European Mama: Blogging in English as a non-native speaker
Polish blogger Olga Mecking encourages the unique styles that come from blogging in a language other than your native one.
Maybe you remember that when this blog first started, it was trilingual. I saw it as an exercise for my mind, a way to present the different sides of me, and write about different topics for different audiences.
Then I decided I wanted to reach a bigger audience. I found I was writing more and more about multilingualism and being an expat – things I could perfectly write about in English. So I started looking for some advice on how to write better in English. Among others, I found this article. While it seems helpful, I found a lot about it unfair. First, the writer assumes that mannerisms and "accents" in writing are a bad thing. Why? Speaking or writing with an accent isn't necessarily bad, because it shows that we're making an effort to speak the language.
Another thing that was a warning: "Perfection may forever elude you". What does it mean? That native speakers write in "perfect" English while we do not and never will? I often find that non-native speakers think about language in a very creative way, and often ask questions that natives can't answer. And it shows in their writing. Joseph Conrad is one of the most acclaimed writers of the English language, and yet he had a strong Polish accent when he spoke it. Salman Rushdie's command of English is awe-inspiring. It's not always the English speakers who speak perfect English.
Many times I heard from friends that it's hard to write in a language that's not your own – especially when we're talking something as personal as blogging. And it is true. I have the comparison because I already write in Polish for the website EgoDziecka. Writing in English is very different than writing in Polish – after all, I write for a different audience about different topics.
But it can be done. The fact that we have an "accent" in the way we write is not so bad. Blogging is about personal expression. It is as much about the bloggers as it is about their audience. We all have our personal styles, our way of writing. Some of these characteristics come from being a native speaker of a language that is not English.
This is who we are, and why should we be ashamed of it? After all, it is possible to write in English as a non-native speaker and still be read. I found that in most cases, people are more interested in what you have to say than how you're saying it, at least in writing – unless you make very obvious mistakes. I very honestly say in the header of my blog that I am Polish, and my readers don't expect perfect English from me. On the contrary, they want to read about my experiences as a Polish woman living in the Netherlands – and all that comes with it: accent, mannerisms, and my linguistic inventions – "techerous" anyone?
For all that would like to blog in English but are too afraid to try, I'd like for them to try to write at least one post. You can write about any topic, and it's a great mental exercise! For those of you who write in English and it's not your mother tongue – don't worry! I think the important thing in blogging is being yourself, mistakes and all.
Olga moved to the Netherlands in 2009 with a 6-week-old baby to be with her German husband. She is now mum to two trilingual daughters and expecting her third child. She is a translator, and trainer in intercultural communication. She blogs about her experiences on The European Mama, which focuses on expat life and raising trilingual children. It won the Expat Blog Award in 2012 and continues to gain readership from all over the world. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo credit: erink_photography.