Doing business in your second language doesn’t just mean having conversations and giving presentations. You also have to become adept at written communication, especially emails.

As you probably know from firsthand experience, emails can be frustrating and lead to miscommunication even when you’re corresponding with people with whom you share a native language. Emailing in your second language is even more of a challenge. But you can improve both your ability to express yourself clearly in writing and to be understood by others, all in as little as an hour a week. Here are a few tips to try.

Use Your Commute for Language Learning

Do you feel like you always repeat the same words or phrases in your emails? Try devoting your commuting time to building your vocabulary. Listen to an audiobook in your second language or business podcasts. It’s especially useful to listen to a business book that will help you learn new phrases you can incorporate into your emails as well as polish your professional tone.

If you don’t have to drive during your commute, you can read a book instead of listening to it. Highlight phrases and sentences that are new to you and try to start using them at work.

Copy Dialogue in Your Second Language

Choose a book, movie or TV show in your second language that’s set in an office or that has a lot of professional dialogue. Spend five minutes a day copying dialogue from it into a notebook. Handwriting in this way helps you remember.

You can then use your notebook at work as a reference when you’re writing emails. If you’re taking language lessons, you can talk about the dialogue you copied with your instructor to get additional tips on using your new vocabulary at work.

Turn to Google or Your Colleagues

Have you picked up a new word or phrase in your second language that you’d like to start incorporating into emails but that you’re worried about misusing? Use Google to find three examples of how others have used the word or phrase. This should help increase your understanding and your confidence that you’re using it correctly.

Feel free to ask a coworker who’s a native speaker their thoughts on the phrase as well. The more you discuss language with coworkers, the more you’ll feel comfortable asking them for advice or their opinion. Of course, your coworkers can’t serve as your full-time language tutors, but most of them probably wouldn’t mind answering a question here and there.

Immerse Yourself in Email

Finally, the best way to get better at emailing in your second language is just by reading and writing a lot of emails. Copy the text of emails that others send to you into your notebook. Read all the emails you get at work, even those notices about when the server will be down that everybody else ignores. Sign up for some professional newsletters in your second language so that you have even more emails to learn from.

This might run counter to how you studied language in school. We don’t get why so many people think that learning a language means you have to read some 19th century classic book in that language. It’s a lot more useful to focus your efforts on how the language is written and spoken now.

Pick out a couple of these tactics to experiment with this week. Even if you spend just five minutes a day focusing on writing better emails, you will see improvement soon.

These tips, however, can only take you so far. To truly build proficiency in writing your second language, you’ll need to acquire it in person or online with an instructor who’s a native speaker and who can tailor your lessons on emailing to match the needs of your job. That’s our approach at Fluency Corp, and we’d be happy to tell you more. Contact us for a free consultation: or (800) 401-3159.