Skip to main content

The Challenge of Writing in English as a Second Language: a Satire

Val is not a linguist or even an amateur, but simply observing how it feels to write in a language that's foreign to us.


Learning another language is like becoming another person.

-- Haruki Murakami

Hey, I Ain't a "Writer" Just Because I Write

I may have to guide you slowly towards the main theme of this post, by first saying a few about my writing at this Hub Pages website.

It may resemble an almost brutal honesty that I am not seeing myself as a "writer", because if I were one, I would be writing for some magazines, and laugh all the way to the bank collecting some juicy royalties from books that I would surely have written.

Well, truth be told, I actually am laughing, but not "all the way to the bank" -- rather, as I am seeing my earnings from these articles. But it's okay, hobby is a hobby, and I enjoy seeing my little literary creations as they are completed, especially since they are done in a language that is not my native.

Maybe I suck with what I write, but here we are a bunch of friends with always a generous comments to count on -- so I don't really have an objective feedback to assess the literary value of what I do. But then, again, who would be my "objective critics" if so many of them are making spelling or grammatical errors, even with English being their mother's tongue.

Let me mention a few of those most frequent ones.

Like, I see them write "to", instead of "too", "your", instead of "you're", "there", instead of "their", "its", instead of "it's"...etc.

Then, some time back I got this new follower who started his Bio Profile with: "I am a very interesting person"...and then somewhere towards the end: "Read my stuff and educate yourselves".

Gee, I wish I had that self-image!

I bet you, the dude is on a path to have great future at Hub Pages, with all those praises showering him that will make that confidence swell up to a size of a reincarnation of Shakespeare.

For, although there is a rumor going on that Hub Pages only accepts a "high quality writing" -- in reality, virtually anything goes there. I've seen articles and poems which don't need a professional critic to be called a literary disasters.

But guess what -- it's really none of my business, as long as I am having my own fun writing.


When the English language gets in my way, I walk over it.

-- Billy Sunday

Bragging Feels Good, Try It Sometimes

However, I have to do my usual daily quota of bragging in my pieces, so I'll claim now how I do have a certain knack for languages. Like, I still remember my Croatian grammar which is by far more complicated than English.

Back there in grade five, when we could pick between German, French, Russian, or English, most of us chose English, because its grammar is a joke comparing to those other European languages. And then, I still remember quite a lot of my four years worth of studying Latin in my high school.

You may actually catch me use some of those "Dicta et Sententiae" (proverbs) in my articles. You know, it adds a certain class to them, since Latin is used a lot in academia.

Out of a sheer whim, a couple of months ago I closed my Hub Pages account after some six years of writing, and then reopened it a couple of months ago, again -- out of a counter-whim.

Scroll to Continue

In the process I lost some over hundred thousand views, couple of dozens of bucks, my accolades, and my followers.

I am mentioning this just to make it clear how I never wrote out of any ambition -- otherwise I would have never close that account. To me, it's all pure fun of seeing my articles being created in a language that's not my native.

Now, making sure that this bragging also has some quality -- my pieces have never been rejected, and I don't have to "submit" any of them for those special cites -- they all get transferred there after a day or two.

Moreover, every so often those fine people at the administration give a review to some of my articles, and send me a praising notification calling my stuff "looking great".

Boy, am I good, or am I good! Maybe some day I may even start calling myself a "writer", just for the feeling of it.

Many years back I used to do a lot of oil painting, but it never came to the point where I would start calling myself a "painter". Likewise, that guitar now collecting dust, at my best times of those singalongs at the home parties, never sounded in my hands good enough that I would call myself a "guitarist".

Why am I mentioning these examples of my modesty? I have to, after so much bragging done, to repair the impression.


English is not logical, it's expressive.

-- A.D. Aliwat

It's About the Spirit of a Language, Amigo

My Croatian accent is not heavy in my use of English, but it's there, so I am kind of lucky that it's not heard in my writing. Here in Canada accents mean nothing, since we are a multicultural society.

Unlike America which is known as a "melting pot". During my short (legal!) immigration there, while applying for a job, I was asked: "What accent is this?"

Crap-on-a-cracker! -- and I thought that I was fooling the interviewer with my good imitation of American dialect, even used some popular slang expressions.

Even my children, born here in Canada, say that I've got an accent. Hmm...when I hear myself I could never tell -- must be a good dose of wishful thinking involved. Well, luckily, as long as people understand me, it's okay.

After all, if Arnold Schwarzenegger, with his thick German accent could become a Governor of California, I should not be concerned about my accent while talking to the Superintendent of this apartment building.

But then, what I write may actually "sound" at times like a "literary accent", when it's not exactly in the spirit of English.

Every language has something like a spirit to it, and something in the syntax of a sentence may be out of whack.

Which reminds me of many years back when I tried to surprise my Argentinian pen pal Susana at her birthday with a little letter in her Spanish.

To back up a little, I used to work with a bunch of Chilean people, and ladies would teach me some "palabras de amor" (words of love). Some Spanish I learned by listening to Julio Iglesias sing his romantic stuff, for which I'm a sucker.

Ultimately helped by Google's translating website, there I went writing quite a letter in my version of "lengua espanola. Of course, I couldn't use the complete sentences from that "palabras de amor" variety, because Susana had only been my very special virtual friend, not a very special virtual secret lover -- and yet, I thought that those reassembled words might serve the purpose.

Well, Susana commented with a good-natured critique, even followed by a more good-natured "lol", while explaining how each language has its spirit. As if for a consolation, she did praise what I had said at the end: "Con brazos y besos, tu gringo amigo". (with hugs and kisses, your gringo friend).

Now, as I am writing my articles, many times I remember her words, and I know that I say things that are not entirely in spirit of English. Sometimes, for a lack of a proper noun I just resort to the word "crap". Why else people use verbal crutches, but to sound convincing without finding a right word at the moment.


English is the product of a Saxon warrior trying to make a date with and Angle bar-maid, and as such is no more legitimate than any other products of that conversation'

-- H. Beam Piper

Who Am I Really Writing For?

Seriously, folks, here I am writing this stuff dealing with de-hypnotizing from social suggestive assaults -- while seemingly totally oblivious to the fact that the most of Hub Pages readership is in the US, and Americans hardly have any individual consciousness, it's mostly collective one.

I don't mean it in any derogative way. After all, who am I to judge what others decide to build their interests upon. It's even quite plausible that people are showing so much love for their country.

Actually, as it is, they are exclusively interested in their own country, their kids not learning about the world's geography, about other countries' political and economic arrangements, like we Europeans were required to.

So, Mark Twain was right when he wrote: "God created wars so that Americans can learn some geography."

Indeed, it's like they are rather identified as Americans than as Joe and Jane; while seemingly knowing more about what should be fixed in the White House than in their own backyard.

And here I am philosophizing about personal sovereignty, about using our own mind, about liberation from brainwashing by authorities.

Am I crazy or something? -- they thrive on being brainwashed. It's their national pastime to daily listen to what this or that political prophet has to say. While I am listening to Chopin's nocturnes, and meditating, and being a bookworm, they wouldn't miss their daily news for anything.

Well, once a European -- always a European, so no wonder that my crap (here I said it again) doesn't appeal much to those readers' mentality.

If I ever decided to play it their way -- as I have done it a few times just for the hell of it -- to write something political on Hub Pages Feed, there would be a foot long opposing responses to it. What can I say, beside having an accent, I also can't imitate American mentality.

Nevertheless, writing feels good, and as long as people understand what I am saying in my articles, I'll keep know own crap.

© 2022 Val Karas

Related Articles