To many beginning to intermediate level students in Korea, writing has long been one of the most reluctant realms in English language learning. The obvious fact that productive language is more difficult to learn than receptive language has been repeatedly proven by numerous researchers. Added to that, even within productive language of speaking skill and writing skill, the writing is perceived to be much more difficult than speaking. Some typical reasons are as follows: 1. Written language is more formal than spoken language. 2. The errors in written language are much more vivid than spoken language. 3. Expectation in formal written language is much higher than spoken language. The three reasons mentioned above not only make the writer hesitant when we write but also hinder the motivation to write. The question, at this point, we have to ask ourselves is 'then what? What can we do to overcome the difficulties of English writing?’ Of course no one can single out one absolute answer to this question, but a tip of 10 to 15 minutes practice a day will definitely raise up a notch of your writing skill.
Freewriting while Leaving the Editor Off
Many students who have been studying English in Korea often are slow writers and are too conscious about accuracy. This is a result of GTM (grammar translation method) they've been exposed to for a long time, which ironically works as an impediment in writing practices. The accuracy, of course, is very important in any writing. The problem, however, is that many students are applying that final step of writing practice from the beginning of their writing. In other words, students should not be worried about making errors until they get all their ideas on the paper.
Before getting started with the writing practice, the writer should remind him/herself to leave the editor turned off until the first draft is somewhat completed. In other words, the writer needs to learn to generate ideas without being too worried about the accuracy. While the writer is worried about the accuracy, even generating the first sentence will be a big challenge, making the writer just staring at the paper absent minded. Even if the first sentence has been successfully jotted down on the paper, the writer may be too hesitant on composing sentences, wasting time unnecessarily and demotivating oneself. The revision and editing can be done after the first draft is finished, meaning, after all the ideas are safely placed on the paper. But until all the ideas are down on paper, it is important that editor remain turned off. Leaving the editor turned off is not only for certain types of writing, but for majority of writings. All errors and inappropriate expressions can be corrected while proofreading after the writing has finished.
Turning the editor off while writing, despite its significance, is not easy. Thus, in the beginning, freewriting is recommended for writing practices. We can consider the term 'free' on freewriting as 'free' of the editor. Being relaxed and not worrying about errors could mean that one can be free from the frustration of writing as well. Good amount of time spent for freewriting is 10 minutes per try. During this time, the focus should be on generating as much materials as possible. Elbow (1979) suggests that while freewriting, students should not stop writing for anything. "Don't stop to think about mistakes; don't stop to check spelling; don't stop to think about grammar; don't stop to cross out or read what you have written, don't stop for anything. The heuristics for the learner in freewriting is that it enables and somewhat forces the writer to process the language itself in the target language, keeping the translation to the minimum while they are thinking. In other words, it is just like the basic spoken English just put into writing. This freewriting should be practiced as often as possible. As practices are repeated, the writer will discover that the amount of sentences he/she is generating within the given time is increasing. In addition, as the writer improves in their English skills in general, the amount of errors in the free writing will eventually diminish along with continuous practices.
By Charles Ko / Department of English Education
The Chungdae Post -
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