Greetings! Today I wanted to ramble on something that might not be prevalent to some of you. And it’ll be somewhat personal but I’ll try to make it sound interesting, promise!
If you’ve been reading my posts it won’t come as a shock, especially to the native speakers, that English is my learned language. I was born and raised in Turkey, and apart from the lessons I got in school over the course of 9 years, my level improved only through media consumption. Which is kind of useful, but mostly in casual conversation and that’s it.
The first time the idea of blogging ever occurred to me was back in 2015. I was searching for something anime-related and came across a really nice animanga blog in Turkish. It was weird that, even when I was interested in writing and would experiment with storytelling to entertain myself, it never occurred to me that I could also… write on anime, instead of annoying my friends with my hot takes to no end. And that’s how I decided to create my small space in some corner of the interwebz. But then came the dilemma: which language should I write in? Part of me wanted to blog in Turkish, both because there weren’t that many blogs in TR and it would be nice to contribute to that, not to mention it’d be less taxing. Engagement and interaction-wise, it made sense to go the extra mile and write in English.
Those times were hard, I needed a distraction and you know those kinds of times require at least one dumb mistake so I said — why not both? How hard could it be to post something in one language and translate it into the other or rewrite it to some extent? I hadn’t fully grasped the fact that translating would take triple the amount of time compared to rewriting a new post with similar ideas, especially when the languages in question are so different from each other in terms of their grammatical syntaxes. Here’s a fun graph I like to share when the topic comes up:
I kept up with both of my blogs for a while, but needless to say, doubled workload meant double the effort, and I didn’t have that kind of energy in me. I had other interests I wanted to focus on and was also dabbling in fanfiction. In the end, I continued blogging in It’s Your Fault That I’m Not Popular! because I had other bloggers I had interacted with and it was fun.
Then came a period of my life where I had to be busy with life (I mean… who wants that???) and I’ve lost my motivation to write altogether. I’d still watch anime but also stopped reading manga. I tried to put together posts to give myself the push I needed, but well. It didn’t work and I didn’t want to force myself to a point that I might delete the whole thing without backup. I’ve done it in the past with a bulk of my writing. Not that I’m sad now that I can’t bring them back, but I guessed maybe I shouldn’t be that rash. Fast-forwarding to the pandemic, having time at my hands, and staying away from writing for that long period of time provided a fresh start with a more ‘serious’ attitude, with a schedule.
This is kind of turning into a history of my blog and I’m not talking about languages and writing enough. I hear you. I say I’m ‘seriously’ blogging, and that also means I’m paying more attention to what I’m trying to say, and how I’m trying to say. And I’m seriously frustrated about it. For a period of time, I thought maybe I lacked the vocabulary. Or because it’s been more than 10 years since my formal English education had ended and maybe that was the problem. I also knew that probably wasn’t the case. When I’m reading others’ posts, I sometimes sigh to myself “Ahh, this is the way I wanted to talk about the content I wrote about last week,” or “Hmm, this blogger worded this better,“. It wasn’t an issue of not knowing, but of words/sentences/structures not coming to me in a way they do for natives of the language or truly fluent ones.
And I know the way to get better at this is by reading lots of literary texts in English. I remember reading The Ignorant Schoolmaster by Jacques Ranciére some years ago, where he opens the book with the story of Jacotot, an educational philosopher and French teacher who was in exile in Belgium. He could only speak French while his students could only speak Flemish, and he taught the class French by using a bilingual French-Flemish translation of a book by just… giving them the book and telling them to study. Sounds funny but he was surprised that it actually did wonders.
“The Flemish students had furnished the proof: to speak about Télémaquethey had at their disposition only the words of Télémaque.”The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation by Jacques Ranciére
While I know Ranciére uses the example to talk about broader concepts, even taking the story as it is makes sense because it’s true that only by studying and copying the examples of what you want to achieve, one can get better at that certain thing. The words and structure you want to follow, surely exist in similar texts. Back when I was an undergrad, I took a class from an accomplished professor. I went to her office hour one day to ask questions about an extra paper she mentioned during class. And I remember her saying after we were done with the physics part that understanding a text meant understanding the thought process the author followed, going from one sentence to the next. At the time I only had sparkles in my eyes, thinking she was so cool. It was only some time later when I went on to do research on my own and read academic texts in different fields than mine revealed that every field has its own way of constructing ideas. Similar to programming languages, some made more sense and others were very hard to follow.
In the end, my brain can’t put the words together in the way I want them to. I’m sure it’s something a lot of you experience regardless of the language you speak, but looking back at my own experience, I do feel that language difference is something that stands in my way. Not only in the posts that I want to sound smart and properly convey a string of thoughts but even with the casual episode reviews, I have to be careful and put extra effort into making it sound ‘casual’ and ‘conversational’ while making sense.
Don’t get me wrong though, I didn’t write all of these to whine about my lack of understanding of English. These are honestly last week’s 4 a.m.-lying-in-bed-hugging-a-pillow-and-staring-at-the-ceiling thoughts. And I try to find a balance between keeping blogging fun and less taxing while having a base standard in the quality. If I don’t mention anything personal but still take a week-long break, it’s probably because my brain needs resetting, do some casual reading, and shape what I’m going to write about for the next week.
What are some of the problems you think that lies between you and the writing that you ideally want to put out? Any other writers who blog in their learned language? Are there any points you agree/disagree with me? Let me know, I enjoy talking about words and value your experience! Ekleyeceğiniz birşey yoksa, yazdıklarımı okuduğunuz için teşekkür ederim, sizinle tanıştığıma çok memnunum!