Being a Filipino freelance writer, English is not obviously my first language. However, I did not consider it as an obstacle to pursue a freelance writing career. Though I may not be the best writer, I'm confident with my English writing skills.
From prep school to college, the English subject will never be gone in Philippines' educational curriculum. Plus, I grew up to a family that emphasizes the importance of the English language. And my mom was the one who told me to do my best in English subjects because several career opportunities await those who can write and speak this universal language. And I found this to be true!
So how does a non-native English speaker like me improve her writing skills? Here's what I usually do:
1. I read English books.
Even if e-books are the rave today, I still prefer paperbacks because I like to feel the texture of the pages as I flipped them with my hand.
I like reading fiction books. I don't have any particular favorites. As long as they can be bought cheap and I have something to read, I'm already happy. Here in Philippines, we have a popular book retail outlet called Booksale, wherein you can buy secondhand books. I can buy five English novels that are only worth $2.5.
Every time I do nothing, I always read English books. I read and read even if I don't understand some of the author's deep words. But of course, I use a handy-dandy dictionary to uncover the words' meanings.
2. I list interesting words and expressions.
I'm not doing this much lately, but when I have time on my plate, I list some interesting words and expressions that I read from newspapers, books, and of course, the online web.
I've got this habit of listing down English words and phrases ever since I was in grade school. You know, my mom really pushed me hard to do well in school, and I was always a part of the school publication, so listing down words and expressions has become a sort of a writer's training.
This has really become quite useful in helping increase my English vocabulary. Think of it as my personal English dictionary and thesaurus.
3. I watch English movies.
I really like watching English or other foreign movies because their movie effects appear more real and their movie plot is more interesting. However, I have one confession to make. I sometimes don't understand what the actors and actresses are saying because of their different accent. Nevertheless, this made me a better listener.
Whenever I watch English movies, I am in full concentration to better understand the words they speak. I have learned expressions that are more casual to write or speak than those that are taught in English textbooks.
I know that there are so many ways on how non-native speakers can improve their English writing skills such as chatting with native speakers, reading a dictionary from cover to cover, enrolling in English courses, or even listening to audio books. But the strategies I listed above are the things that worked for me (and I really enjoyed doing).
How about you? In what way do you improve your English writing skills as a non-native speaker?