Writing: Language influences

Being a second-language writer has several risks. Apart from the obvious ones like not understanding some finer workings of the language, the worst is probably carrying aspects of one language into the another – which is what this post will be about.

Curses

If there’s something that can’t ever work with explicit translations, it’s swearing. Especially between different language families. Curses typical for English won’t work well directly translated to a Slavic language, or the other way around. To be honest, if there’s something I am a bit jealous of is that my language has nothing so simple and short as “WTF/WTH?” The shortest version in my native language will take the double amount of syllables. The shortest equivalent of “What the hell?” in my language would be (loosely translated) something as “What by the devil is this?”. Far too long, huh?

Imported words

This mostly related to tech stuff. Several technical terms are taken from Latin, with spelling adjustments according to what fits a specific language. For example, my language uses ‘resistence’ while English uses ‘resistance’. These cases are few but something I need to keep in mind.

Noun trouble

Another thing that is different between languages are nouns that take only singular/plural form and (un)countable noons. This also touches proper nouns where I still can’t understand why English considers names of languages, days, or months a proper noun – and thus capitalizes it.

Idioms

Take the ‘curses’ issue and multiply it. More so if it’s affected by one’s dialect. In one scene, I wanted to say something more imaginative than “it’s freezing”. I used something like “biting cold” or “stinging cold” – and got a “what?” comment from my beta reader on seeing it.

Prepositions

There are several cases when I use wrong ones – partially because my language uses a different one, or because I don’t remember it properly at the moment. Sometimes, the differences between languages are larger than I’d like.


Those are just a few dangers of writing in a second language. If you’re free of such trouble, enjoy that fact!

See you next time.

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