1. tjoudega
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    tjoudega New Member

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    Is writing in English an advantage?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by tjoudega, Sep 25, 2013.

    I guess most of you are English native speakers, but maybe you know a little bit about this as well. I am Dutch, and thus before I write I have to choose: Do I write Dutch or English?

    Most books I read are in English (I don't like translations), idem with films, series, tv shows, study books and syllabi. For my academics I write scientific papers in English as well.

    I think as of now, my Dutch writing is maybe a bit more advanced, but if I focus on English, it won't be long before it surpasses my native tongue.

    So my question is: should I do this? What are the advantages/disadvantages of writing English (in a non-English speaking country) - also looking at publishing.

    Or do you think writing different stories in different languages is the way to go? (I would rather be superb in one langues than average in two)

    I hope some of you have experience in this!

    Yours,

    Thomas
     
  2. smerdyakov
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    smerdyakov Senior Member

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    Bigger market (obviously) for one. Two: there are more words in the English language than in any other language.
     
  3. 7thMidget
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    7thMidget Member

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    You should write in the language that your target audience will understand better. For the stuff that you won't publish, do whatever you want. Your writing will be limited by your language skill, but you'll get to practise both at the same time, I suppose. I just wonder if it's actually possible to write much better in a language other than your native one, or if that's just personal bias influencing your perception, hah.

    There are more words in the English language?
     
  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    More recorded nouns, yes. Your Portuguese and my Spanish are descriptive languages. Descriptive languages are light on individual nouns and heavy on adjectival and dependent clause modifiers to name things. English is the opposite. Very small differences between this thing and that thing will cause each thing to have its own distinct, single word name in English. For example: In Spanish the word llave is usually translated as key in English, but what most English speakers don't know is that llave actually means any small item, usually made of metal, designed to be turned in some way; hence, llave also means wrenches (spanners) of all kinds, and also the knobs and handles of water mains and under sinks, anything small enough to fit in the hand and meant to be turned. English has an individual name for all of those items. Add to this the fact the English is a pack-rat language. It's not the fact the English has words from many other languages - ALL LANGUAGES HAVE THIS DYNAMIC IN PLAY - it's the fact that when a new word comes into English, the old word is rarely thrown away as happens in most other languages. Instead, English keeps the old word, assigns it a more specific definition and takes the new word in as well, both stay in play. This gives us stool, which is the original word, and chair which comes from French. It gives us shirt and skirt, both from Viking languages and which originally are the same word, the two pronunciations being an artifact of the two words coming into English during separate invasions of the U.K. that were about 300 years apart and the Viking pronunciation had changed. Because of these two dynamics, English has more individual nouns than any other language of which we know.
     
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  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you need to write in the language of the country where you want to have your work published and read... to do otherwise would make no sense...

    so, if you want to have your work published in the netherlands and read by dutch-speaking folks, write it in dutch... of course that will be a much narrower audience, thus resulting in fewer sales/smaller profits, if you're lucky enough to get it published there...

    writing in english will allow you to seek publication in either the UK or US [US of course has the largest market and more publishing firms], so you can do better on sales/profits... but--and it's a big one--to do that, your english has to be on a par with native english speakers' and be up to date on idioms, authentic re dialects, attitudes, behaviors, etc....

    so it then comes down to what you are capable of doing well enough to have a good chance of interesting a publisher...
     
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  6. Uberwatch
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    Uberwatch Active Member

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    Well take a look at movies themselves. I've seen a lot of English spoken movies that were considered french films, but were going for the English-speaking audiences. If you want to get the Dutch audience to read your book, write in Dutch. If you want a wider audience, English is the way to go.
     
  7. Tara
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    Tara Contributing Member

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    Like people mentioned: choose the language that fits your audience. Choose Dutch if you want to publish in the Netherlands and choose English if you want to publish in the UK or US. If you publish in English in the Netherlands I don't think it will sell much, because be honest; when was the last time you saw an English book in a Dutch bookstore? But the other way around if you write in Dutch it most likely won't get your story outside the country, because I've not seen (translations of) any Dutch books outside the Netherlands.

    This may not be as easy as you think. Being relatively good at a language and having the level of a native speaker are two entirely different things. I'm not saying this to be annoying or anything, but it's something I've noticed myself. For the past three years I've had half of my classes in English; I've written essays and lab reports and whatnot. Because I tend to write a lot for myself the level of my written pieces is mostly above the class' average, but when I'm trying to write a novel I notice the level of my English doesn't compare to any of the written works I've read. I'm not talking about grammar or vocabulary, it's just the way things are phrased.
    On the other side I also think there's a big advantage to writing in English: where the Dutch language lacks words to describe something specific or offers a word that's almost what you're looking for but not entirely it, English always seems to have the right words (but maybe that's just me).

    I have to admit this is something I've been/am struggling with too. I've decided to go with English for now, because I just think it's a nicer language to write in; Dutch is kind of... I don't know, but I don't really like it as a language for writing.
     
  8. 7thMidget
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    7thMidget Member

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    Oh, wow, very interesting. I never knew that, thank you for the detailed explanation!
     
  9. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Wreybies very interesting reply above. I am wondering if in the languages you speak, if they adopt webisms such as blog (short for web-log obviously) etc. In France recently the minister of culture banned his government from using the term 'silver-surfers' because it's an English term and challenged his department to come up with a catchy French version for the group of older internet users. (I don't know what they eventually settled for before anyone asks)
     
  10. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    The French Academy has been notoriously rigorous about not condoning the use of anglicisms. La Real Academia Española has tried in vain to do the same with Spanish, but trying to control a language by committee is the very definition of a faff. You cannot do it. New World Spanish is too much in contact with English to hold back anglicisms. The Academy can decree what it wants; the real language is the living language, not the committee ratified one. ;)
     
  11. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    What real authority do these Academies have? Can they fine people who use anglicisms? Can they force dictionary publishers to only list officially-recognized words? Can they control what words are used in government and courts of law? Or are they just a bunch of pompous old snobs looking down their noses at the unwashed masses and sniffing disdainfully whenever anyone says "blog" or "weekend"?
     
  12. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    The bolded are the areas wherein the RAE has sway or outright say. The underlined is universally true portion. ;)
     
  13. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    I have to agree with what someone said above, what do you want to accomplish? English is the second most highly spoken language in the world behind Chinese. Given all the restrictions placed on the Chinese as to what they can buy and read, including their internet usage, English would probably be your best bet at reaching the most people.

    http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0775272.html
     
  14. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    Beckett wrote in French - to escape his mother tongue, to quote him - and this neither means that he thought English inferior (although one could argue he did) nor because his "market" in Paris was more open to his work (which it may be)... So if you find something that makes English (or Mandarin, or any other) language closer to you sensibility and more appropriate for what you wish to expess - AND you feel that you are fluent enough to start seriously writing in it....

    @mammamaia if marketability was the only (or predominant) reason to choose the language of your writing, there soon wouldn't be any books in Finnish or Turkish, right? it sounds a lot like cultural imperialism, which I hope no (wo)man of words, wits and wisdom should (could?would?) advocate...
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    bb...
    marketability is the prime concern of most writers not due to any 'cultural imperialism' but only due to the fact that they want their work to be sold/bought/read as widely as possible...

    i don't get why you seem to want to turn what i said into something entirely other than what i clearly meant... nor why you seem to do that in so many of my posts... am i the only member here with whom you disagree so often?... or just the one you most enjoy poking your verbal stick at? ;)

    and before you charge me with being 'pissed off' again, as you have before, please know that i never get upset or angry over such trivial matters and am not in the least annoyed at your doing so, only curious as to your motivation...

    love 'n puzzled hugs, m :confused:
     
  16. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    @mammamaia No pokes or sticks here ;) I come from a different cultural and literal background, so the idea of an author making a decision of switching to a different language purely on the possible marketability of his work is a bit out of this world for me. The fact is: a good book published in a "small language" with a smaller "market" has (and had in the past) more chances to actually do something, reach an audience and earn recognition, than the same book published by an unknown author in a huge market where his name may just be another statistical error.
    Think about it:
    situation 1: your book is one of 14,000 published in Finland
    situation 2: your book is one of 357,000 published in US+UK+Australia
     
  17. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think writing in English has obvious advantages but only if you can write well in that language. I'm not a native speaker, but I spent last 20 years in English-speaking countries, and I speak English as well as my native tongue. But once I started to write fiction, it took me 4 years of concerted effort to bring my English up to a level where I am happy enough with it to write without restriction. So that's perhaps something to think about.
     
  18. m24p
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    m24p Member

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    What is it you don't like about translations? Have you tried writing the same thing in both languages? I grew up with English and it works pretty well. I don't know any Dutch but I know that I like some languages better than others. (Personal taste.) I like Russian a lot but find Spanish to be lacking. It could be my own issue, but it's there. If there's a similar thing where you work better in one language than another, why not use it first, and then translate it? You could try it with something extremely short and see how you feel about that.
     
  19. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think it's really an advantage. To be honest, I wish I could write in my mother-tongue: there's less competition. I wish I liked my mother-tongue, but somehow every piece of fiction I read or write in it comes off very comical. The language represents a culture a sizable part of me is trying to escape (mind, not to a specific English-speaking country, even).

    If your stories come out in English, then you write them in English. If what you're doing feels forced, you're probably doing something wrong.
     
  20. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the first determining factor has to be how well you can write in english, if it's not your birth tongue... if you can't write as well as respected native english-speaking authors, using current idioms and developing believable characters/settings/situations, then you should stick to your own language and seek a local publisher...
     
  21. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    The French government fined TV sports channels 100 euro every time their commentators used English words such as corner or goal - the fines got so ridiculous though they gave up!
     
  22. LegendsTheFour
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    LegendsTheFour Member

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    Writing in English are a HUGE benefit. I'm Norwegian and therefore write Norwegian better. But since I'm always writing in English I'm slowly getting better at it and it just feels more right. English books looks better too.
     
  23. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    By the way, if you're an EFL/ESL speaker and write in English... get native beta-readers/editor. Something always slips through the cracks, no matter how strong your grammar is. While being outside looking in could, in theory, make your prose stand out (knowing other languages than the one you write in is a plus, not a minus), you've still got more to prove than a native speaker.

    Just on a sidenote, the most popular and critically acclaimed author in my home country is originally Estonian, yet she writes in Finnish. I think that's pretty damn cool.
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2013
  24. Morgan Willows
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    Morgan Willows Member

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    Actually that's not entirely accurate. We have a lot of words but English, as a language, is remarkably lacking in overall vocabulary and largely inefficient. We have a LOT of words but most of them mean the same thing; there are something like two dozen synonyms for "Sad". Yes, it's another 20-something words but they may as well only be one word for all the extra vocabulary they add. Many languages, including Dutch, have single words for things that English has to use entire sentences to describe.
     
  25. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Say, English adjectives for example have surprisingly different connotations attached to them. One may think they're synonyms, but two words rarely mean exactly the same thing.

    I love l’esprit de l’escalier, it's so fitting, and I find myself cursing this way often, but that's not exactly one word o_O
     

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