1. galaxaura

    galaxaura New Member

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    Improvement of written expression in foreign languages?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by galaxaura, Jul 31, 2020.

    Are there any more authors here who write not only in their mother tongue but also in foreign languages?

    For me, I find it much easier to speak English than to write. This is certainly also because I want to do it perfectly or as well as possible. That is often easier said than done. Probably it is this way because I learned English only from my youth and not since I was a child?

    When I write in German, I don't have to think a lot. I just write. It's different in foreign languages, where it often happens that I think in German first and then translate it in my head.

    How did you manage to improve your written expression in foreign languages?
     
  2. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    Many of the writers here do not speak English as their mother tongue but certainly write novels in English. I think if you're still translating from German to English, then it could be that your English fluency level isn't quite enough yet for the standard needed for writing novels in English. Having said that, if it's nearly there, you could always plough on and get an English native speaker to proofread it. Could it be you're trying to write in a more complex way than you're currently able in English, because naturally your German is better?

    As for how to improve, I'm guessing literally writing, reading, as well as getting people to constantly correct your English. And then maybe try and use those same constructions that needed corrections next time - but this time write it correctly. Like memorising how certain things just sound and then using it. I know my Finnish friend who writes novels in English says she learnt from watching a lot of Youtube and listening to how native speakers speak. Obviously she reads in English too - I believe she reads predominantly in English in fact.
     
  3. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber space cowboy, aka gangster of love, aka Maurice Contributor

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    Would you mind my asking, just out of curiosity, why you've chosen to write in English? Is it because you read mostly in English?
     
  4. Lazaares

    Lazaares Contributor Contributor

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    English is my third language; have written stuff in my native and English - but never my second.

    Quite the opposite for me. I picked up English from written sources and thus am far more comfortable with it in writing. This changed recently as my employment requires me to speak all three of my languages a lot, and in a formal environment.

    I had the same attitude; was rather shy with my writing up until I joined some online communities and realised the amount of mistakes /native speakers/ make. Not saying their writing is riddled with errors - but they aren't grammar-masters either.

    Curious enough, German's the language I can't write in. I don't really know why; perhaps it is the lingering feeling similar to what I had with English - that none of what I write will be 100% correct - a feeling I have not conquered yet.

    Just write.

    And I do mean it, write write and write. Get feedback. Then write some more, get further feedback and continue writing. Übung macht den Meister.
     
  5. Lemie

    Lemie Contributor Contributor

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    I'd say the problem is right here. If you need to translate things you're not really fluid in the language and will have a hell of a time trying to write in it. I've seen plenty of people on this forum who's English looks like Google translate - and you do not want that in your books!

    I think that if you translate things you'll never get a natural flow to your writing.

    I started to write in English when I was around 12 and didn't really write stories in Swedish (except for school) until I was in my mid twenties.

    When people ask about becoming better writers people always say read - and the answer is the same here. Read books in English. Yes, it's that simple. Also write more in English. I'd probably also say watch and listen to more in English too - because that's how you learn the language for real, not just what school taught you.

    I'm probably as likely to write in English as Swedish now a days - but then again I'm a Swede living my everyday life in English so I guess both languages come as natural these days.
     
  6. galaxaura

    galaxaura New Member

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    You're absolutely right, my English is not good enough for me. I'm just not happy with it. Does practice really make it more fluid?

    That's exactly the point. When I speak, it is less important for me to express myself in a beautiful and complex way. When I write, it is very important to me. And then mostly I think what I want to express in German first.

    I must admit that I read very little in English. I watch many films and most of the series in English. But written language is not the same as spoken language. And the passive vocabulary is often larger than the actively used vocabulary.

    I lived in England for a few months. At first I found it hard to talk, too. But then I discovered the joy of being able to express myself differently in two different languages.

    I write mainly in German and have also more or less completed a book. I have also translated the book into English... but I don't (yet) like the way it sounds.

    I bet you do. I should probably start reading more in english as well. And then try to find my own style by imitation.

    No, I wouldn't want that for my book. I hope that time and a good editor will lead to a better result. If not, I would have my book written in German translated by a professional.

    Thanks, I hope so!
     
  7. alpacinoutd

    alpacinoutd Senior Member

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    I, too, am not a native English speaker. I've seen a lot of movies and series in English but I haven't read that very many books. I've just begun writing in English. I struggle to a lot to express my ideas in English but I always resist the urge and never translate because it simply doesn't work.
     
  8. galaxaura

    galaxaura New Member

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    I'm glad that there are different people here who feel the same way I do!

    alpacinoutd, what do you write in english when you're still struggling? Short stories?
     
    alpacinoutd likes this.
  9. alpacinoutd

    alpacinoutd Senior Member

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    For now, I have decided to write for myself about the things that I see in my everyday life or important events on the news that capture my attention.
    For instance, I go to a party, I try to describe a girl that I liked there or how she danced. Or I see a building that impresses me, and I try to use words like "lofty columns" and "flank" to describe that building. At the beginning, it was really difficult because I simply was not equipped with the necessary lexical resources but over time it got a tad better and smoother.
     
  10. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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    For some bi-lingual people, the language they're thinking depends on what they're thinking about. I had a boss at the hang glider factory I worked for whose first language was French. I asked him what language he thought in, and he said that he usually thought in English, except when he was designing the gliders or doing anything that required his engineering background. He found that he couldn't phrase the questions properly and reverted to French, which is the language that his engineering training was in.

    I think I mentioned this before, on another thread: Growing up in Alsace, Albert Schweitzer was equally fluent in French and German. He wrote his autobiography Out of My Life and Thought in German. He was asked to provide a French translation and undertook the project, only to find that he couldn't express in French what he'd expressed in German. So he ended up re-writing the whole book. (I understand that the English translation is an amalgam of both books.)

    So I guess that the answer to your problem is that you should write in whatever language best suits the thoughts you're trying to put down in written form. And don't count on translations to get your point across in the same way the original language did.
     

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