(Originally published March 2, 2021 updated February 26, 2022)
Figuring out how to blog as a non native English speaker can be a challenging experience.
Fear manifests in many ways for ESL bloggers. The fears of criticism, rejection and failure seem common in their minds.
Even though I learned English growing up in the United States I tuned into your experiences deeply. Blogging From Paradise readers hail from:
- various other places where English is not the native tongue
Most of you speak and write English quite fluently but consistently expressing yourself in English sometimes feels uncomfortable or outright frustrating. I know. Circling the globe for 11 years forced me to communicate in languages other than English. Especially in Spanish-speaking countries, even though I can hold a conversation in Spanish, speaking, listening, writing and reading Spanish feels highly uncomfortable sometimes.
Tengo sed. Y tengo hambre.
Hace diez horas que comio cena. Tengo MUCHO hambre. Pero tomo cafe ahora. De Tailandia. O Siam. Delicioso!
I betcha didn’t know I could – barely – speak a second language? Yep; I am SSL: Spanish Second Language.
I learned the basics in high school. Plus, I have some real world experience speaking Spanish while living in, Panama, Peru, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, in the ‘burbs, where gringos and English speaking Nicas and Ticos and Peruvians lurk…..then…….I spent 6 weeks living in a remote jungle outside of Bribri, Costa Rica. Ain’t nobody speaking English there. So I did the immersion thing.
Truth be told; I spoke to more monkeys than humans during this stretch (One attempted to urinate on me; true story). But Kelli and I spoke Spanish quite a bit for this 6 week stretch.
This was a fun, enlightening and highly uncomfortable experience at times.
How to Blog as a Non Native English Speaker
I share because I can relate some to you rocking readers if you are ESL bloggers: English Second Language. I love all my readers from all over the globe: our Pakistani buddies, Indian buddies, Cambodian buddies, Indonesian buddies, Bangladeshi buddies….and of course, I love everybody who stops by BFP so I can pull the wool over your eyes a few times weekly.
Anyway, I wrote this post to help you knife through the scary, uncomfortable, freeing, elating and intimidating wave of emotions that may flood your being at times, if you want to build a successful blog – in English – but fear wading into English-speaking blogging waters regularly. Bloggers become highly successful even if English is not their native language. Becoming a pro blogger involves communicating effectively enough to:
- help targeted readers
- elicit positive, success-promoting emotions from your readership
I intend to help you become a clear, confident blogger who communicates skillfully in English even if this is not your native tongue.
Follow these tips to grow a successful blog in English if you are a non-native English speaker.
1: Watch Netflix in English
This one is easy.
Immerse yourself in English. Watch Netflix. Just binge watch episodes like I binge eat weirdly packaged Thai sweet snacks.
Listening to entertaining shows is a direct and clear way to learn English.
Note; you can also watch Youtube videos in English if YT floats your boat. I’d suggest Netflix because the shows are fabulous, drawing you in, cutting your learning curve.
One of my earliest memories of learning Spanish was watching Sabado Gigante on Univision in New Jersey, some 23 years ago, listening to now superstar but then unknown Sofia Vergara spit out machine gun rapid fire Spanish as I slowly but steadily followed, absorbed and learned.
Watching Netflix or TV or listening to audio English works as well as any other strategy for getting comfy with the language.
Feel free to spend 30-60 minutes daily watching Netflix, YouTube or any streaming service to re-introduce yourself to spoken English. Give yourself ample time to learn through exposure. No one picks up English idioms or other nuances after listening to native speakers for 5-10 minutes. Concepts gradually seep into your mind after hours, weeks then months of listening to native speakers communicate in natural fashion.
I always improve my Spanish-speaking skills after spending a few months conversing with native speakers in relaxed, natural settings. My confidence with speaking Spanish surges after chatting with Spanish-speaking people for hours because the mind needs repetition to allow ideas to take root.
Do not bust your hump to write and speak in English effectively. Allow English to permeate through your being. Listening to videos for a bit feels uncomfortable sometimes but lets you learn English in a controlled, largely comfortable environment because passive learning allows you to absorb concepts at your own speed.
2: Read Fiction and Non-Fiction Novels in English
Read like a freaking machine.
I read 30 to 60 minutes of fiction nightly. Novels. My writing skills improved dramatically since adhering to this daily ritual.
Exposing yourself to brilliant authors helps you to take on some of their qualities. Like, being a better writer. In English.
- story telling
- mental picture-painting
- how to inject humor into your work
- ways to inject drama into your work
- how to write with compassion
by reading brilliant authors.
My favorite author: George R.R. Martin. Yeah, the A Song of Ice and Fire guy. Or, the Game of Thrones guy. Pick any English-speaking author who vibes with you. At the end of the day, reading content pleasing to you relaxes your mind to become receptive to English. Consider reading topics you deeply enjoy. The concept of the work matters little compared to your assimilation of English phrases, word usage and overall presentation.
Skilled authors offer you writing breadcrumbs. Imagine a pro author laying out little clues of how to write skillfully in English, simply by you reading their work in clear detail. Enjoy the works of these clear, confident writers to become a clear, confident writer who blogs in the English language.
Do not be intimidated by skilled authors by comparing yourself to these pros. Remember that professional authors spend years writing millions of words in the English language to become iconic. Never compare their lifelong commitment to your shorter, newer commitment. Plus, no blogger needs to write as skillfully as Hemingway in order to go pro.
Simply pick up some writing skills through osmosis but know how your writing journey can and will deviate from that of published authors. Walk your writing path. Allow these authors to write their path. Admire pros but do not compare yourself to these writers. Respect their writing game but get busy tightening up your English writing skills by following the sum collection of these tips.
3: Follow English Native-Speaking BUT Laid Back Bloggers
Because even though I am a native English speaker – allegedly – I show you it’s OK to build a cool blog despite having a less than firm grasp on the niceties of the English language. Code for: I don’t give a shit about grammar but have pulled the wool over enough eyes to goad them into thinking I can write.
Feast on my English. Laid back English. Because in so doing you will take the grammar-obsessed pressure off yourself that hamstrings many bloggers who are ESL.
The English Language Rules Robot
Highly skilled, native English speakers sometimes offer sound writing advice based on specific rules. I deeply appreciate their presentation and learn valuable lessons from these pros. However, some non-native speaker bloggers become “rules robots” who write in un-natural, clunky, stiff fashion by attempting to do something as creative and free form as writing via following strict rules from logic alone.
Creating is largely heart-based. Following set rules can give you guidance but remember; humans are human beings, not mindless human doings. At the end of the day, most non-native speakers grow non-native speaking communities. Do all of your Indian readers demand that you write and speak in the King’s English? Do all of your Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Nepali or African readers implore you to use flawless English grammar?
Bloggers do not need to pass writing tests administered by native speaking English teachers. Learn from native speaking bloggers with a chill approach to grammar to experience sweet, freeing blogging success without pulling your hair out before tapping the “publish” button.
Never hold yourself up to the standards of an English-writing purist if your readers do not demand this level of English proficiency. Being informal, impersonal and less than perfect writing-wise often makes us endearing in the eyes of readers, customers and clients who appreciate the relaxed, down-home nature of blogging.
4: Slow Down Versus Rushing the English Learning Process
Trying to figure out how to blog as a non native English speaker is not a comfortable process.
Feeling uncomfortable usually pushes bloggers to try to learn how to write and speak in English from a forced, chaotic energy. Non-native English speakers attempt to rush the process of learning English. However, the outcome proves less than successful. What is worth doing demands you:
to do it well. I spent years learning how to speak Spanish. Expect to spend years learning how to speak and write English, let alone, learning how to listen to and process people speaking the English language.
Be gentle with yourself. No one masters any language over night. Slow down the process. Take your time reading this blog post. Jot down notes. Study the notes. Allow English-speaking fundamentals to slowly, surely and steadily seep into your mind. Effectively communicating concepts through your blog in a language other than your native language requires your effort, time and patience. Dive into this task with the proper frame of mind to walk a less bumpy, more enjoyable path.
5: Speak Videos in English with only Your Non Native Talking Head
I know how scary this gets, even for native English speakers. But hands down, creating selfie videos is one of the quickest ways to become proficient in any language.
Sprint out of your comfort zone. Record a video of yourself speaking in English. 30 seconds. Or maybe 60 seconds. Upload to Facebook or Youtube for the world to see.
I am currently in Pedasi, Panama. My wife Kelli and I spoke to a local about the low water pressure in the house today but he spoke so quickly and unclear that neither of us understood him. Plus, we were conserving in Spanish and we are both non-native speakers of course. However, feeling uncomfortable by speaking Spanish while facing communication barriers gave us greater confidence for the next time we would hablo espanol.
Speaking English for your videos – live broadcasts and/or recorded videos – feels scary but instills confidence to take to your blog writing. Once you speak a language with greater clarity and confidence, writing in that language tends to feel easier because you organize words in your head more seamlessly and experience little pressure writing with no one else around.
Look to your fellow non-native English speaking blogging buddies for inspiration; watch non ESL bloggers speaking English via video for a confidence boost. If they can do it you can do it too.
Be gentle with yourself. Expect to stumble a bit. Allow self-conscious energies to arise and pass. Every non-native speaker struggles to speak on video at first because talking in a language outside of your native tongue challenges everyone, initially. However, practicing a little bit daily – or publishing a few videos weekly – does wonders for grasping English.
Observe as your confidence and clarity increases. Writing English feels easier if you speak English with greater confidence, clarity and calmness.
6: Write 1,000 Words in English Daily for Practice
Write 1,000 words daily for practice:
- open a Word document
- write about your day, or, about your blogging niche, or about what you learned from my dastardly diarrhea tale of vomitous and intestinal violence during a Burmese bus-ride
- trash the Word document after writing
This practice gives you clarity in your writing, allows your voice to surface and helps you cultivate the art of detachment about your writing.
Expect to write more crisply in English too. Like KFC’s super secret recipe (Note the culture appropriate mention: I have literally seen KFC in all countries I’ve visited).
Critical Writing Tip
ESL bloggers scouring for various writing tips need look no further than following this simple writing tip. Write. Write a lot. Practice writing to become clear, confident and calm about your writing. ESL inner critics try long and hard to frustrate you from writing in English.
Often, bloggers – ESL or not – are their own worst enemy. Writing daily polishes your skills, improves your confidence and accomplishes what 5 or 10 other writing tips simply cannot do for you.
Do not overthink it; write. Writing for practice every single day is the only writing tip you need to follow in order to become a confident ESL blogger who writes with conviction.
Do not let yourself off of the hook. Write daily to become a skilled writer and clear blogger, silencing your inner writing critic in the process.
7: Have FUN with the English Learning Process
Have fun with the process of learning English.
Enjoy the experience. Fall in love with writing and speaking and reading English.
Remember why you decided to blog as an ESL blogger; being able to communicate with a bigger global audience lets you:
- make more friends
- serve more people
- grow a bigger blogging business
Relax. Slow down. Calm down. Enjoy the process of becoming a skilled blogger who communicates fluently in the English language.
Stop Criticizing Yourself to Dissolve Language Self-Consciousness
Stop picking yourself apart for having the courage, clarity and confidence to blog in English. Quit criticizing yourself to dissolve language self-consciousness. Read inspiring stories of successful people who learned English as a second language. Turn your self-criticism into self-love by admiring people who traveled a similar uncomfortable, freeing but sometimes scary path. If they did it you will do it too. Relax.
Have fun by enjoying the process of writing and speaking in a foreign language to silence the inner writing critic skewering your best efforts. Observe how much you have grown as a:
to accelerate your blogging growth and to enjoy the process of writing and speaking fluent English.
8: Commit 100% to Being Comfortable with Writing and Speaking English
Don’t cop out on discovering how to blog as a non native English speaker.
Don’t wuss out.
Commit to writing and speaking English.
I recall living in a remote Costa Rican jungle for 6 weeks last year. I spoke English with Kelli. For the remainder of those 6 weeks, I spoke Spanish. I was all in. Uncomfortable as hell at times but it made me a more proficient Spanish speaker.
Think of the doors you will open by getting comfy with speaking and writing in English. It is THE bridge-building language. Commit. Rock it out.
Committing to communicating clear in a language other than your native tongue nudges you into uncomfortable situations. Know how success sits outside of your comfort zone. Being all in demands you to sit with fears arising as you chat with native English speakers via:
- social media
- blog comments
Don’t worry; fear-feelings pass. Let go comfort. Become clear, confident and experience greater worldly blogging success. Commit to getting comfortable with writing and speaking in English.
Your Blogging Turn
How are you working on your English as a non-native speaker?
What tips can you add to this list?
What struggles can you share as a non-native English speaking blogger?
How did you conquer these obstacles?
Do you need blogging help?
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