How being a non-native English speaker can actually help me when writing in English…

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.

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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
Increase Augment
Strengthen Invigorate
Refresh Rejuvenate
Hoard Agglomerate
Verify Corroborate
Check up Scrutinize
Hang onto Adhere
Spill over, flood, swamp Inundate
Run through, exhaust Dissipate
Shorten Condense
Temper Alleviate
Stir up Infuriate
Make up for Rectify
Whip up Instigate
Prompt Stimulate

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?

Published by Carla Doria

Writer, blogger, traveler, mindful of a spiritual path (or at least trying to). I'm also a Happiness Engineer and support people building their websites.

5 thoughts on “How being a non-native English speaker can actually help me when writing in English…

    1. I believe everybody can learn other languages 🙂 but it might be more difficult for some people. Although, it’s all about hard work and perseverance, I believe “memory,” in general, is the key for learning foreign languages. But memory can also be developed 😉 so… nothing is impossible.
      Anyway, thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Most people in the U.S. know just the one language, English. We do butcher it all the time and don’t know it. I took two years of Spanish in grade school. At the time, it was required. Living in a state, Colorado, where the population of Spanish-speaking people is better than most, I was more than willing to give it a shot. Yet, I was foolish. I didn’t continue the classes in high school and I remember very little of the language now. Nevertheless, because of the brief period of learning, I’ve always been aware of the words I hear, read, and use myself that are based on the Spanish language. I wish I had kept my studies up.

    Liked by 1 person

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