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Gray Rose
11-04-2007, 01:52 AM
I am wondering if there are other ESL writers on these boards, or if there are people who worked closely with ESL writers. It would be wonderful if we could share our experiences and thoughts here; please share some information about yourself if you feel comfortable.

Some questions:

What are the things that were hardest for you to master?
What kind of advice would you give to a fellow ESL writer?
If you were to attend an ESL writing workshop, what are some topics you'd like to be covered?
Please feel free to come up with any other questions and observations.



I am a native speaker of Russian, have not published fiction yet (but hoping to); I have published some non-fiction in the past, though.

What are the things that were hardest for you to master?

I am having some trouble with narrative past tenses. Russian only has one.

Sometimes my betas said that my word order was "archaic", and one reader said my dialog was "stilted" in one place - and I did not feel this. The hardest problem for me right now is that I am not as acutely aware of these kinds of stylistic differences as I should be.


What kind of advice would you give to a fellow ESL writer?

Read fiction in English, as much as you can - and not just in your genre.

If you were to attend an ESL writing workshop, what are some topics you'd like to be covered?

I am not sure, otherwise I wouldn't be asking.... Not sure what would be most useful.

maestrowork
11-04-2007, 04:43 AM
1. Tenses were very confusing and difficult to understand -- there is no "tense" in Chinese...everything understood based on context.

2. Prepositions. These things are nasty. And then you have prepositional phrases that could mean different things depending on which preposition you use. Oh lord.

3. Slangs. That can only be learned through living and speaking and breathing the language day in and day out.

Advice: live it, speak it, use it, listen to it. Breathe it. Watch movies and TV (and turn on the captions) and really listen. Practice speaking all the time with native speakers. The only way to really learn to speak and write like a native is to use the language like a native would: all the time. Once you stop "translating" from your native language to English, you're on your way: The other day at a job I had to translate English back to Chinese, and I had a hard time doing it. I can speak Chinese fluently, and I can speak English fluently, but during translation my brain can't function well. There was a clear disconnect (not to mention Chinese and English are two completely different languages).

Topics: Study the nuances. Part of writing, especially creative writing, is about the little things, the nuances in the language and how people use it -- the subtexts, the variations, the different ways to say the say things (style, voice, etc.) One of the best way to learn is by reading different styles and types of fiction and "listen."

And yes, get out of your comfort zone, your ghetto, your "Chinatown" and start mingling with English-speaking folks. I've seen so many foreign students who come to the US just hang around people who speak their native languages, all the time. They don't socialize with English-speaking folks. They don't get out of their shell and try to fit in.

maxmordon
11-04-2007, 04:57 AM
What are the things that were hardest for you to master?

The "I have been worked" "I had been working" stuff, (right now I don't remember how is called) and sometimes I accidentaly write homophones like been and being or -ed and it(In Spanish you write everything as is written) Also that sometimes I forget when I am suppoused to say "-ed" or just "-d"

What kind of advice would you give to a fellow ESL writer?

You don't only have to study it, you have to feel the language. Read something with a lot of slang on it, try to watch a movie without subtitles, always practice the the 3 ways: Read it, Listen it, Speak it

If you were to attend an ESL writing workshop, what are some topics you'd like to be covered?

I would love to compare litearute from our native language with its English translation and how some ideas are abstract in both languages...

DamaNegra
11-04-2007, 05:41 AM
I'm a native Spanish speaker, so here goes:


What are the things that were hardest for you to master?
The grammar, I guess. I learned English since I was very young, so it's been almost like a first language to me. Most of the movies I see are in English too, and I've frequented English internet sites since I was about 8, so it comes sort of naturally for me. I still haven't quite grasped the difference between in/on


What kind of advice would you give to a fellow ESL writer?

Don't just read in English. Watch movies in English with English subtitles. Hang around forums and visit a lot of Internet sites in English.

If you were to attend an ESL writing workshop, what are some topics you'd like to be covered?

I'm... not sure either. I wasn't even aware there were ESL writing workshops.

Gray Rose
11-04-2007, 05:49 AM
DamaNegra, there aren't any, as far as I know, and research on teaching writing to ESL students is almost non-existent. That's why I am asking.

DamaNegra
11-04-2007, 05:58 AM
DamaNegra, there aren't any, as far as I know, and research on teaching writing to ESL students is almost non-existent. That's why I am asking.
Ah. Well, one of the most difficult things when learning a new language is making abstract distinctions that don't exist in your mother tongue. For people trying to learn Spanish, that distinction is between 'ser' and 'estar', which are two different states of being. Homophones are also really hard, for example 'to', 'too' and 'two'.

And also, the ultimate challenge is sentence structure. Each language sentences their structures differently, so a lot of confusions may arise from that.

Gray Rose
11-04-2007, 06:52 AM
If there is ever to be such a course, the instructors would need to work with students individually at least some of the time, to identify patterns of errors. The big question, of course, is whether the ESL writers who take such a course would be working towards old-fashioned publication or not.

DamaNegra
11-04-2007, 06:57 AM
If there is ever to be such a course, the instructors would need to work with students individually at least some of the time, to identify patterns of errors. The big question, of course, is whether the ESL writers who take such a course would be working towards old-fashioned publication or not.
Old-fashioned publication??

Gray Rose
11-04-2007, 07:39 AM
I should have said, "aspire to be professional writers."

I have worked with students who wrote blogs in a second language, and the tolerance for some grammatical shakiness is much higher there.

Dawnstorm
11-05-2007, 04:11 PM
Hi,

Native speaker of German, here.

1. Hardest to master:

Tense, especially the continuous and perfect aspects. German has a form that looks like perfect, but it doesn't have the concept. It's confusing, when all you get is a vague "relation with the present" line, and a few rules-of-thumb that have as many exceptions as applications ("never + perfect aspect": "I've never done this," not "I never did this." Confusing because wrong. They should have explained the difference.)

It wasn't really problem with writing though, since I didn't start out writing in English. I just slipped over sometime. Nowadays I hardly write any fiction in German (I think the last fiction in German I wrote was for a course I took for fun).

2. Advice:

- As mentioned: read fiction in English. Corollary: if you don't read fiction in English, don't write in English. Why would you?

- Get a monolingual dictionary, and lock away your bilingual dictionaries. Try not to use either, when writing. Use the monolingual dictionary to check on words you're unsure about. Often you'll find a better word in the entry itself. Never use a word you're not comfortable with yet. Don't use a word you've never heard just because it's in the dictionary. (That's the main reason I told you to lock away the bilingual dictionaries; they'll mislead you most of the time.)

- Don't try to write above your ability. Doesn't work. But do push your limits on occasion, else you won't improve.

3. ESL-writing workshops:

No idea. I wouldn't be afraid to attend a workshop with native speakers. ESL-workshops are only really viable if the ESLs all share one mother tongue. Different mother tongues cause different problems.

***

Question: Why do you write in English at all?

For myself, I don't really know. I've stopped reading translations in my late teens. My preferred genres have always been SF/F, which is mostly English (and occasionally in Slavic language, and increasingly Japanese, but hardly ever in German). Before I read my first fiction in English I was playing English text adventures on my Commodore 64, and listening to English song lyrics. This must have helped, too.

I think I just grew into the language through my teen-interests (games, music, books).

maestrowork
11-05-2007, 06:59 PM
Why do you write in English at all?

Because I consider it my first language now. I'm an American. I still speak Chinese with my parents and when I need to, but English is my language now. Besides, that's the language of my target audiences. If they want my books in Chinese, they can pay me the for the foreign rights. ;)

Dawnstorm
11-05-2007, 08:15 PM
Why do you write in English at all?

Because I consider it my first language now. I'm an American. I still speak Chinese with my parents and when I need to, but English is my language now. Besides, that's the language of my target audiences. If they want my books in Chinese, they can pay me the for the foreign rights. ;)

Thanks for the reply.

That triggers another question: Would you rather translate your novels yourself, or have them translated (with or without involvement)?

I never actually considered this, since being published still looks like a strange option to me. I suppose I wouldn't want to translate myself, simply because - after writing and editing a novel - I'd be tired of it. I'm not even sure I'd want to read the translation. Heh.

DamaNegra
11-05-2007, 08:21 PM
I don't write in English :) I actually write in Spanish.

However, I'd do my own translations, at least to English. A lot gets lost in translations, and I don't want people misinterpreting my words and giving them a meaning I did not intend to. I'd be best qualified to translate my own work, I guess.

ghost
11-05-2007, 09:07 PM
I teach an ESL Creative Writing class. I also tutor Grade twelve students.

I find tense is the hardest for them to master. They also have a tendency to mix up ing, ed, etc. She start to do the dishes instead of started. We were go to the beach instead of going.

Basically the key is patience and practice.
The topics I cover are the basics. Verbs, adjectives, past and present, fragmented sentences etc. We do a variety of writing exercises. I'm also a big fan of the less is more style.

maxmordon
11-05-2007, 09:53 PM
I don't write in English :) I actually write in Spanish.

However, I'd do my own translations, at least to English. A lot gets lost in translations, and I don't want people misinterpreting my words and giving them a meaning I did not intend to. I'd be best qualified to translate my own work, I guess.

Pretty much like me

Something quite interesting happened to Isabel Allende, apaprently her publishing house in Mexico "adapted" her text into Mexican slang! Just think about it, What would be of Gone with the Wind with Rex saying "My dear, I don't give a bloody 'ell"?

maxmordon
11-05-2007, 09:54 PM
I think I just grew into the language through my teen-interests (games, music, books).

That is pretty much the phenomenom of the globalization in English-speaking countries

Wraith
11-05-2007, 11:50 PM
For myself, I don't really know. I've stopped reading translations in my late teens. My preferred genres have always been SF/F, which is mostly English (and occasionally in Slavic language, and increasingly Japanese, but hardly ever in German). Before I read my first fiction in English I was playing English text adventures on my Commodore 64, and listening to English song lyrics. This must have helped, too.
That's strange. Are you still living in Germany? If you live in an English-speaking country I can see why you'd switch (although for me my mother tongue feels so different from English in writing, that I'm not sure I'd switch even then).

Just popped into the thread to ask that, cause I'm not writing in English (apart from the occasional haiku on AW :tongue) - I'm Romanian and I do hear and use a lot of English too, but I don't use it in fiction writing. It does make a difference stepping away from translations, though.

Not much to add to the good advice here. I guess it's only when you surround yourself with another language (books, movies, Internet, writing a lot, talking to people, listening to them talk) can you get a real feel of it.

One of the hardest things is probably learning the exact meanings of words and using them automatically - it's rare that two words in different languages cover precisely the same areas of meaning, even when they sound similar. There are subtle distinctions that can take some time to grasp.

I'll run off after my 'significant' contribution :D

maestrowork
11-06-2007, 12:00 AM
That triggers another question: Would you rather translate your novels yourself, or have them translated (with or without involvement)?


I tried translating the first chapter of my novel into Chinese, and I got very discouraged. I was surprised a) how bad my "written" Chinese has become, and b) how difficult and time consuming it is to translate between the two VERY different languages. I may be a good writer, but I'm definitely a lousy translator.

However, if my book is to be translated to Chinese (by a publisher), I would like to have a final "okay" on the product. I would like to at least make sure they don't make bad mistakes or really bad translation. I've seen how awful people do subtitles for movies. I strongly believe a book is "rewritten" when it's translated, and the translator needs to be as good as the original writer to pull it off. Especially with English-Chinese translation, it's absolutely not just a word-by-word replacement.

maxmordon
11-06-2007, 12:12 AM
I tried translating the first chapter of my novel into Chinese, and I got very discouraged. I was surprised a) how bad my "written" Chinese has become.

Something like this happens to my father. After 10 years living in NYC he has forgot the spelling of some words.

You can't translate something without loosing part of its meaning. I think Jorge Luis Borges said that (ironically this is a translation :D)

Dawnstorm
11-06-2007, 12:34 AM
I strongly believe a book is "rewritten" when it's translated, and the translator needs to be as good as the original writer to pull it off. Especially with English-Chinese translation, it's absolutely not just a word-by-word replacement.

I wholeheartedly agree with this. From experience. The only writings of mine ever published are poetry translations from English into German. Translating, you lose some and add some, while trying to minimise both. And that's just between English/German (which are pretty close, compared to Chinese).

I have no idea how proprietory I'd be. I'm sure I could translate my stories, but I think if I had wanted them to be German, I'd have written them in the first place. Plus, I'm not sure if I could "translate" without heavy editing thrown in. (The more I think about it, the more I tend towards others translating my stuff which is silly to think about really, since I'm not even published.)


That is pretty much the phenomenom of the globalization in English-speaking countries.

True. I've met at least two other native speakers of German on the web, who write in English. All SF/F.


That's strange. Are you still living in Germany?

EDIT: Oops, missed your post, sorry!

Yes, still living in Germany Austria. The only regular interaction I have with native speakers is on the web.


it's rare that two words in different languages cover precisely the same areas of meaning

Oddly enough, I'm more often stuck with an English word in my brain and I can't think of a German equivalent the other way round. (Very often I have no word at all, neither German nor English! I'm a messy thinker, erratic speaker and sloooowwww writer.)

Wraith
11-06-2007, 01:43 AM
Oddly enough, I'm more often stuck with an English word in my brain and I can't think of a German equivalent the other way round. (Very often I have no word at all, neither German nor English! I'm a messy thinker, erratic speaker and sloooowwww writer.)
Haha, I know, that happens to me too sometimes - trying to find something shorter than a sentence in Romanian to fit one word in English :D. I think English has the widest vocabulary of all languages, or so I've read. But still, I know Romanian on a far deeper level than I'll ever know English. I can twist words to suit my will in my native tongue, which is a little risky in English :D

So, when you publish something, won't you publish in Austria? And won't it need to be in German? Or maybe you have other plans.


You can't translate something without loosing part of its meaning. I think Jorge Luis Borges said that (ironically this is a translation )
Ah, I love that quote. Fortunately, you can count on our collective conscience that great ideas will go deeper than language and be perceived by all open-minded readers. Words can only take you so far. :)

But it's so much better to experience a writer's work just as he wrote it, polished it and sweated over each word. Besides, just like a painter copying another's painting will put something of himself in the copy without realising, thus changing it, a translator will also change a bit the feel of a piece of writing. That's why they say the best translators are writers themselves - because it takes a writer to recreate the feel in another language.

Dawnstorm
11-06-2007, 02:47 AM
So, when you publish something, won't you publish in Austria? And won't it need to be in German? Or maybe you have other plans.

If I ever send out anything, it'll be to the UK first (to take advantage of EU trade relations). But I'm not sure I'll do that. I hate marketing my stuff, and considering postage costs for foreign mail, I'm not sure the expanse in addition to all the hassle is worth it. I'm not writing primarily for publication (though I wouldn't say no); I'm writing because I'm obsessed.

Wraith
11-06-2007, 03:03 PM
If I ever send out anything, it'll be to the UK first (to take advantage of EU trade relations). But I'm not sure I'll do that. I hate marketing my stuff, and considering postage costs for foreign mail, I'm not sure the expanse in addition to all the hassle is worth it. I'm not writing primarily for publication (though I wouldn't say no); I'm writing because I'm obsessed.
I see. Didn't think about the effects of the EU on publishing, heh. Anyway, you generally have to be obsessed to reach publication, so good luck with your writing :).

And sorry for derailing your thread, Rose. :2angel:

nevada
11-06-2007, 05:48 PM
Just as a word of encouragement for you ( I too am not an english speaker by birth, but I picked up English in two months. We came to Canada in July, in september i was in school where no one knew I wasnt Canadian, so Im not much help) but as an encouragement, Joseph Conrad spoke two foreign languages before he learned English and didnt start writing until he learned english, and he did okay. :)

Tsu Dho Nimh
11-06-2007, 06:24 PM
I was an SSL (Spanish as Second Language) and often work with people for whom English is not their primary language.

1. What are the things that were hardest for you to master?

Most of the ESL folk I have worked with had a harder time getting rid of the structure of their language than they did learning the words. They would be writing English with the structure of Hindi, German, Chinese, or whatever.

I would be speaking Spanglish ... Spanish words, English structure.

2. What kind of advice would you give to a fellow ESL writer?

As Maestrowork said ... get out of your linguistic ghetto. Spend a lot of time listening to English, reading English, talking to native English speakers. Try for total immersion in English.

3. If you were to attend an ESL writing workshop, what are some topics you'd like to be covered?

The structure of English ... that's what I did most of my editing work on. They would have the right words, plugged into a non-English framework.

Tsu Dho Nimh
11-06-2007, 06:29 PM
If there is ever to be such a course, the instructors would need to work with students individually at least some of the time, to identify patterns of errors. The big question, of course, is whether the ESL writers who take such a course would be working towards old-fashioned publication or not.

Even if they are only writing memos and manuals for a multi-national corporation, it's important.

If you know the native language, you can quickly point out the pattern of errors, because certain things have a strong carryover into the next language - Dutch, Spanish, and Hindi writers do not make the same errors.

Gray Rose
11-06-2007, 06:38 PM
Thanks guys for your wonderful input :)


And sorry for derailing your thread, Rose. :2angel:
Sweetie, you're not derailing, you are adding to the discussion!


I teach an ESL Creative Writing class. I also tutor Grade twelve students.

I find tense is the hardest for them to master. They also have a tendency to mix up ing, ed, etc. She start to do the dishes instead of started. We were go to the beach instead of going.

Basically the key is patience and practice.
The topics I cover are the basics. Verbs, adjectives, past and present, fragmented sentences etc. We do a variety of writing exercises. I'm also a big fan of the less is more style.

Ohhh, thank you! I am happy there are classes out there. If you have a spare moment, please consider writing an article on ESL creative writing pedagogy. There's almost nothing I could find on the topic.

Is there a certain level of students who still have problems but you have to kick them out because their level is too high? What do you want your students to achieve at the end of the class?



Tense, especially the continuous and perfect aspects. G

- Don't try to write above your ability. Doesn't work. But do push your limits on occasion, else you won't improve.





Tense is emerging as a common problem for ESL writers here, this is very interesting; I am struggling with this myself. My biggest problem is the pluperfect. "Had" just pops up in wrong places for me.

Don't try to write above your ability: but how do you figure out where your ceiling is? I keep pushing myself to do new things, because if I stay within my comfort zone I will never improve. I will forever be writing 1st person narratives of linguistic and/or cultural outsiders. This is a fun theme but I don't want to write myself into a corner, I am going to do 3rd person, and a completely different theme for my next story.

Question: Why do you write in English at all?

It is a relief, really, to be able to write in English. As a native speaker of a number of languages (not English) I was struggling most of my teens and early twenties with trying to choose a language to write in. I felt that all three were insufficient. Now that I have lived in the US for six years and learned a lot from my non-fiction writing, I feel that English is a natural choice. I could do Russian too, I suppose, but I read mostly in English in my genre. The market is also much bigger and better in English, and I feel that I should not be wasting my time unless I am planning to publish. This is a very subjective opinion and one that people would disagree with; I certainly do not imply that it's useless to write and not sell. However, my personal feeling is that if I am not going for publication, I should instead be working on advancing the state of knowledge. :)

Gray Rose
11-06-2007, 06:45 PM
Even if they are only writing memos and manuals for a multi-national corporation, it's important.

If you know the native language, you can quickly point out the pattern of errors, because certain things have a strong carryover into the next language - Dutch, Spanish, and Hindi writers do not make the same errors.

Yes, true, but it is very much a question of enrollment. You will not find a teacher who knows all of those languages, and limiting the course to only one kind of speaker is VERY problematic - there are not enough students, even in a huge university like mine, which has tons of non-native speakers. A class of twenty will have a mix of languages in it; a class of four will not be offered again next year. And anyway, it is hard to impossible to find and train teachers in ALL those languages. It makes more sense, IMHO, to train a small number of professors who would make up a syllabus that'd work across languages.


And I just wanted to make sure - my questions about curriculum design are purely academic: I am very unlikely to ever teach such a course, and not qualified anyway :)

Dawnstorm
11-06-2007, 11:09 PM
Don't try to write above your ability: but how do you figure out where your ceiling is? I keep pushing myself to do new things, because if I stay within my comfort zone I will never improve. I will forever be writing 1st person narratives of linguistic and/or cultural outsiders. This is a fun theme but I don't want to write myself into a corner, I am going to do 3rd person, and a completely different theme for my next story.

What I really meant, I suppose, is: be patient. If certain grammatical structures are confusing you, don't fret. Avoid them. Focus on your strengths. But every now and then add one. Or when you're not writing, go over your writings and see if you can make the simple sentences more complex (or something like that). Use your writings to learn the language, but don't take the fun out of writing, by trying to achieve what you're not yet up to. Language proficiency improves gradually. You can't force it.

An example: If the pluperfect confuses you, don't worry about it. Try to centre your (current) style around sentences that you feel comfortable with. If you're consciously trying to practise the pluperfect while writing ("writing above your - current - ability") you probably won't have much fun writing, and other aspects (aspects that don't normally give you trouble - in the case of pluperfect probably simple past tense) will suffer. The result is frustration. You'll probably neither learn anything nor have fun writing. A waste of time.

Now, if you keep your writing simple, i.e. if you avoid situations which you're not comfortable with, you can go back later and try to see what you could have done. This will help you learn, as you're both motivated to do better, and as you see that you haven't done all that badly.

I don't how ESL textbooks look in other countries; but most of ours are full of out-of-context excercises, that reduce language to formulae.

For example, they'd have:

I _____ never _____ her. (meet)

You'll have to fill in either:

a) I have never met her.

or

b) I [slot empty] never met her.

The textbook will tell you that (a) is correct, and (b) isn't, because that's how the excercise is built. "Never" is supposed to be present perfect marker. Nobody tells you that "I never met her," is perfectly fine, if you're talking about a limited time period in the past, or if you don't ever expect to meet her again (because she's dead, or because she's moved away).

So, these excercises routinely cause lots of confusion when you're confronted with real language, where sentences like "I never met her," aren't infrequent. The thing is, when you're uncomfortable with certain aspects of language, and when you're confused in your text, you tend to fall back on exercise-mode. You're likely to trust the excercise more than your instict and change "I never met her," to "I have never met her," (because that was correct in the context free excercise). The mistake arises out of faulty rule application.

Even people who know English can get confused by excercise mode: In English class, we once listened to certain songs from Jesus Christ Superstar. In one of the songs, there's the line "Try not to worry". The teacher said this was incorrect. It should have been "Don't try to worry." I had to correct him that the two sentences aren't equivalent. He knew, of course (and didn't make such stupid mistakes in speech or writing, normally). It's "rule interference". Class-room mode translated "too advanced" into "wrong".

(Edit mode is similar to classroom mode. I'm capable of adding the most stupid mistakes in an edit. Heh.)

Basically, don't write above your ability could be translated as don't try to apply rules that confuse you just because you think you should.


As a native speaker of a number of languages (not English) I was struggling most of my teens and early twenties with trying to choose a language to write in.

Interesting. I've been exposed to two languages, too, in my childhood (German and Croatian). That could come into it; a retreat onto neutral ground. I never really thought of that. Something to think about, thanks. :)

Wraith
11-07-2007, 12:46 AM
An example: If the pluperfect confuses you, don't worry about it. Try to centre your (current) style around sentences that you feel comfortable with. If you're consciously trying to practise the pluperfect while writing ("writing above your - current - ability") you probably won't have much fun writing, and other aspects (aspects that don't normally give you trouble - in the case of pluperfect probably simple past tense) will suffer. The result is frustration. You'll probably neither learn anything nor have fun writing. A waste of time.
I agree. But I think that when writing, you should leave grammar out altogether. Try to say what you mean in the most accurate way possible, if it's full of mistakes betas will notice and correct them, and you'll keep the purest meaning you had in mind.

Don't try to write above your ability: but how do you figure out where your ceiling is? I keep pushing myself to do new things, because if I stay within my comfort zone I will never improve. I will forever be writing 1st person narratives of linguistic and/or cultural outsiders. This is a fun theme but I don't want to write myself into a corner, I am going to do 3rd person, and a completely different theme for my next story.
As far as grammar goes, I don't think there's a ceiling - imo, avoiding certain structures can hurt your writing. Better write mistakes and correct later than stick to simple (like avoiding pluperfect. You may have trouble with it but the story still needs it.) And even if there is a ceiling in other areas of language, you still need, and naturally want to explore, and that's how you learn. I can understand you very well.

Tense is emerging as a common problem for ESL writers here, this is very interesting; I am struggling with this myself. My biggest problem is the pluperfect. "Had" just pops up in wrong places for me.
It must be difficult to grasp if Russian only has one past tense (that sounds wonderfully free and also strange :D); Romanian has a pluperfect and also other tenses that English doesn't have, but nothing like past perfect, for example, and it takes some time to learn those in relation to each other.

ghost
11-07-2007, 03:06 AM
Ohhh, thank you! I am happy there are classes out there. If you have a spare moment, please consider writing an article on ESL creative writing pedagogy. There's almost nothing I could find on the topic.

:)

I hate to admit it but it's not a very popular class and I don't get to teach it very often. Most ESL students are intimidated at the idea of writing a story.
However, no student would ever be kicked from my class. It's an adult class and they are paying to be there. And I don't judge them on their storytelling ability, it's all about the writing.

Wish I could be more helpful.

Dawnstorm
11-07-2007, 03:35 AM
But I think that when writing, you should leave grammar out altogether.

Certainly, if you can. The thing is, learning a second a language is different from refining your first. When you're just starting out writing stories in a foreign language chances are, you'll run up against thoughts that require a command of grammar you don't yet have. You're then in the twilight zone between two languages. Early on, grammar is topicalised by default. That's different if you only start to write stories once your English is good enough that your language intuition has next to no "holes". But often writing stories is part of building up the intuition native speakers take for granted. (It's the flip side of reading, just as talking is the flipside of listening.)

(Btw, I found that there topics in English Grammar that cause native speakers more problems than they ever did me. Who/whom is one example: German still has subject/object/indirect object inflection with all nouns, adjectives and pronouns. So the who/whom distinction comes naturally.)

susanabra
11-09-2007, 04:32 PM
I'm not an ESL writer, since English is my native tongue, but I have found this discussion fascinating, because I recognize so many of the experiences and frustrations described here. I have lived in Denmark since 1980 (since I was 22), so my daily life is in Danish, but I write poetry in both languages. My greatest ambition is to be able to write between the two languages, no matter which vocabulary and grammar I happen to be using.

Gray Rose
11-11-2007, 02:22 AM
I'm not an ESL writer, since English is my native tongue, but I have found this discussion fascinating, because I recognize so many of the experiences and frustrations described here. I have lived in Denmark since 1980 (since I was 22), so my daily life is in Danish, but I write poetry in both languages. My greatest ambition is to be able to write between the two languages, no matter which vocabulary and grammar I happen to be using.

You mean, write bilingually, i.e. one text that has both languages? That's very interesting; I've seen it done a bit in poetry here and there, but I'd love to see more!

susanabra
11-11-2007, 08:19 PM
No, Gray Rose, I don't write a single text in both languages at once, although I've done parallel texts in Danish and English. Most Danes speak English, while very few English speakers speak Danish, but Danish is pretty close to the Norse language that went into the development of Modern English. I've found that the language codes are partially transferrable, i. e., that I can use the Danish codes in English and vice versa. Doing that 'shakes up' both languages, and the thought patterns of my audience, which adds some interesting perspectives and nuances to my poetry.

ebrillblaiddes
11-12-2007, 10:56 AM
If anyone's interested in a different perspective, I'm a native English speaker who has attempted a bit of writing in a second language (Spanish). Tenses that don't exist or exist only in a much more limited way were my biggest problem--not so much how to use them as when; I would have to figure it out again, because it's been too long, but I had an elaborate system based on translating to a tense from phrases like "would have been for a while"--followed closely by vocabulary. The two combined to give me a lot of "how do I even begin to say this?" moments.

I don't know how typical this is of language learners but I'll throw it out there--when I was actively studying Spanish, I found that Spanish grammar changed the way I wrote in English. For example, I would use "that" in places where it was optional (and perhaps a bit stuffy) in English but mandatory in Spanish.

dragonmedley
11-12-2007, 06:20 PM
French is my first language, and I work as a translator.

When I write my stories, I do so in English because I'm into fantasy/science fiction. Such novels are most of the time written in English. In French, these genres are found in the bandes dessinées, France/Belgium comics, not in novel form (unless translated). Since I'm not an artist, and I haven't even thought of writing for comics, novels in English it is.

My biggest problem is the possessive; saying "Christine's eyes" isn't that obvious to me. In French, you'd write "the eyes of Christine". The 's is inexistant. So I sometimes end up with long-winded sentences that can be thankfully shortened with the 's.

Other than that, I tend to mimick the French sentence structure when I translate from French to English (which I don't do often - the entire office knows about it when I do, 'cause I complain loud and clear about it!).

I will think of a word in French - and of course I just can't come up with the English one - so I look it up. I right away know if it'll fit or not because I read a lot. I did all my schooling, including university, in French (I studied literature, not translation, oddly enough). Any and all English writing skills I have are due to my reading addiction.

Would I rewrite - notice I didn't say translate - my novels in French myself? Yes, I would. I think it would allow me to touch another dimension of my stories!

Wraith
11-12-2007, 07:28 PM
So many interesting takes on this. And all that talk about SF/F being mainly English reminds me, there's practically no genre lit in Romanian. There's a pretty well-known mystery author and some thrillers but not much more I know of. The bestselling authors are all literary. Still, I think there'd be a place for good Romanian fantasy/whatever else and I expect it will develop over time.

I don't know how typical this is of language learners but I'll throw it out there--when I was actively studying Spanish, I found that Spanish grammar changed the way I wrote in English. For example, I would use "that" in places where it was optional (and perhaps a bit stuffy) in English but mandatory in Spanish.
That's interesting, and I can understand it. For example, I noticed that it's not a good idea to read in English while I'm working on something in Romanian, because it gets hard to phrase things in my language and it also begins to look funny when I try to write it. Strange. And more similar to your example, I caught myself saying stuff like 'crying your eyes out' in Romanian, which of course doesn't make any sense - especially the structure. Sometimes it just seems that English has the fastest way to put it, and I get it all mixed up. :D

evigusano
01-06-2011, 05:30 PM
Hi! I am new to the forum and looking for post related to ESL, etc. I found this one and wanted to have my input.

1) I have a hard time with commas, semi colons, punctuation in general. I tend to write very long phrases and don't know how to punctuate them or connect them. It really confusess the writer. And of course some verbs as well.
2) My advice is to read a lot of books and to read aloud what you have written.
3) I would like a workshop to focus on how to deal with those words that have no translation. What do you put instead? How do you translate the "feeling" of a particular word?
Thanks!

whimsical rabbit
01-06-2011, 06:59 PM
Oooh, interesting thread! Let's see.

I'm of Greek origin. I started learning English at the age of five. For the last eight years I've been living in the UK, where I've studied, and worked, and I'm now doing a PhD in creative writing.

I have WIPs both in Greek and in English. Like Ray, I consider it almost a mother tongue-- or at least I consider myself a quarter to bilingual or something. :D I know the language's conventions, its slang, its feel and its colours. I even dream in English now. So it comes natural.

There are still times of course that I get lost in translation. For example, I've written in a short story that N. 'sank' in the seat, while I should have written 'plopped' as it was later indicated to me. In any case, the good proofreader is my best friend, and this would be the case even if I were native English.




That triggers another question: Would you rather translate your novels yourself, or have them translated (with or without involvement)?

No. I've found out that it's easier to rewrite the whole thing in Greek or English accordingly, than try to translate one from another. Often a trained translator knows how to work with words in a way very different to that of a writer. Just because I may be writing good fictional prose doesn't mean I'm able to translate it equally well, conveying all the richness and colours and feelings to another language.


That is pretty much the phenomenom of the globalization in English-speaking countries

I speak five four languages: Greek, English, French (oh, the grammar horror!) and Spanish (I took German in Uni. Then I forgot all about it. All I can do know is order beer, sausages and say how wonderful the world is. This can keep me out of trouble and save me from starvation I guess, but is not good for much else...)

Spanish is the only one of those languages I didn't have the time to get a degree/language certificate for. Yet I speak it. Why? Because I got OBSESSED with the Spanish and Latin American culture. I'm now a Greek living in the UK that listens to Spanish/Latin American pop/folk rock almost exclusively. Reads Spanish books. Hunts for Spanish videos in the internet. Whatever. Honestly, if you LOVE it, it loves you back.

This is what language is all about. You need to understand how it works, both in juxtaposition to your mother tongue, and on its own accord. I've never been brilliant in science but languages, oh, I LOVED learning them. It's music. It's art. It's another kind of science too.

Eddyz Aquila
01-06-2011, 08:34 PM
Me! Me! I'm an ESL as well. Started off when I was four in kindergarten but I've been speaking it daily for the past 3 years because I've been living in a different country. I'm a native speaker of Romanian but I didn't find learning English difficult even though many things in English do not make any sense in my own mother tongue.

Right now I think in both, but I have to admit English comes easier. Many times I struggle with the grammar of my Romanian, so it is somewhat annoying :D

Otherwise, when I write words come in both so I have to use google translate whenever I can't figure out the real word.

juliatheswede
01-09-2011, 08:40 PM
I write articles for demandstudios.com. While you don't make tons of money doing those, you do become a better writer much faster because they have great copy editors who edit/re-write your stuff when needed. They have a feature called "track changes" in which you can see all changes made to your articles. I've become a much better writer -- in English -- because of this. I know this is non-fiction, not fiction. However, it still carries over to your fiction writing. IMO, a professional/good writer is proficient at all types of writing.