[4 min read ]
Diary of an artist, Wednesday, August 5, 2020
Woke up 4:30 am
Today I don’t have any idea what I could write about. I watched some You Tube and thought for a while about the things one can find there. Still have doubts if You Tube is a medium for me.
Now that I wrote this little paragraph a thought came to me that I could write about the things we live by (a certain ideology) and the ideas about the things we could live by (potential ideologies). But I write about it tomorrow.
Meanwhile I publish a diary entry from two weeks or so ago.
Just had this idea that being a non-native speaker of the English language can be one’s advantage.
The more someone tries to impress people with his or her English in his or her writing (or the more this person is used to using words which are not the first choice words, but rare synonyms — the words which you might need to look up in a dictionary even if you’re a native speaker of that language) the more difficulty will the person reading those texts have, and the less this person will actually know what the piece or book is about.
Of course, this can also be the case (a person can have difficulty understanding your texts) if you, as a non-native speaker, and as someone who never studied this language, and as someone who doesn’t teach this language to others (for whom knowing this language on a superb level is not required for his or her job), use certain expressions which you sort of know what they mean (you heard them somewhere), but your use of them is inappropriate or weird.
There is a simple cure for this latter problem — never use expressions or words which you don’t understand or which you only sort of understand. Use only those you have no doubts about. And if you really want to add some word or expression to your own vocabulary, check what this word or expression actually means, because sometimes things which seem simple aren’t.
In other words, not being a native speaker can be your advantage but only if you’ve made a deal with yourself that never in your writing will you use words or expressions which you sort of know (probably heard a lot). If you really want to use something which you never used (or which you use only sporadically) look it up in a dictionary first.
It can be your advantage because there are many people just like you in the world (non-native speakers) who have a problem understanding complex sentences, sophisticated words, advanced structures, rare expressions. It’s true that if you use them in your writing people who read your texts and are non-native speakers will have a chance to learn new words and expressions, but use them too much and it will become a nuisance for those non-native speakers who will need to look up a word every ten or twenty seconds when they read you.
So my advice use simple language (simple sentences, basic structures, common words and expressions). Don’t be bothered that it will not be some flowery advanced language — if you write nonfiction your job is not to impress your high school teacher or pass some language exam, but to convey your thoughts to people, who, just like you, have difficulty with texts which are written by native speakers who write their texts as if they wanted to impress a group of the most educated and advanced native speakers in their country (the intellectual elite who, when they open their mouths, are understood only by people who went to the same or comparable schools, colleges / universities) or simply have some bias towards complex sentences, sophisticated words, advanced structures, rare expressions.
The more simple the language you use the more people will be able to understand you. Especially if you consider that there are way more non-native English speakers than native English speakers. In other words, write for those non-native people, and don’t try to compete with authors who are native speakers. This is way more difficult when you’re a native speaker.
Stuff I’m currently reading:
Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare by Philip Short (on Scribd).
POPism: The Warhol Sixties by Andy Warhol and Pat Hackett (on Scribd).
The Unabomber Manifesto: Industrial Society and Its Future by Ted Kaczynski (free PDF)
Audiobook: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari (on Scribd) Second reading
Audiobook: Ten Caesars: Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine by Barry Strauss (on Scribd)
Kafka: The Early Years by Reiner Stach (on Scribd)
Music for this writing session: Frederic Chopin (on Spotify).