Writing in a language that isn't your mother language?

by Tina Iping
(Enkhuizen - The Netherlands)

Question: I'm currently 20 years old and the last 5 years I have been writing up a story I have held dear since I was 9 years old.

The only problem is, I'm writing it in English, yet my mother language is Dutch.

I can express much more in the English language, but I figured out I lack some English experience... I make loads of mistakes with words that I think are the right ones, or I basically use the wrong way of writing.

Things are quickly getting boring because of that... I was wondering what can do about my lack of English.

Currently I've already written up 10 chapters but I think my knowledge of the language is way too low

My idea at first was that I use beta readers before I publish my work... but I don't know anyone who wants to read my work, or help me out with this problem.

Is that idea a good idea, or should I just throw it away?

Thanks for reading.

Answer: First, I would never suggest you throw away anything you have invested so much time on, even if you are not completely happy with the result. Every artist or writer has a closet of works that may never see the light of day but were important in the development of their skills and which they may draw upon in the future.

Second, I'm a little curious why you don't write this story in Dutch. It's much easier to become a virtuoso writer in your native tongue. You might try writing a draft of the story in Dutch and see if you like the results. Lots of writers write in their native language, and when their books become successful the publishers hire professional translators to create foreign language editions.

Assuming you keep this story in English, my next question would be if main character or the narrative voice is English or Dutch? In other words, if the story is being told by a native Dutch speaker who learned English as a second language, it might make sense for the narrator to have an imperfect grasp of English idiom - rather like writing with an accent. Of course, you would still have to master English grammar and spelling, in order to please English readers.

If you are determined that the story should be in English, finding someone to be your volunteer editor might help, but it would be a considerable investment of their time. If you really want to keep writing in English (other stories and books), you might be better off investing your time to master English. Read English books. Watch English television, study English grammar, etc.

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