Skip to main content

Imitating writing to improve speaking

According to George Bernard Shaw, "Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery – it's the sincerest form of learning”.

And it’s happening all the time.

Wander through any museum and there are people sitting in front of masterpieces and copying them as a learning exercise.

We read about sportspeople regularly re-watching the performances of top players to discover how they can improve their own technique.

A visit to an artisanal workshop is often an opportunity to observe how a craftsperson creates with wood or pottery or glass.

By absorbing the work of others, we gain insights into how an object or a process is put together.

For language learning, active copying works in a similar way.

You take a section or paragraph and copy it out while noticing new words and expressions, the order of words in sentences, which tenses are used when and how, what verb endings are needed.

You’ll be reminded of what’s right and what’s wrong, spot what works and what doesn’t plus discover new turns of phrases.

Sources to copy are everywhere. You can:

  • Use books and magazines.

  • Collect transcripts as you travel around the internet.

  • Get generative AI to prepare a piece on a topic you’re interested in.

When you borrow examples of how others use language well, you’ll boost your ability to speak more naturally.

Need a hand to set up and stick to your DIY language project? I can help.

© Christina Wielgolawski