Techniques That Thread Together Vibrant, Clear ESL Writing
1. Build strong sentences by beginning with subjects and verbs.
We are all aware that writing in a new language is more involved than the simple case of substituting one word for another. Each language has its preferences for certain sentence structures and idiosyncrasies of meaning.
Linguists regard English primarily as a right-branching direction (RBD) language. Sentences begin with subject and verb, with relative clauses that branch to the right, just like in this sentence. Not all languages display this characteristic. Japanese, for example, is considered to be an LBD language.
2. Order words for the most powerful impact.
In many ways, a sentence is a microcosm of a story. A good sentence ideally should have a strong beginning, a meaningful middle and an end that echoes on and on… and on.
What does all this mean for the struggling ESL student? At the word level, students should be encouraged to put their strongest words and images at the beginning and the end. We can think of the beginning of the sentence as the “hook,” just as we would for a short story, and the end should impact the reader.
3. Keep sentences fresh by varying their length.
Nothing is more frustrating for a reader than boredom, and a sure-fire way to ensure boredom is for your student to write all their sentences the same length. It is the literary equivalent of speaking in a monotone.
This is a common problem for ESL students. Students stick to the one or two structures they are most comfortable with. For example, the classic English sentence structure outlined in #1 above.
. Sentence length can be varied according to the purpose of the sentence. Keep sentences short when they are explaining or describing something complex. This allows them to break down what they want to say in manageable chunks of language.
The reverse is true for expressing simpler concepts. Here the long sentence can be employed, affording the student a more expansive canvas to express themselves, unintimidated by the complexity of what it is they have to say.