As you may have noticed (Although, I hope it wasn’t that obvious) English is not my native language. I learned it at a Language institute in my home country. Then, I had the opportunity to make post-graduate studies in the UK. But although I lived in Glasgow, Scotland for one year, I didn’t have enough time to master the language, especially considering the Scottish accent. And no, I don’t speak English with a Scottish accent; even imitating it can be hard enough 🙂 .
Luckily, I have the opportunity to practice the language every single day. My job is in English, and I’ve gotten used to it as my research, reading, and writing tool. But when I first started writing fiction in English, I thought it was only one of my crazy, impulsive episodes. I gave it a trial, just to see how it went, and I was surprised to find that I felt comfortable enough to start this blog in English. I believe that some of this comfort came from the fact that I read more books in English than in Spanish – my native language. Without noticing it, my list of favorite authors had been filled by English speaking authors.
So when I realized that writing fiction in English was not impossible, I knew that if I wanted to pull this off well, I had to work very hard on it. I had to be sure that not only what I wrote was correctly from the grammar point of view, but also that I didn’t sound like a five year-old. Deep work on building a better vocabulary began. And books about style, writing, grammar and others started to flood my bookshelves and e-reader. But believe it or not, I found I had the following advantages for being a non-native English speaker:
- I’m not familiar with jargon and idioms (they don’t teach you that when you learn a language.) As a result, I don’t misuse or rely on them when writing in a formal approach.
- The way I learned English is by hard grammar (the methodology they used at the language institute). Therefore, I haven’t picked up the wrong way from my upbringing, daily life, family, friends, etc.
- Since my native language is Spanish, I find myself surprised by the many similar words between both languages, allowing me to have an extra set of vocabulary from words that have a Latin origin. The following list shows what I mean. The words on the right are very common for me since they’re widely used in Spanish. This doesn’t mean that when writing in English I use the ones on the right more, but I didn’t have to make an extra effort in order to learn them.
|Commonly used word||My little help as Spanish speaker|
|Spill over, flood, swamp||Inundate|
|Run through, exhaust||Dissipate|
|Make up for||Rectify|
This is just a random list; there are many other words out there that could be added.
So for anybody who’s learning the language and struggling tons with it, try to see the good side 😉 Nothing is impossible, it’s just a matter of perspective, how you face and tackle things.
And you, do you think learning a language from scratch could have advantages over its native speakers?