Saturday, 14 May 2016

Five Ways to Improve Your Language Skills

'How do I improve my speaking/writing skills?' is a question many in my inbox have. I thought I'd write down a list of five simple steps to get started.

1)Read More, Read Diverse 
I started reading picture books then moved to comics (Tinkle and Champak FTW!) and Enid Blyton novels in primary school. In my teenage years I read a lot of YA fiction and then eventually graduated to more complex novels.
It's important that you read widely- in as many languages as you know, and from as many sources as you can. It exposes you to new and different cultures/societies/ways of thinking. Read African, Asian, non-white literature. Read writers from different centuries, belonging to different economic and social backgrounds. Read female authors. Pay attention to the way they use language, the turns of phrases, their metaphors, their allusions. 
Read newspapers, opinion pieces, infomercials, backs of cereal boxes and shampoo bottles. Just make sure that everyday you are reading something new. 

2)Talk to Others
Talk about what you read, what you know, what you'd like to know. Talk to those who have a better command over the language and it'll help you step up the ladder. This is important because the more you practise, the more articulate you will become. Often we have all the thoughts and even all the matching words in our head, but lack of practise makes us stutter and stammer when speaking in public. There's an interesting phenomenon happening in your brain though. Each time you stumble, your brain learns a new way of dealing with that failure. So the more you falter, the more the brain learns, till one day you find that you can speak effortlessly. (This is how we learn all things we know-walking, eating, riding a bike).

3)Write, Write, Write 
Make it a habit to write a little bit everyday, be it a journal entry or a Facebook status. Write about your life, your dreams, your hopes for the world. But make sure you have a locked diary if you want to write about your crush. wink emoticon
It's a wonderful time to be alive. You have so many avenues to put forward your work. It may not be very good in the beginning, but like with anything else, you will see a marked difference in the quality as time passes by. 
Experiment with different forms of writing, try poetry, satire, listicles- whatever excites you! Don't wait till you think you have mastered a language to write in it. The beauty of this process is that writing itself becomes your teacher.
Also, don't be afraid to form your own style. Everyone appreciates a new voice.

4)Use Google 
Praise the Lord for Google! The moment you come across a word or phrase that's new to you, look it up. Look at its noun and verb forms. See how it's used in a sentence. And next time, if it's appropriate, use it when you write or say something. Learn words for different emotions. Learn descriptive words that describe places and things and movement and sounds. You will be amazed at how a single word can change the image you see in your head.
'The soft caress of a feather', 'the metallic twang of a spoon on a steel plate', 'the ball swished over his head' 'the coconut tree swayed in the wind'. Could you hear or feel or see these sentences? It's because of the key words in them.
So use Google all day, everyday!

This is the key. Build castles in the air. See stars where others see lampposts. Make your life an animated movie. Just make sure you check in with real life every now and then. wink emoticon
Daydreams give the best ideas. Don't hold back from letting yourself loose in your thoughts when need be. You will be surprised by how much your dreams can teach you. Borrow ideas from your dreams and translate them on paper. Voila! You have created something new and unique. 
These are the five tips that I have. Feel free to add anything else that has worked for you.


  1. "This Muslim Feminist Uses Her Powerful Writing To Shut Down Online Haters", this is the article of yours I read for the first time...and believe me you are one authentic and inspiring, thought provoking and stirring blogger.
    You are now someone I will look up to while seeking for inspiration.
    Thank You Ma'am.