Better Pronunciation, Better Writing: How to Multi-task Effectively

“I can’t, I have a paper due.”

The perennial student complaint that has an extra level of frustration for non-native English speakers studying at a university in the U.S. or England.

It already takes a great effort to compose thoughts into words, then you have to deal with a different writing style than what you were trained in your whole life. The demands put on you are enough to make you want to throw up your hands and call the whole thing off.

Don’t despair!

In fact, your non-native English speaking status can help you, and your native English speaking peers, write better college papers.

Writing college papers is different than a lot of writing you’ll have to do in your life. You are writing to an audience of one; learning how to craft words for one person helps develop your persuasive voice better than you realize.

Here’s how to focus on the voice that’s going to read the paper to build your listening, speaking, and writing abilities.

  1. Partner up with a native English speaking friend

    • Your partner will take substance notes about the topic. You will take notes on your professor’s speech patterns. Notice the words they repeat a lot, how often they pause, how long they hold vowels when they are drawing attention to a word.

      TIP: If you’re allowed to record lectures, take advantage of the reviews for both content and speaking style.

  2. Write your paper

    • Write 1-2 drafts in your usual manner; get all your ideas into the structure you want to lay out your arguments.
  3. Work with your partner to practice imitation

    • When you’re ready to make your final edit, take a break from writing to practice imitating your professor reading your paper. Let your partner give feedback on your imitation and show off their own professor parody. We naturally exaggerate when we imitate someone else, so this is a great time to practice letting go of shyness about looking silly.
  4. Start with the conclusion

    • Don’t worry about reading through the whole paper. Start with your conclusion and work backward by section. The point is to practice hearing your words in an English speaking pattern. Ask your partner for help getting your words into an English flow.

      TIP: Professors often read your conclusion first to see how you built your argument- make sure that’s the strongest part of your paper.

And if you’re shy about asking someone to help with this project in the first place, you’ll really be doing your partner a favor. By helping them focus so closely on the way your professor speaks, therefore the voice they use to read papers, your partner will be able to improve their final edit, too.

A’s for everyone!*
*A’s not guaranteed.

College is all about learning how to multi-task effectively. Turning assignments you already have to do into English practice can be a great way to keep up the language habit. Focus on one class a quarter/semester for best results.

Are you a student struggling with writing in English? Do you have techniques or habits that help you be productive and get through the language barrier?

Are you not a student but still get nervous writing emails or company memos? Could this exercise be useful on your language learning journey?


If you found this post helpful, don’t forget to sign up for the Pronunciation Habit newsletter for more great access to pronunciation practice techniques and post it to your favorite social network (I’m @soundmeaning on Twitter!) to share the knowledge with your friends. We can all use all the help we can get with our goals.

Happy Practicing!

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