Saturday, 5 March 2011

The Art Of Writing In A Foreign Language

This is an important topic, I feel. Writing about what’s it’s like to write in a foreign language (it’s damn difficult, if you must know. Sometimes, depending on what it is that you are trying to explain. If you are trying to write a blog entry about your day, special skills or talent might not be needed). There are people who can pull it off (i.e. write serious stuff, not just insignificant nothings), people who know how to make art by using foreign words. Joseph Conrad is probably the first example that springs to mind. Is it common, though? My wild bet is no.

It’s hard because you don’t know if you are using the language correctly. Are you inventing the words? Is your mind silently translating expressions and idioms from your mother tongue? (or any other language you happen to master. more or less).

And the grammar. The grammar is always a tricky piece in the puzzle. Or maybe grammar is the puzzle.

Finding the right words can also be a troublesome business. When you speak the language you’ve been speaking since you were two, you know the rules of the game, which allows you to play freely. Creating is easy because it, the language you’ve created, will still be intelligible to others. Go on, try to be creative when using a foreign language, and all you’ll get is confused looks from your fellow humans.

You might be well acquainted with the foreign language in which you are trying to express yourself . You might even master certain aspects of it. But (and one should never start a sentence with the word “but”) there is so much you don’t know. And all those little things that you don’t know accumulate until they form a huge mountain (also known as an obstacle) that efficiently prevents you from doing anything useful whatsoever. Here useful is some kind of an invalid synonym to the word “perfect”.

So, what I’m trying to say is that writing in a foreign language is far from impossible, but being creative-special-different-original-quirky-provoking-poetic-extraordinary-unconventional is a more gruelling task.

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