How to improve my English?

It’s really odd. I don’t have any difficulties with reading English textbooks or journal articles – actually, it’s been months since I last read a book in Dutch, as Dutch books are way too expensive and usually badly translated. I started reading Harry Potter in English when I was 13 and everything started from there – over 75% of my book collection (mostly fantasy) consists of English books.

However, when I need to write something in English, my level suddenly drops to ‘below high school level’.  There are so much thoughts in my head that just can’t be properly translated to English. My ‘thesis’ disgusts me – it’s in English and even though I got a good grade, I feel ashamed for turning it in as ‘English’.

Why? Because I was once able to do better. In high school, I rarely got grades under 95% and teachers were complimenting me on my extensive vocabulary. Sometimes I re-read stories I wrote (mostly Harry Potter fanfiction…) and it is very uncomfortable to realize that my command of English was much, much better than it is now.

If I were better at Dutch now, I might perhaps be comforted by that thought. Unfortunately, I’m not too good at writing in Dutch as well. Like English, it used to be much better in high school – I’m rather jealous at the beautiful language doctors use in the journal of the Dutch Medical Association. Of course, I can write reports that have correct spelling and grammar (something I can’t do in English…) but something is missing. It’s too simple, too crude.

It seems as though I simply don’t know enough words to convey my thoughts. Which is rather awkward because I think I’m a rather advanced reader in both languages. Alright, I already thought about reading more good Dutch literature, but I don’t think that will be of much help with regard to English, as I’m reading a lot in English already.

Does anyone have tips to offer?

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One Comment on “How to improve my English?”

  1. Rebecca says:

    Although the medical language you’d like to use is probably different from what you use here, I think this blog proves that your language skills are not at all as bad as you’d like to make us believe. Honestly.
    Perhaps it’s because you remember what you initially wanted to say that you’re not satisfied with what you eventually wrote down (well, I don’t know if your insecurities also apply to this text) but reading this, it could just as well have been a native speaker writing this down.
    I recognize your feelings about your language being to simple, but I think that’s something that happens when you write what you want to say at first. Maybe you could try re-reading your text later to improve the ‘feel’ of it, and just keep focusing on the message in the first part of writing? I’m not sure if the other texts you look up to were like that the moment they were created.
    Anyhow, as you can see I haven’t got much advice to offer, I just wanted to say that your language skills are still very impressive, whatever change there might have been, and that you shouldn’t be ashamed of anything.
    Good luck with your paper(s) though!


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