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Five Ways Living in One Language Fingerprints your Writing in Another

Are your notions about your birthplace outdated?

By Gila Green

Diction. Slang and other everyday words sneak into our vocabularies. If you don't live and write in the same language, it takes an extra effort to root foreign words out of your work, unless they're part of your story.
Names. Many writers spend a great deal of time enhancing their work with thoughtful character names. But when you live in one language and write in another naming story characters can be frustrating. On one hand, the names from your adopted country often seem awkward in your mother tongue. On the other hand, mother tongue names can appear mundane.
Setting. There's often a struggle with place and setting for writers who live in one country and write about their birthplace. If you choose to write about your adopted country, it can seem as though everything appears too exotic. Other times you worry you lack the background to really make the country come alive. Conversely, you wonder if your notions about your birthplace are already outdated and whether you are destined to depict your birthplace only in the past.
Humor. Everyone knows that a sense of humor is cultural, especially writers. Living in one language and writing in another can make you unsure of whether anything you wish to satirize or depict as humorous from your everyday experience will be understood in the language you use for your writing.
Layers. Living in one language and writing in another contributes layers and depth to your work that can only come from this experience. True, not everyone will grasp your entire meaning, but the sense of 'otherness' allows you to see both your native culture and adopted culture with a broad lens; a powerful tool for any writer.

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Wednesday, 03 June 2020

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