well thats your tongue

On writing in a foreign language

Fanfiction writers of the non-English speaking world, do you ever despair over that cognitive gap separating you from your work, when you’re not writing in your mother tongue?

I haven’t written that much, but always supra long stories, always in English because I know there is no readership for French fanfictions, and… It is frustrating as hell, because in real life I spend a lot of time thinking about literary works, that’s basically my job. And I feel my whole personality is ingrained in the French language. Even though I always loved English and I’ve spent some time studying in Britain, I cannot shake off the belief that I’m only parodying myself when I write fics in that language. Because, when forced to *think* my sentences in English, my world shrinks considerably. I become less creative, with my reduced vocabulary and weird syntax. Sometimes I try to say something in a creative way and it strikes me that, while not necessarily incorrect, that is not a metaphorical construct that would sound natural in English. Often I choose to stick to it, hoping it will pass off as poetic. But I’m fully aware it doesn’t always work. And anyway there’s always this screen between me and my words, preventing me from ever knowing *how they really sound*. It’s a bit like living abroad, I guess. In your own writing.

Most of the time I simply ignore the feeling and stick to what I want to do, telling myself that fanfiction is not supposed to be perfect and that many readers aren’t native speakers, even if they’re more fluent than I am. But sometimes it depresses me a tad. There is some kind of very minor self-alienation at work here. Maybe I should exercize on less ambitious projects, maybe I should work on my language skills in some ways but… writing is hard enough as it is.

We always hear about how diverse Internet communities are, how this is a unique occasion to learn about different cultures, and that is very true. But the downside is that when you’re not speaking in your own words, well… there is a chance that your exact meaning will get lost in between languages.