This week’s guest poster is the wonderful M S Harris who discusses writing manuscripts in a language that is not your native one.
How To Write In A Foreign Language
by M.S. Harris
I have been writing for a long time and I’ve been making stories in my head for as long as I can remember.
Not only do I write and I make stories, but I write them in English. English is not my first language, Greek is and through a lot of thinking I decided that writing in English is the better choice for me.
The reasons are simple. I write fantasy. There are sword fights, dragons and gods that just can’t seem to get their act together. Fantasy is popular in Greece. They love Tolkien and Martin and even in the sci-fi realm – they love Star Wars and Start Trek.
Fantasy is popular in Greece, but it’s not popular in Greek. There is a bigger audience out there for someone who writes in English and I want my stories to reach as many people as possible.
But first, I want them to reach the people I have close to me, namely two of my closest friends do not even speak Greek and for years I was stuck with having stories, of talking to them about the plot and the characters, but never being able to give them something of mine to read.
It got annoying after a little while.
Writing in a language that is not your own is harder than it seems. No matter how fluent you are, you always make mistakes, because you are not a native speaker.
Even if you’ve reached a level in the foreign language where you can use the vocabulary simply because you have a feel for it, because you know what it means in the same way you do in your native language, it’s still not the same.
Mistakes happen. Be prepared.
Grammar and usage mistakes are the most common. You use the words, you use the grammar, and even when you don’t mess it up, a native will tell you, “Well you can’t say it like that”.
Why? WHY NOT?
Because it’s not your native language.
Then there is the dreaded vocabulary, and nothing can fix that unless you read. The same goes for grammar and usage. We learn through reading and experiencing a language, so read and read a lot is what you must do. Read, write and research everything about your stories in the language you write. The more you experience the language, the better you get at it.
And of course, talk to natives. Find people who can help you with the language that can help you use it in a more casual manner than just writing. It helps with the dialogue––the dreaded dialogue––and you get a better understanding of the language.
People suggest a variety of books on the craft and writing, and I thought I’d offer some recommendations here as well.
“On writing Well” by William Zinsser and “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White. The first, I enjoyed more than the second, since the second reminds me of a manual.
And let’s not forget, Stephen King’s book “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”.
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”
―Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Read. Write. Talk.
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Big thanks to M.S Harris for her brilliant post about writing in a foreign language, I hope you found it useful.
Please do make sure to check out her social media pages and follow her blog. Drop her any questions or comments too.
I’ll be back on Friday at my (mostly) usual time of 18:30 (BST)possibly with a World Building Post (I really need to get back to completing that series).