Tips For Writing an Academic Paper in a Foreign Language

There are a few reasons that you may be given the task of writing academic papers in a foreign language. You might be a student in an advanced foreign language class working under the expectation that all work is done in that language.

Post preview tips for writing an academic paper in a foreign language

The most obvious is that you’re attending school in another country, for example one of Non-profit Schools, and are expected to write your papers in language of the land. 

In any case, writing an academic paper in another language can be challenging. Your not just expected to show your writing skills in a foreign language. You have to produce a paper that meets the standards of being both well-researched and well-written. Here’s some good news. The following tips can serve as a guide to writing an academic paper in another language.

Clarify The Essay Question or Research Prompt

The last thing that you want is to write a paper based on an incorrect interpretation of the assignment. Double check with your professor to determine that you fully understand the topic and the details of the assignment. If you still aren’t sure, consider asking someone who is well-versed in both languages for assistance.

Learn What Sources Are Academically Appropriate

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that a respected academic or news source is viewed the same way in another country or region. That may  not be the case. Speak with other students and again your instructor. Find out which sources they use. If your college or university has an online writing center, they may have links to academic databases and other sources.

Make The Examples Relevant

Real life examples can really bolster any argument that you are making in your academic writing. For research papers, this may mean using case studies. If you’re writing a persuasive essay, you might use examples from a variety of sources. Whatever the case may be, the best examples are those that resonate with your audience. This usually means using references that your audience will be able to relate to without much difficulty.

For example, a baseball reference may have some glancing familiarity with an instructor at a University in Italy. However, you might be able to make your point more clearly by using a football (soccer) analogy.

Check Out Academic Writing Examples Written in Your Target Language

One of the most useful tips for writing in a foreign language is to find an excellent example of academic writing in that language. Look for academic journals and papers that have achieved high marks, or that have been used as reference sources by other students. If you know a student who is particularly academically talented, ask to look at some of their papers. Better yet, get their insights on why their writing is successful.

Use The Right Structure

There is no single standard for writing papers. If you are in the United States, you are used to writing an academic paper introduction, writing the body paragraphs, then writing the conclusion. That isn’t universal. Proper structure and formatting can vary. For example, it may be customary to use arguments and counter arguments.

Step Outside of Your Perspective

All too often, students believe that the lessons they learned, the values they were taught, their perspective are universally correct and universally accepted. Learning how to write an academic paper in a foreign language is as much about cultural understanding as it is about language mastery.

Remember that historical events, political movements, global economics, literature, and a host of other things are regarded differently across nations. For example, the outcome of a war may be seen as a positive in your country, perhaps even celebrated. At the same time, the same outcome may have been devastating to the people of another country.

You will be much more successful in your academic writing efforts if you keep this in mind. Remember that the perspective you have been taught may not be the only one, nor is it the correct one necessarily.


The tips above should act as a great reference guide for writing academic papers in other languages. Remember to ensure that you fully understand the assignment, make it relevant to your target audience, and follow the academic norms of the country for which you are writing the paper.

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