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Chessny
05-01-2011, 03:20 PM
Hello!

"International District" Seemed an appropriate place to get some insight into your minds.

Firstly, to explain myself.
I was born in Norway and then spent half my life traveling in between Norway and Sweden, the countries are similar and so is the language but different enough so i had to learn Swedish.

I then spent a few months in Africa and picked up Swahili, although that is a language I cant quite say I'm fluent in anymore. 6 years with German taught me that and having an Argentinian Aunt taught me Spanish.
I moved to England and stayed there for 2 years before finishing up in Ireland.
I am now back to frequently crossing the border between Norway and Sweden.

SO, sometimes I find it hard to decide which language the novel, book, poem etc. should be in.

Have you ever had this problem? And if so, how did you solve it? Do you write in different languages?
And bonus question:

Do you find you write differently, as in your style changes, when you swap language?

Thanks for reading, I didn't mean to go on and on, and feel free to explain your dilemma and how you got there!

SaraP
05-01-2011, 06:59 PM
Hi Chessny,

First of all, I'm impressed at all the languages you know! Must be wonderful!

Regarding your question, I'm portuguese, by birth and residence, but I lived in the US when I was a kid and that's where I learned my english. Living here has allowed to keep up with the language because we subtitle everything, so we're continuously exposed to it.

That said, when I first started writing, I struggled with which language to write in. The very first novel I started to work on came out in english spontaneously. I fought it. I thought I didn't know enough to write in english and kept wanting to re-write it in portuguese. Thing is, it never came out right in portuguese. So, I gave up on fighting it.

Now, I write it as it comes out, period, which ends up as english almost always. It's always a concern of mine, that my english is too basic to write in, that it's not rich enough, that the language is too simple. I think that worry will never go away.

Those who've read my stuff have told me I shouldn't worry too much about it. I know my english is not as good as a native's, but it's close enough, so I continue to write in that language. It's as it comes out, and I just follow that.

With all that, my advice would be to follow your writing instinct. Write in the language that feels most natural for you to write in. And if different pieces come out in different languages, write them in different languages. :)

Also, I've found reading in the language you write in helps too. I much prefer reading in english and it strengthens my vocabulary.

Hope this helps. Just my two cents, anyway. :)

Chessny
05-01-2011, 09:06 PM
Hiya SaraP!

Thank you so much for your answer, I can highly relate to what you're saying. Especially the part where you'd want to re-write everything because it didn't sound right, I have that problem too.

It makes me feel better knowing there are others who struggle with this, although I'd rather we didn't have to struggle with it at all ;)

Portuguese is a lovely language, and I always wanted to learn it, and even though Spanish (Argentinian) is vaguely similar it simply confused me :S

Have you posted any of your work here? I'd love to read some! :)

Hope you've had a good weekend!

Snitchcat
05-01-2011, 09:43 PM
I guess I'm different in that way: I mix the languages in my early dafts because various phrases sound more natural in the languages I know. It also depends on what language I need to use at any given moment.

Chessny
05-01-2011, 10:11 PM
That's an interesting way of doing it, I've not really tried that.
I will give it a shot, and see how it turns out :)

I am however not bound to use any given language, perhaps my problem is too much freedom. I do miss having some sort of boundaries :p

KingofNowhere
05-02-2011, 03:41 AM
There are certain things that I definitely find easier to say in German, but I know that to perform all of the acrobatic tricks I want to, I need to be writing in English. Try writing two flash fiction pieces in separate languages and see which one you feel has a better voice. :)

DamaNegra
05-02-2011, 08:01 AM
I'm Mexican by birth, and even though I've lived all my life here and have spoken Spanish all my life (I've only spoken English continously once in my life, when I lived abroad for a month), most of my primary and secondary education was in English (because in Mexico it helps to be bilingual).

Therefore, for a very long time I wrote only in English, because my English vocabulary was actually better than my Spanish (wow, this is embarrasing to admit), and also because English was just cooler than Spanish (again, how embarrasing to admit I used to think like this).

But then I went to college and began studying hispanic literature as my mayor, and I came into contact with the incredible literary manifestations in my language. Little by little, I began writing more and more in Spanish until I completely abandoned English.

Nowadays I write in both languages, but I use each for different things. Since I read mostly literary novels in Spanish, I use Spanish when writing literary pieces. I'll use English for genre pieces or fanfiction (which I sometimes dabble in).

Like SaraP said, go with what feels natural. And, like someone else also said (could've been SaraP), READ A LOT in the language you're writing it.

I've known many cases of friends who only read books in English, so that when they try to write in Spanish it ends up sounding like a literal translation from English and is just awkward.

Chessny
05-02-2011, 05:09 PM
KingofNowehere.. Sorry, I can't help myself. ;o
Loved your intro by the way, so welcome! :)
I have tried writing in different languages, and of course the easiest by far is English. The trouble is that I currently live in Scandinavia and it's harder to get something published if I write in English. Thank you for your input though! I meant this thread to be more of an Insight into people's minds, as I've spent far too long inside my own ;o

DamaNegra:
I can thoroughly understand what you mean when you say your English vocabulary was better than your Spanish. I wonder what it is about the Language that lures people in. Perhaps the fact they seem to have more words and better ways of describing things? I've thought about it for quite a while but I'm no closer to an answer.

It seems you've found a great way of juggling the two and I envy you for it, maybe one day I myself will figure it out ;)

I read in all different kinds of languages, as I always feel a book should be read in the language it was written. Of course this is sometimes impossible, but I at least try :)

Hope you've both had a great day!

SaraP
05-02-2011, 05:46 PM
One thing that's worked for me is to write regardless of which market I'm aiming for. Meaning, strive for publishing if that's your goal, learn, improve, hone your craft. But don't write in a language simply because of the market for that language. :)

Chessny
05-02-2011, 07:46 PM
One thing that's worked for me is to write regardless of which market I'm aiming for. Meaning, strive for publishing if that's your goal, learn, improve, hone your craft. But don't write in a language simply because of the market for that language. :)

That is an excellent tip, and it made me confident I did the right thing by joining this site.

My goal never was to get published, but I am receiving some pressure from family members who think I should give it a shot. To me writing has only ever been a way to express myself, and I expressed myself right into a competition this year where I made the final 10, where 5 will get published and receive a price, the winners will be announced in May.

I however do not strive to win, I am happy I made it so far.
Secretly however, I want to win, and I want to get published. But it still feels like my writing is my own, and it should stay that way. Yes, i googled schizophrenia to see if i had any of the symptoms, I won't tell you the answer.

Thanks for your reply though!

SaraP
05-02-2011, 09:13 PM
Hey, around this place we all have voices inside our head. Welcome aboard. :D

Rhea
08-25-2011, 09:36 AM
Well, for me there's a great difference when I write in English or my mother tongue. The mindset is different, no matter WHAT some linguists say.
I started out with my mother tongue, but changed it quickly to English. Why?
First, when writing in my native language, everything seems a cliche to me and I cannot get a decent story out. It frustrates me and I usually leave the story and forget about it.
Second, I love English, its opportunities and ways of playing with it. I cannot do it in my mother tongue, due to some language-related restrictions.
Third, English comes more naturally to me (my home language is also English and my work is directly related to English as well).
All in all - I made a conscious decision to write in English and I am sticking to it, which doesn't stop me from using the phrases and cultural background of my mother tongue. Sometimes it's conscious, sometimes not.
In English, doubting and checking each and every phrasal verb is a pain in the neck, as well as prepositions. And who came up with the punctuation rules! :rant::tongue

Katze_E
08-27-2011, 01:17 AM
Well, I have several drafts in Portuguese, but my latest serious effort has been made in English. First of all, it's hard to me to write in Portuguese having lived in Brazil when I was a child, and now have been living in Portugal for a while - yes, the language is a little different in both places, not only in vocabulary and accent, but also in grammar and structure. I would end up mixing the two altogether and it just sounds awful. Also, my voice is way different in English, more lively and dynamic. In Portuguese I noticed that I tend to write in a passive voice - not good at all.
I have this fear of everything I write is gibberish, grammatically wrong and painful to read. Guess I'll never really get over it.

JHUK
09-07-2011, 01:27 AM
I have a similar problem: British English or American English? That might sound trivial but it's not! Not only are some words different but there are differences in grammar and punctuation as well. I'm an American but have lived here in England for nearly 10 years, married to a Brit. I even TAUGHT English in the U.S. and UK, but still have to question my writing all the time.

And it goes beyond just the writing.... in which place do I set stories, characters, and culture? Someone told me I should write for the intended audience and not worry about the rest as editors would correct it if necessary, but I'm not sure. It would be easier if I had to choose between two completely different languages.

Camilla Delvalle
09-07-2011, 01:55 PM
That's a lot of languages!

Try to write in the language that you feel most creative in, probably the one where you have the greatest vocabulary.

If you want to publish the novel in some country, you can translate it. It's not so difficult. I translated one of my novels to English to that my American friends could read it.

Friendly Frog
09-25-2011, 04:43 PM
Picking a language to write in has not been an easy task. I feel I have a far greater control over nuances and such in English than in my mothertongue (Dutch). At the same time, I constantly notice that while my English is pretty good, I don't have mastery over it and I'm not sure I ever will. That makes me uncertain and causes me to wonder whether I'm even able to use the language to its full extent.

Also, writing in English closes some doors. What if I ever want to publish? I'd have to look beyond my country's borders. Will the international market be more accessible than the native one? And the language barrier removes quite a bit audience I might have had with friends and family, so basically I have to turn for readers and feedback to the internet.

I'm still not sure I'm writing in the language best suited for me, but at least I'm writing.

DamaNegra
09-25-2011, 09:26 PM
DamaNegra:
I can thoroughly understand what you mean when you say your English vocabulary was better than your Spanish. I wonder what it is about the Language that lures people in. Perhaps the fact they seem to have more words and better ways of describing things? I've thought about it for quite a while but I'm no closer to an answer.

I've also thought about it, and came to the realization that English, as a language, does not have more to offer than any other language. They don't have more words, and they certainly don't have better ways to describe things.

English seems cooler because American culture in general seems cooler, and that's a dominance thing. Wherever you are in the world, you are fed every day with American novels, movies, songs and other cultural manifestations that, fed along with the idea of the American dream and American freedom and whatnot, start to represent those ideas. American novels, movies and songs just seem cooler than domestic ones because they're foreign, and because they're supported by America's incredible economic power, which leads to better promotion and distribution. English becomes intertwined with those ideas, which is why we sometimes feel like English is a better language.

It has everything to do with cultural dominance and absolutely nothing to do with the language itself.

** not that I don't think English is a good language. It is. It can and has been used in amazing ways. But I don't think it's inherently better than any other language out there.

SaraP
09-27-2011, 01:37 AM
I've also thought about it, and came to the realization that English, as a language, does not have more to offer than any other language. They don't have more words, and they certainly don't have better ways to describe things.

I agree with this. I've written things that wouldn't have worked as well in portuguese, but I've also had to find an english version of portuguese words that would have expressed what I want to say much better.

I love the way english can modify words, and turn verbs into nouns and nouns into verbs. But I also love the way portuguese plays with verbs and tenses.

Adagio
10-02-2011, 07:30 AM
Interesting thread, especially since it applies to me, too. I live in the USA for many years. English is a strong language, takes over my native tongue in my head, I think in English, speak and read English (although with an accent which will stay with me till my last breath.) When I went to college here I had to write assignments and that's when my first challenge came. I embraced it and later I started experimenting English in fiction ... and it worked, no matter how clumsily but it did work. I found that I could express myself better, don't know why, although I am pretty much aware that I still make mistakes.

Last year i started translating fragments of my writing in my native language (Romanian) and I've had a hard time to express the English idioms. I spent night after night and managed to come out with a decent translation, yet the original English variant still sounds better. However, when I write directly in Romanian, subjects that are specific to this country, I find that it works as well.

So this is my story.

Adagio