Tuesday, February 17, 2009

English as a Foreign Language

Have you studied another language? (Spoken human language, that is: Vulcan, ASL, COBOL and the like don't count.) If so, you have a tool you can use to yourself ahead of the crowd as a writer.

I say this because studying a language forces you to examine how the words go together--once you get past the vocabulary. Until one has a good slice of vocabulary memorized, along with some conjugation, I think the mind treats another language like a code to crack.

When you begin to construct valid sentences in the other language, you're at the point where you should be applying the same sort of analysis you use to learn and apply the language to English. I observed this phenomenon with the first foreign language I studied, Spanish. And it came back in different ways when I studied Japanese and German. If you haven't noticed this in your own mental processes while you're writing in English, try to work in consciously. In addition to making you think about how words go together in sentences in different ways for different effects, it will also help you see how your readers perceive what you're writing.

1 comment:

Ina said...

Hallo mr Banks, I am trying to grasp what you mean, but probably because English is a foreign language to me, I don't really :).

I only know that when I use a different language than my own (which is Dutch), I immediately think in that language instead of translating, and even my thick accent is gone in my mind, there I speak the BBC's English, but as my vocabulary is rather limited, I tend to think, write and talk different than as I would have, using Dutch. Still, I can communicate, using whatever I have in the wordsdepartment, but it is as if my mind narrows a bit. (?)

It is almost like it isn't me saying those things, but someone else. If I read it back after a while, I sometimes don't even recognize my own writing.

Does that happen to you as well when you write in Spanish or German? Danke schön :)