PhD Essentials Podcast Episode 5: Writing Your PhD Thesis in a Second Language

hi this is James Hayson with the PhD essentials podcast in this episode I’m gonna talk about writing your thesis in a second language which is obviously a very very common situation now I’ve got some experience of this fortunately as a native English speaker I wrote my thesis in my own language but when I was a postdoc I worked in both France and Spain where where I didn’t speak the language or at least I didn’t speak anything when I first arrived now this may be a much simpler situation than writing a thesis but occasionally I would have to write an email or something in French or Spanish and having such a low level of the language it took a huge amount of effort to write even a very simple email but what I tried to do was even in the simplest kind of writing even in the shortest messages try to do it as well as I could and that meant taking time and thinking about every single word every single sentence there was simply no other way to do it because I had to look up words I had to look up verb conjugations and if I didn’t do that I simply wouldn’t have been able to communicate via email that same approach giving time and thoughts to every single word every single sentence that also applies to thesis writing there will be times when you just have to stop and think and look up a word look up grammar look up different sentence constructions there simply is no other way to do it if you try to follow the advice of just writing as fast as you can then there’s just gonna be loads and loads of gaps the only way to improve your skill is by slowing down and taking the time and thinking even though it takes a long time the next time you have to use that word or the next time you have to use that conjugation it’s a little bit faster because you’ve done it before and the next time it’s a little bit faster still and then gradually you can start to build confidence and you can start to get faster but you have to allow yourself to slow down when necessary because that is the only way that it’s possible to learn now one other thing that I would add to this is that you should also try to explore different sentence constructions because what happens once you reach a certain level of proficiency where you can get by in a language you also tend to form habits so you’ll use the same kind of sentences again and again you will use the same phrases and it becomes quite repetitive so in order to add a little bit of variety to your language when you’re writing even again even a short email try to look at the sentence that you’ve written and then think about is through another way to say this is there another sentence construction is there another phrase that you can use to convey the same meaning and that will take you beyond that kind of habitual maybe quite primitive language which you might use and will start to improve the variety that you have so it can be done but it takes time and it takes effort and you have to allow yourself to take the time which is necessary

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