In a country where English is not the main language (but rapidly becoming the chief lingua franca in upper-and-middle-class echelon), blogging in English is still perceived being elitist.
Here, I have thought and listed down the conflicts non-native writers of English might face.
Well, I do encounter them all the time-
Thinking in English
Thinking in English and transcribing it on paper should be the way to write in Queen’s language. No such luck for non-native writers. Result? Stilted language.
I don’t want to sound like a moron but it is visible (might be the minority here) in the writings of stalwarts such as- Khushwant Singh or Amitabha Ghosh.
Sometimes it struck to me; they also thought in their native tongue and put it down in English.
Years ago, I was giving an attempt to translate a Bengali short story into English. A line went like this “after 3 days of fasting, the hungry, little girl was eating mounds of rice fast, almost choking herself into death”.
I showed it to an English pundit and she sent the copy back with a stern note – “Do you know you can use shovel in instead of eating quickly/fast etc.?”
This was my first lesson in knowing that too many adverbs spoil the imagery.
Theory of every’thing’
This thing. That thing. Everything is a thing for a non-native writer’s notepad. Love is a thing and so is an alien. Here, in this post, I have repeated the same thing (*hangs head in shame*).
But blame it on Keats. When I was in school we read Endymion and “A thing of beauty is a joy forever” stuck with us for life. If John Keats can insinuate a “thing”, so can we.
Squeezing in new-found words, idioms
In my English class, the teacher instructed the pupils: to learn a new word every day and write the meaning down in vocab journal.
“In this way, we’d all learn 730 new words in a year”, I can still recall her beaming face, stating the obvious.
It hurts me down till this date- how to squeeze my newly-acquainted words/idioms in a run-off-the-mill article.
British vs. American
Is it ‘centre’ or ‘center’? This still gets my goat.
When we were children, we used to go to ‘cinema’ with parents. Now, we visit ‘movie theatre’.
Between cinema and movie theatre, a whole continent of non-native English learners witnessed a tectonic shift.
From the bank of Thames , we landed in the shore of Atlantic.
Getting the grammar right
Everywhere I look for tips to write like a pro, I get to see barrage of suggestions like-
When you write, don’t think about grammar. Just write.
Don’t aim for perfection. Hit the Publish button ASAP.
Communication is the key. If you communicate, then half-the-job is done etc.
But how can that be possible when since childhood we are taught to keep a hawk-like eye on grammatical accuracy?
This is especially true for a country like India where schools still follow the colonial educational policy and emulating British-esque English is almost a sacred task.
This is a killjoy (at least for me) to express one’s self (by any form of communication) while the fear of accuracy is hanging at the back of the mind like Damocles’ sword.
Bracketing to add extra zing
Should I put brackets to double-emphasize my real intention/to add zing or should I leave it to the prerogative of the reader?
Here, in this post as well, I succumbed to my habit and resorted to bracketing.
Note to self-
Wrong: After wrapping-up “The Idiot”, now I want to marry Fyodor Dostoyevsky (and have fur-babies with him).
Right: After wrapping-up “The Idiot”, now I want to marry Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and have fur-babies with him.
What other ‘things’ (*slapping- self*) have you gone through while writing in English, as a non-native speaker? Do share with me.