…for me, at least.
First, though, let me give you some… context and background on my part, I guess.
I’m an English-only native speaker, meaning I grew up, for the most part, only learning and knowing English. I did, however, learn a small amount of Spanish from around ages 3-5 when my older siblings taught me some of the Spanish words and such that they were all learning in school (high school level; my siblings are also all a lot older than I am), and they always tell me nowadays that I was “fluent” in Spanish back then, but I actually didn’t remember anything they taught me past the time I started elementary school and so I don’t know how much I really believe them now.
But, anyway, that doesn’t matter because I took two years of Spanish in high school and have since remembered quite a bit of the language pretty well (with the help of reviewing and refreshing frequently, of course).
Also, I self-taught myself the beautiful Italian language pretty soon after I had learned Spanish… which was actually a lot easier than you’d think. (Italian and Spanish are both very similar languages and once you learn one, picking up the other is a piece of cake.) So, today, I keep reviewing and learning as many more words as I can handle in the spare time I have of both Italian and Spanish.
And then… I also started learning Russian a few months ago. That one’s been tough compared to the others, but I like the language a lot and it’s really fun to speak. And, now that I think about it… maybe, if anything, my siblings teaching me Spanish at a young age, even though I don’t recall any of the vocabulary, actually helped my ability to pronounce foreign words or something, because I picked up the speaking part of Russian a lot faster than I had expected. Either way, though… it’s fun to talk the talk of Russian, okay.
I also tried to learn Mandarin a few years ago, but I gave up pretty quickly, haha. Maybe someday, though…
Okay, so enough about me now. I just really like to learn languages.
Anyway… even though I learned some of these second languages a while ago, I never really took much thought to writing in them, even just for fun. I mean, I did kind of want to… but I always thought it’d be too hard or challenging or… something like that for me.
As you all (maybe) know, I recently picked up on reading and writing a lot of poetry, and after about the first one or two I scribbled down, I got to thinking… this would literally be the perfect chance for me to try writing in a different language.
And perfect it was.
I could not believe how easy writing in a second language is. Seriously, it seems so daunting at first… but, honestly, it’s like a breeze after the first line. And, actually, I think I may like it more than writing in English.
For the sake of writing poetry, I found out that literally (but not really) every word in Italian rhymes. And, in Spanish, nearly every word rhymes. And in both of those languages, everything just sounds so… pretty, I guess, when you read it out loud. And I haven’t tried writing in Russian (yet), but I’m sure the same can be said for that language. And, actually, so many others. Not saying nothing flows well in English (because things do!), but it’s a good change of pace.
Also, if you want to start writing in another language, make a translation dictionary or website (I use wordreference) your new BFF. Even if you know a learned language to a T, something like this, especially for poetry, will give you synonyms and examples and definitions and such for words that you don’t know. Or the word that you think you know but can’t quite remember in context too well. It’s a lot like just using an English dictionary for English writing, actually, so just think of it that way.
Also… remember your grammar rules well. In poetry, though, the rules can be pretty flexible, so you don’t have to be perfect in another language to try writing its poetry… but knowing the basic grammar structures will definitely help you.
With that said, I also truly think you don’t need to know very much at all of another language to write its poetry. Seriously, if you know nothing of Spanish/Portuguese/Italian/French/[insert your own language here], but you still really just think it’d be cool to write in it, you could really just look up the language’s basic grammar rules online (like what the sentence structure normally looks like, how verbs are conjugated, if at all, whether or not nouns have gender, things of that nature; if you find a good learning website it could just give you a quick crash course and you won’t have to get overwhelmed by everything I’m listing), and then use a translation dictionary/website to get all the vocabulary you need right on the spot. Of course, you may want to study the rules and basic phrases and words in a little bit of depth before you take on writing, especially if you don’t know much about any other languages than your own, but I promise you it won’t be difficult at all. Plus, if you want to really devote yourself to learning that other language, practicing writing in it from the beginning is going to help you tremendously.
One thing, though, that is difficult for me when writing is a second language is my own tendency to get it absolutely perfect. Yeah, I’m a perfectionist, and I obsess over whether or not just one word sounds right or if I made a mistake in my writing that I didn’t catch because it’s not my first language and it’s hard for me to accept that I probably won’t catch every little error every single time. So, if you’re a perfectionist, too, do not be discouraged, but still… hear my warning.
Another thing that’s kind of hard sometimes is… thinking in the second language rather than my own. Meaning, steering away from merely writing down what I want to say in English and then turning to translate it a minute or two later. Because not everything translates well, and if you want to really write in a second language, then… well, you just have to write in a second language. Just in that language, right from the start. Again, it’ll be easier than you think, but naturally you’ll still want to go the translation route every now and then. But, if you just write down one or two words in the other language (even if you don’t know much- just look some pretty words up!), then going with the flow will come to you just as naturally. And, in the end, you’ll have a beautifully put-together piece of true art.
So, bottom line…
What is it like to write in a second language (according to me)?
Ten times easier than you think. No, scratch that… a million times easier than you think. Even if you know nothing or near nothing in another language… it’s not as scary as it seems. And, even if you end up failing miserably (in your own eyes), at least you learned something along the way, tried something new and daunting, and, above all, had fun.
If you didn’t end up having fun with it, though… then you’re lying, because I’m sure you wouldn’t have gone that far without giving up if you weren’t enjoying it.
If you’re currently learning or writing in a second language (high five!), let me know in the comments! Or if I’ve persuaded you towards finally trying that other language that you’ve been wanting to pick up for years now… let me know that, too!
Also… let me know how much or little you liked to hear (or read, I guess) me talking about languages and such… just in general. Because I’m actually really, really into learning about different languages and I have a lot more of my enthusiasm and knowledge to share. So… if you would enjoy reading more about this kind of stuff from me, let me know!
Pick up that pen or keyboard and start writing!
4 thoughts on “What it’s like to write in a second language.”
Sounds like you have a knack for learning multiple languages and writing them too! Hope you can learn Mandarin eventually, and if you’re interested, I suggest learning Japanese after because both Japanese and Chinese share a lot of characters. 😀
While I’m Chinese, I grew up speaking, reading and writing mostly English, quite a bit of Malay (not a fan of it but it was mandatory), and… not much Chinese. I can speak Cantonese quite all right (enough to order food, at least 😛) and can understand simple Mandarin if I hear it, but if I try to speak it, usually Cantonese will leave my mouth. 😅
I enjoy writing in English, but honestly not so much in other languages. But it’s good to see you enjoying other languages! So do have fun and let me know how you progress later. ❤️
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Yes, I really want to learn Mandarin still. It’s probably next up on my list, haha. Japanese sounds so pretty, too, so I might try that out, too, even if it’s just for the basics!
And that’s so nice that you grew up leaning bits of each language. I think that’ll really help you out if you try to learn anything new because you already understand the basics of different languages!
And thank you, I really enjoy it! I’ll be sure to keep posting about my progress and tips that I come across later! ❤
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I agree! Good luck with your learning. ❤️
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Thank you so much ♡♡♡
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