How to become an ESL writer?

EFL/ESL writing is a very specialised and specific career. It requires deep knowledge of English and the language learning process, creativity, and the ability to take on criticism or, as some call it, ‘feedback’. When we think of an EFL/ESL writer, we often think of textbook writers. And this is an accurate assumption. An accomplished writer will have a number of textbooks in their portfolio. However, the variety of texts that you will write on a day-to-day basis is huge. In my work so far, I have written reading passages, listening scripts, writing and speaking prompts, vocabulary and grammar exercises, teacher’s notes, instructions for both learners and teachers, group activities, online activities, tests, exams, online tests, and storylines for courses. So how does one become a writer of ESL/EFL materials?

The key word here is ‘become’. You can’t study to do that and you can’t will yourself to be one. There are, however, things that can help you become an EFL/ESL writer. Here are my tips:

1 You need to teach first

It’s a cliché that we should always write about what we know, but it’s true. You can’t become a writer, without being a teacher first. I had taught for over ten years before I started writing. You will need the classroom experience to help you write materials for other teachers. Teaching will also help you get to know the materials that are on the market. When you use a textbook in a class, you subconsciously make decisions about what type of activities work and which ones don’t. Hopefully, you will use this knowledge in your writing. Another important thing about teaching is that you will get to know your audience, that is the students. An EFL/ESL writer writes for students and with their interest at heart.

2 Study and become an expert in your subject

Getting your teaching qualifications is not enough. To then become a writer, you have to become better at teaching and more knowledgeable about it than your colleagues. As you write materials, you will draw on this knowledge and make informed decisions about the activities, their sequencing, and the teaching approach. Any English language textbook has hidden-agendas and underlying teaching philosophies. By studying applied linguistics and educational philosophy, you will be able to formulate your own agenda, or ‘teaching philosophy’, and express it in your writing.

More tips to come soon:

3 Do action research

4 Establish yourself in your teaching community

5 Be friendly and outgoing

6 Be able to write in total chaos

7 Read!

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