In a language not my own

Back in October I did a post on why I don’t like to include that I’m from Germany in my query letters. Since then a couple of people have asked me why I don’t write in Germany vs. English.

Wouldn’t it be easier for me to write in German since it’s the language I grew up with?

You’d think so. And I did write in German for several years when I was a teenager. I wasn’t yet fluent in English and so writing in German made sense. When I turned 18 I went to Israel for several months and lived in an international youth hostel. There were dozens of languages floating around, but the one common language was English. Being forced to speak it improved my language skills rapidly. Before I knew it I was writing poetry in English instead of German. Somehow it felt better to write in English, the words seemed to flow more freely and the thoughts in my head came out more accurately.

After I left Israel I went to live in the UK for a few years and it was there that I decided to try writing a novel. By the time I started Goodbye November I had lived in English-speaking countries for so many years that I started to dream and think in English as well, so there was no question that my novel would be in the same language. It’s been this way ever since.

Now, when I try to write anything creative in German, it doesn’t sound right. Maybe it’s because in many ways German has become a second language for me. I guess that’s sad, but it is what it is. I often find myself speaking English with my German-speaking friends, and sometimes, when I do chat with someone in German, I can’t think of the words. I don’t think I could write a poem or novel in German anymore, even if I tried. It’s been years since I even read a novel in German so I imagine it would sound strange if I tried to write in it.

Although, maybe one of these days I’ll try to translate something I wrote into German and see how that goes. It’s an idea anyway.

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