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Challenge of Writing In English as a Second Language

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Writing for fun is one of Val's hobbies, while technicalities of it may present a challenge expanding the concept of a hobby.

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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 almost brutal honesty when I say that I am writing each piece between two installments of an unannounced "goodbye".

Namely, my other hobbies and daily routines are using just enough of my time to put in a shadow this one, and the only true reason for coming back is this curiosity what my literary creations may look like when finished -- while being done in a language that's not my native.

Thus, it happens almost regularly that, after each of my literary creations, I say to myself "it feels like the last one that I have done".

I used to do a lot of oil painting, and there was this same curiosity driving me. I was not an artist, just like I am not a writer, since the act of writing doesn't define me as one. If I were a writer, I would be writing for some magazine -- you know what I mean.

Moreover, when I would get praised by critics, I wouldn't be seeing those same critics praising some works that don't deserve to be read to the end.

So, I am not a writer here at this Hub Pages. Maybe I suck with what I write, but I may never know it, because it's like I can always count on a friendly review. Here we are a bunch of friends exchanging niceties. Nothing wrong with having friends, but then we might as well become pen pals.

At times it seems like anything goes on this website, as I can even see some writers whose English is their first and the only language -- but getting away with grammatical and spelling errors, as if those don't really matter.

Like, I see them write "to" instead of "too", "your" instead of "you're", "there" instead of "their", "its" instead of "it's"...etc. Today I just got a new follower who starts his Bio Profile with: "I am a very interesting person..." and somewhere towards the end: "Read my stuff and educate yourselves...". Gee, I wish I had that kind of a self-image! I bet you, the dude will have some future at Hub Pages. He will keep writing, and claps are never in a short supply here.

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Bragging Feels Good, Try It Sometimes

However, I have to do my usual quota of bragging, so I'll say how I do have a certain knack for languages. I still remember my Croatian grammar, which is much more complicated than English one. And I still remember much of my four years worth of studying Latin in my high school.

If you had read a few of my 172 pieces, you might have run into some where I was trying to impress with some Latin proverbs. Well, I have to build my studious image with anything I can, and occasional use of Latin may help, being the language used in academia.

When I first started five years ago (geez, it's already been that long!), I felt short of flattered that my first dozen pieces were not rejected during the boot camp period.

That "boot camp" was really suggesting that I'd better blow the dust off my English dictionary and get serious about my new hobby.

Then I kept writing like a man possessed, now really curious what else I could express in English, and how it would be received by editors and by the reading public.

I was like a kid with a new toy. None of my stuff has ever been rejected, and ever since we got those special sites, I don't have to "submit", they get transferred in a matter of a few days. Boy, am I good!

Wait, I'm not done with bragging. Then I get reviews from time to time, and I am told that my hubs "look good". Something must be missing in my logicalness, because I have a hard time figuring why all those "looking good" masterpieces get few, if any, views during a typical week.

But I keep writing, because here I get this new idea in my head, or another angle of presenting an old one, and I am curious how it would look expressed in English, in a form of an article -- even resembling a poem.

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It's About Spirit of a Language, Amigo

My Croatian accent is not heavy, but it's there, so I am a kind of lucky that it isn't detectable in my writing. Here in Canada "accents" mean nothing, since we are officially a multicultural country. It's truly amazing how such an ethnic diversity of this multitude manages to live in a harmony.

But it's altogether different in the US, which is a known melting pot. During my short lived (legal) immigration there, I was applying for a job, and the first thing the interviewer asked me was: "What is this accent?"

Crap-on-a-cracker!!! - and I thought that I was fooling him with my good imitation of American dialect. Even used some popular slang words.

Reminds me of the time when I wanted to surprise my dear pen pal Susana in Buenos Aires, by composing a letter in her Spanish at her birthday. To back up a little, I used to work with a bunch of Chileans, 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 am 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 complete sentences of those palabras de amor, because Susana was only my very special pen pal, not a virtual secret lover, and yet I thought that those re-assembled words might look nice enough.

Well, Susana commented with a good-natured critique, even followed with a more good-natured "LOL", explaining that each language has its spirit, and it's not easy to express it by putting together some words. That much I knew without having to be reminded, but at the time it seemed to be a good idea.

But without her giving me any credit, I knew that she must have liked the ending of my letter which read: "Con abrazos y besos, tu gringo amigo". (With hugs and kisses, your gringo friend).

As I am writing my articles, many times I remember her words, and I know that I say things that are probably not "in the spirit" of English. Sometimes, when I don't know if I am using a right noun, I just resort to the word "crap" -- why else people swear, but to sound more convincing.

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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 most of the Hub Pages readership is in the US, and Americans hardly have any individual consciousness, it's mostly a collective one.

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

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

So, maybe Mark Twain was right after all when he said:

"God created wars, so that Americans could learn some geography".

Indeed, it's like they are rather identified as Americans than as a Joe and a Jane; also sounding like they know more about what has to be fixed in the White House, than what has to fixed 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? -- they thrive on being brainwashed, it's their souls' food to hear daily about what this or that political prophet has said. 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 decided to pull their leg (I admit, I've done it a few times) and write something political on Hub Pages Forum, there would be a few feet long list of comments, with sparks of disagreements flying off my laptop, and possibly even some names that I would be called.

But, it's not me at all, and with my version of English which is not entirely broken, I still prefer to write...you know what...my own crap.

© 2021 Val Karas

Comments

Val Karas (author) from Canada on April 14, 2021:

Anand -- You are welcome.

Anand from Pune, Maharashtra on April 14, 2021:

Thanks

Chrish Canosa from Manila Philippines on April 14, 2021:

ótimo tópico para discutir! The Spanish sounds like Portuguese, I known a little because of my Brazilian friend. Also this article was written in an awesome manner!! I just love how you throw those point of view of yours Sir! I enjoyed reading it while learning a lesson (wink) blessings to you and your family Sir Val!

Farah N Huq from Dhaka, Bangladesh on April 14, 2021:

Fluency in any language has a lot to do with practice. So for people writing in English as their second language, especially for those like me residing in countries where English is spoken infrequently, it is not easy to come up with a smooth flow and proper usage of grammar and diction instantaneously. Moreover, you do tend to get hesitant about showcasing your articles alongside other authors from English-speaking countries. I think the "niceties" in Hubpages that you mentioned, worked as a form of motivation for me and inspired me to express my thoughts, once more, in English, every time, though I am quite aware that not all of my poems that got good reviews and made to letterpile automatically (all of them) were of equal standards. In my case, I would say I post in Hubpages to reach a wider circle of readers and also to keep my articles organised in one place. We don't have Pay Pal here, so getting paid was not even an issue in the first place. My 11-year-old son once asked me why I write poetry in English knowing that I'd be having limited readers, and I had told him that I write for these limited readers and my happiness. So despite the number of readers I attract, I choose to keep writing in my second language because I believe it widens my capacity to express myself by learning how to juggle two languages or more than two languages at the same time. For example: in Bengali or Bangla we have the word "obhiman" for a sentiment where basically you are mad at someone and yet you cannot be literally mad because you are too fond of that person eg, a little kid can do "obhiman" for being scolded by his or her mother. Is there a word in English for this "in-between" state of love and disappointment? There are words that come close but they do not represent the exact emotional state. knowing this word helps me to understand this sentiment better and thus explain it better. In Arabic, you don't have an alphabet for the phonetic p. I still remember how my Egyptian Arabic teacher used to say "boot your ben on the table" for "put your pen on the table" :) . So having fluency and command over different languages gives you the extra advantage to get better with your expressions and helps you to understand and reach out to a wider mass.

I could relate to the part where you said you got obsessed with your new toy when all of your articles made it through the boot camp. I believe I am in that state right now and I can tell that the poetess inside me is slowly growing up.

As for whether you should call yourself a writer or not just because you write, well, why not? Did Anne Frank think her diary would become a best seller when she was writing it? You never know why, when, or who would find your contents and articles fascinating. Till then, let us keep writing for the sake of our satisfaction and happiness.

I think the length of this post speaks for itself. I enjoyed reading your article thoroughly and that your readers are not only from the USA or the West... :) Stay blessed, dear Mr. Val.

Val Karas (author) from Canada on April 13, 2021:

John -- I still know that the capital of Armenia is Erevan, but I forgot their political arrangement and the approximate number of inhabitants -- so, here I go with my own partial geography knowledge, and there is more of it.

Val Karas (author) from Canada on April 13, 2021:

Anand -- Thank you, and welcome to the Hub Pages. Little advice if I may: When you intend to write something "best" -- just do it, don't announce it, it may sound like a premature advertising. Good luck at your literary efforts.

Val Karas (author) from Canada on April 13, 2021:

Vanita -- I am certainly glad that you found the article interesting. Be well, my far away friend.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on April 13, 2021:

50 really? Ok shows what I know lol.

Val Karas (author) from Canada on April 13, 2021:

Manatita44 -- Thank you, and feel loved my friend.

Val Karas (author) from Canada on April 13, 2021:

John -- Just a little correction, if I may. The US have 50, not 52 states, so I hope you didn't annex Canada and Mexico to them, lol. Well, funny thing about my writing (like nothing else is funny there) is, that I don't "expect" a big readership, it's truly my fun of expressing myself; just like in the past I didn't do that oil painting to exhibit it somewhere, but to see what I can do with that paint and canvas. Seeing that white canvas transforming into a picture was enough.

So, from a completely different perspective am I mentioning how few people are reading my crap, "just comparing it to reviews of the editors".

As for your own spelling, my point is that we are allowed to make errors. If we were not, we would be more careful.

Thanks for your nice comment, my Aussie buddy.

Vanita Thakkar on April 13, 2021:

Interesting observations in the article.

manatita44 from london on April 13, 2021:

Well Val, you're most certainly colourful, but I love the idea that you remain your authentic self. Interesting and thought-provoking write. Much Love.

Anand from Pune, Maharashtra on April 13, 2021:

Thanks a lot. Your opinion is valuable. I respect your opinion. I just joined hubpages platform . I will try to give best article in this platform.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on April 13, 2021:

Valkaras English in many countries as the second language is daunting for some of them. Interesting and thoughtful too.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on April 12, 2021:

This is an interesting article, Val. I wouldn't dare say it "looks good" lol.

I admit I don't read every article you write, but then if I read what everyone I follow here writes I wouldn't have time for anything else.

I read the ones that have a title that calls to me.

I am not great at English grammar or spelling, even though it is my first language, or at world geography either. We here in Australia only have six states and two territories, however, I am sure I know more of the USA's 52 states than most Americans know our Australian ones. The same with the capital city of each state. I guess that is understandable though as we are but a small speck on the world stage. Anyway, just letting you know I read this piece. Have a great week.

/

Val Karas (author) from Canada on April 12, 2021:

Ravi -- I agree. I guess I am just generalizing, because there is no nationwide interest in America for anything foreign. Personally, I got Hemant Kumar's copy of his songs in movie "Siddhartha", I practiced yoga when I was young, now I do qigong, kundalini, I meditate, I've read almost all Deepak Chopra's books, I use some Indian herbs, and before I die I'd love to visit Taj Mahal.

And yes, many Americans come to India, and many are into yoga, as you say -- but that's how far it goes. What I was referring to was the way of life in India in general, for which westerners have no interest, because they don't typically mix their culture with any other.

Ravi Rajan from Mumbai on April 12, 2021:

Well we have so many Americans coming to India to learn Indian customs and traditions. In fact Yoga is the one of the biggest exports from India that has been fully embraced by the West in various forms from haute Yoga to aerobic Yoga. So my point is we do not need to imitate the west to get "recognized" by them. We can just speak their language while maintaining our own identity.

At the end of the writing is all about perspective and language is a just a medium for expressing it.

Val Karas (author) from Canada on April 12, 2021:

Ravi -- Good luck with Indian perspective, my Indian friend. When you write in other people's language, you have to sound "recognizable". Here in the West, unless you are not "talking their language", you are merely a foreigner using their language. One question: how many Americans, do you think, are watching Bollywood movies -- "out of their curiosity" to learn something about Indian way of life?

But then again, don't believe any of this, just follow your own writer's bliss.

Ravi Rajan from Mumbai on April 12, 2021:

Thanks for this article. Writing in English as a 2nd language has another distinct advantage of adding perspective that is unique. For example when I write in English I try to add my Indian perspective to my writing that makes it different and adds a flavor to it. Thanks for this useful article.

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