When English isn't your native language

Every month in Writer's Digest's InkWell section, we pose a question related to the writing life. Tell us your thoughts.
Andelin
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When English isn't your native language

Postby Andelin » Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:05 pm

I'm French, and always hear how beautiful the French language is. And it is. But I've lived in the US a while and have really taken to English: I find it highly malleable, allowing for greater creativity in speaking and writing. To get better at writing, I study vocabulary, grammar, and I write, of course. But I wonder if any of you have a similar background, perhaps with another language, and/or if you have any suggestions that could benefit my learning.
Thank you.

I.W.
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Re: When English isn't your native language

Postby I.W. » Tue Jan 09, 2018 4:24 am

Hi Andelin,

English is not my native language either (I am a Russian-born German, but I consider German my mothertongue as I was barely 2 years old when my family immigrated).

In my opinion I will never be able to write as fluently as a native speaker, but this does not stop me from writing in English. In fact, I have recently self-published two booklets, but I made sure to hire an English native proofreader.

So despite reading almost exclusively English books and writing in English, I still feel as though I will never be able to express myself as naturally and fluently as a native speaker.

T.A.Rodgers
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Re: When English isn't your native language

Postby T.A.Rodgers » Tue Jan 09, 2018 2:01 pm

I believe with any language, reading is the number one way to improve your skills. If English is not your primary language, then read a lot of books in English. Same goes for any language.

I.W.
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Re: When English isn't your native language

Postby I.W. » Wed Jan 10, 2018 4:48 am

T.A.Rodgers wrote:
> I believe with any language, reading is the number one way to improve your
> skills. If English is not your primary language, then read a lot of books
> in English. Same goes for any language.

True, but I would also add conversing with native speakers is as important as reading a lot of books that are written in the foreign language you want to master.

One of my teachers once accused me of writing in 19th century English! :-D I think this was due to my habit of reading too many books written by 19th/early 20th century authors. So I would definetely recommend speaking with native speakers as much as possible.

RobTheThird
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Re: When English isn't your native language

Postby RobTheThird » Wed Jan 10, 2018 9:05 am

It's good to gain fluency. But take care to be yourself as well. William Shakespeare didn't write like Geoffrey Chaucer, who didn't write like Robert Heinlein, or HG Wells.

Grammar can be edited, fixed. Voice is much more difficult to fix.

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wdarcy
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Re: When English isn't your native language

Postby wdarcy » Fri Jan 12, 2018 6:55 pm

I.W. wrote:
> T.A.Rodgers wrote:
> > I believe with any language, reading is the number one way to improve your
> > skills. If English is not your primary language, then read a lot of books
> > in English. Same goes for any language.
>
> True, but I would also add conversing with native speakers is as important as reading
> a lot of books that are written in the foreign language you want to master.

I agree! when my wife and I lived in Germany and Austria some years ago, there were two things we did to try to master the language. One was to watch TV shows, especially American shows that had been dubbed into German. The other was to converse with the natives.

--Warren
"Wagner's 'Das Rheingold'" (Oxford 1993). Winner of the Society for Music Theory's Wallace Berry Award, 1995.

"Elements of Sonata Theory" co-authored with James Hepokoski(Oxford 2006). Winner of the Society for Music Theory's Wallace Berry Award, 2008.


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