Improve your Writing Without a Teacher (Back Translation)

 If you want to improve your writing, it’s often important to have a teacher look at your work and tell you how to improve it.  They can point out your mistakes much better than you can, and they will notice sentences that sound strange in English even if they sound fine to you.


However, you can still practise writing on your own, using a method called back translation.

Instructions for Back Translation

  1. Choose an English text.  It should be quite short, and fairly easy for you to understand. (More advice on choosing a text later.)
  2. Translate it into your language.  Make it sound natural in your language – you don’t have to translate word-by-word.  Just translate the overall meaning.
  3. Don’t look at the English original, only look at your text in your language.  Now translate it back into English.
  4. Compare your English text with the original English text.  Look very carefully for every single difference, including spellings, punctuation, etc.  Highlight or underline each difference.
  5. Reflect on your mistakes (THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART!)  Ask yourself:

*       What grammar mistakes did I make?

*       What spelling mistakes did I make?

*       What word choice mistakes did I make?

*       What paragraph and punctuation mistakes did I make?

*       Which phrases were the most difficult to translate into my language, or into English?

*       Which phrases are the most different between English and my language?

*       What do I want to improve next time I write something in English?


6. Practice the areas you have difficulty with – for example:

*       Write out words that you spelled wrong five times each.

*       Write two new sentences using a grammar pattern that you got wrong.

*       Use an English-English dictionary to find example sentences for words that you used wrongly.


Choosing a Text for Back Translation

Choosing a text: You can choose any text, but it’s best to choose one that is very easy for you to read – this is because you can read much more difficult texts than you can write.


Some good reading texts can be found here, in the British Council's Learning English magazine, and here, in their easy reading section.



Just choose one paragraph or section if the whole text is quite long.  

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