[The first guest post – M. D.]
Over seven years ago I decided to start writing in English, which is not my native language. It’s not even the language of the country I lived in since my childhood or the language spoken in my family house.
I haven’t started learning English before turning seven, when my parents signed me up for private classes offered after hours in my primary school. They thought it would be beneficial for me to start learning since the regular language classes wouldn’t start until I turned 10 (nowadays, this approach changed and children start learning second language as early as 3), and the language taught in my school was German.
After some initial struggles, I got grasp of it and it soon became my favorite activity. It was also something I could explore on my own, via songs and video games (oh the times of Atari and early PCs, how much vocabulary I’ve learned back then!), so even though I continued my classes, and then picked English as my main foreign language in high school, I’ve also learned a lot outside of the formal teaching environments. Then, the university time came and I’ve discovered… how much more there is to learn, but I still enjoyed English greatly.
After about 13 years of learning the language, when I moved to Ireland, I still felt at loss sometimes: different accents (including people who spoke English as their second language), slang, regional linguistic peculiarities I came to love, and other things.
I’ve been using English all that time, at work and at home, with my partner, who was an American, but I still kept writing fiction in Polish, in my native language. On occasion, my stories would even appear in magazines or anthologies.
It was my partner who first told me “You should write in English”. With the confidence of someone who knows it’s not as difficult as I would think. But I, of course, hesitated, well-aware of how little I knew and how much there was to learn, but in the end I decided to try. After all, trying couldn’t hurt, right?
So I wrote my first novel, and by the time I hit the end, after over 115,000 of words, I could already see the improvement of my grammar, vocabulary, and style. So I kept writing. I also started reading on style and rules of writing in English (which many times differ from the Polish ones), and tried to understand this whole new land of words I ventured into. I read articles, joined discussion groups, and did my best to find my footing.
Twenty eight years after I first started learning the language itself, and seven years after I made the leap to start writing fiction in it (I don’t count class assignments, because they have little to do with being literary), I improved more than “a lot”, but I’m still nowhere near I want to be.
That’s why when people consider writing in English as their second language, I cheer on them and encourage them, but I also remind them to make the decision for the right reasons. Stories of spectacular successes fuel the dreams and desires, but it’s easy to forget that behind most of them there was a tale of long and tedious work, of learning the language and about writing itself.
So if you want to write in English (or any other second language), go ahead, it’s both a great challenge and a great experience, but do it for the right reason, not for the elusive desire of instant fame. My reasons came from my life: I wanted to share my stories with my partner and I lived in an English-speaking country, so they helped me to be persistent in pursuing my goal.
And what would be your reasons?
Joanna Maciejewska was born in Poland, and spend there a bit over a quarter of century there before moving over to Ireland, where she lived for 8 years. She currently resides in Arizona.
Joanna writes fiction in both Polish and English and been published in main Polish magazines (“Nowa Fantastyka”, “Fantasy, Science-Fiction i Horror” and “Esensja”) and anthologies, both in print and digitally. She has short stories in English published in Fiction Vortex and the anthology “Of the Dead and Dying: Tales of the Apocalypse”.