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Honest Tips For Writers In English As Their Second Language

A sketch of trees and a house

Writing in English when English is not your first language... Let me tell you. It's not always easy. Often it shows up as an addition to perfectionism. On other days they work as a tag team. First you question your language and then you question your quality.

What language do I think in? I am asked this question regularly. And the answer is both my native language and English.

What language do I prefer to express myself? English, for sure. Why? Because it's the language I regularly use in business and private life.

That's precisely why I want to write in English and not in my native language.

To be honest with you, my native language is slowly becoming another language I speak, almost like my second language. I can read and talk in it. I can also write simple sentences like a to-do list. But when I need to say something more profound or complex, English words start materialising.

So these are my tips for overcoming fears and insecurities about writing in English when it's not your first language:

  1. English language is just a tool.

  2. Write to express your thoughts.

  3. Never compare yourself with anyone, especially native language speakers.

English Is Just A Means Of Expressing Your Thoughts

So how do I get over my insecurities about using my second language to express myself?

One day at a time. I practice.

And I stopped treating English as my second language. I started writing to improve my skills. My skills as a writer and an author, and not a second language speaker. I stopped overthinking it. I stopped overanalysing it. And most importantly, I stopped comparing my English with my native language.

Writing in any language is tough, and it requires practice.

That's what I am doing—one step at a time.

Then comes reading. I mainly read in English. Not because I prefer it. No. If I read something for my soul, I choose my native language as a language of expression. For everything else - I am more aware of books in English speaking world. I also find it easier to discuss books with people if I read them in English. Unwittingly, if I read in my native language, I try to translate what I've read. This slows down my thinking process. And it's not surprising. I am making my brain complete two taxing cognitive tasks instead of one.

Are there days when I think my writing is not good enough?

Not really. Not anymore.

Writing To Convey A Message

I used to have those days. I used to have them in a queue of self-conscious and self-deprecating words. Now anymore. Perhaps, because I stopped trying to write in my second language. I write to convey a message or express myself. All I care about is if I am better than yesterday. As a writer. Not a second language speaker.

Writing Without Comparison

I also stopped comparing myself to others, English or non-English speakers. But at the same time, I started following non-native English speakers that I admire. Some of them have a strong accent. But I still respect them. This simple realisation has helped me to stop worrying about retaining my accent. And let me tell you, it's not going anywhere. Ever. But it's ok. Now I know that I will be able to achieve great things even with my accent. Because it's not about the accent, it's about the content. It's about providing something useful, whether with an accent or without.

Sometimes I think that accent is my greatest asset. The reason behind it is ridiculous, I know. I think people are rarely threatened by me. They don't perceive me as a competition. Some might think of it as a negative. But I like it. I can hide behind my accent and then produce something ground shattering. But by then, I have my audience; I have my spectators.

Unbeaten Language-Related Insecurities

But I am not rid of my language-related insecurities. Oh, I wish I was. My children. They are growing up with English as their first language. While they are little, they can learn from my language, my pronunciation because I can say: this toy belongs to me. They shout: 'mine! It's mine!' Which is not incorrect, but not accurate either. But the moment will come when their language acquisition will surpass mine. And I am sure I will be ok with it. Someday. But not yet. At the moment, I dread that day.

Because I worry that they won't respect me as much if my English is not up to scratch. You might argue that I will also have my native language, and they won't necessarily have it. You will be correct. But still. That creepy feeling of inadequacy. Of being not good enough. I cannot shake it off just yet.

Do You Have Any Tips?

Is English your second language? Are you comfortable expressing yourself in English? Or do you prefer your native language any time of the day? What insecurities do you still harbour? Do you have any tips for me and my worries about not being a good enough English speaker for my kids?


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