Have there been any studies done on if certain types of writing (fiction, personal/diary type, scientific, etc.) benefit a second language learner more than others? To be clear, this would be the learner themselves writing, and not reading someone else's.

I added the reference-request tag as I'm primarily looking for research, but in the case that none comes up, informative answers that don't cite studies are also welcome.

  • While not exactly what you're requesting, I found references to studies indicating a focus on good penmanship leads to better learning of a language (both native and foreign); also showing that typing is less effective as writing. Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 14:08

1 Answer 1


Creative writing as an important tool in second language acquisition and practice:

However, creative writing, in particular poetry, provides a means of combining meaning-focused and form-focused tasks. With the exception of free formverse, poetry involves paying attention to meter, form, repetition and shape. Holmes and Moulton (2001) have shown how the use of pattern poetry allows students to perform tasks that, by having a prescribed format, allow for meaningful, authentic use of teacher-specifed forms. The students are given a stable vehicle through which they can express themselves. Through poetry, creative writing can also help with pronunciation.

The paper focuses mostly on poetry, but I'd say the benefits of creative writing far outweigh the benefits of nonfiction writing, which tends to deal with fairly simple grammar and sentence structure, albeit complex vocabulary.

  • 1
    Allow me to inveigh against this. Undoubtedly, at the very highest levels of learning a language, poetry can help. And at lower levels, exposure to attractive literature can help maintain motivation to learn a language. However, in general, I think poetry and other highly creative forms are much less useful than well-written and sophisticated nonfiction for improving language skills, for the same reasons that one would not study Monet or Seurat or the Cubistic masters when learning architectural draughtsmanship. Poetry by definition uses language in original and elastic ways; that is, +
    – SAH
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 14:06
  • [...] exactly the opposite of how you will hear it used widely; and "wide use" is after all what you are studying when you are studying a language. Syntax in particular tends to be really juggled in a poem, as are the rhythms of speech; word choice, if it is usual, condemns the poem. So you are not going to develop a more natural word order, cadence, or vocabulary by studying a poem (although you will no doubt learn some interesting things, including interesting words). And I have some doubts about the ability of a learner to appreciate the full extent of a poem's art--though that is not the+
    – SAH
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 14:12
  • goal in question. All that said, I can imagine that a fine-grained grammatical analysis of lines of, say, Shakespeare or Pushkin would give a learner a really nice inside view of the mechanisms of the foreign language at their most sophisticated, which would no doubt be fruitful.
    – SAH
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 14:13

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.