You must read the entire passage before copying it so you can capture the thought and the manner of the passages as a whole. When you are copying, it is advisable to read each sentence through before transcribing it. After you have finished copying the passage, you should read your transcription through so that you once again get a sense of the passage as a whole.

d.) You must copy the passage slowly and accurately. Attempting to speed through this exercise defeats the purpose of it entirely.


>2. Imitating sentence patterns:
Here you take individual sentences as patterns on which to devise your own. You should be attempting to imitate the model sentence into a different subject, paying attention to observe the kind, number, and order of clauses and phrases. If the model sentence has an adverb clause, you should write an adverb clause in you imitation sentence. If the model sentence is introduce with a participial phrase, you should put a participial phrase in the leading position of your own sentence. Basically, the point of the exercise is for you to analyse the sentence structure properly and learn to improvise with it. All these techniques are meant to develop an intuitive understanding which you can then apply spontaneously.
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