Doctor Digital's Check Up - English as a second language

When taught as a second language, English skills develop differently as the student already has an understanding of the theory of language. This test analyses the text on your website and calculates the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) score a user would need to be able to understand your content.

Writing for people who speak other languages follows the same basic rules for accessibility 2.0 – that is writing content accessible to everyone. To improve your score in this metric you are aiming to get between 3-4. A high score indicates your writing is too complex or that you have used language that is unclear or ambiguous without cultural understanding. A score above 6 may be problematic to users whose native language is not English. Plain English, clear short sentences, removing jargon, contractions, slang and idioms all help to give your customers from everywhere a change to engage meaningfully with your brand.

These tips will help you to write web copy that speakers of English as a second language can simply understand.

  • Choose your words carefully and consider their various different meanings in different cultures.
  • Don’t abbreviate including through punctuation.
  • Do not use contractions – ESL speakers have a more formal understanding of written English.
  • Keep paragraphs short, clear and concise.
  • Avoid idioms or colloquial language.
  • Get involved with user research and test your assumptions about language with people who are ESL speakers.
  • Always write in Plain English that everyone can understand.