As I am approaching my 50th post, I thought it would be fun to write about how I write my posts and why I write in English. As some of you know, English is not my second language. I acquired it later in my life voluntarily. If you are interested in how I learned English, please read my English language journey post. I never had to learn English for social or political reasons as people from the outer circle countries (India, Malaysia, Ghana, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, etc.) do.
The term “outer circle” comes from Kachru’s model of “The Three Circles of English” and means being from an English-speaking country with colonial history. No one ever learns it out of necessity where I come from because English is a foreign language in my country. Since it is widely learned, Turkey belongs to the “expanding circle” like Japan, where people learn English as a foreign language and follow the rules of “inner circle” countries. As you can guess, the “inner circle” represents the countries where English norms were created, such as the UK, USA, Canada, etc.
Exophony means writing in a language that isn’t your own. Many famous exophonic writers learned English later in their lives or preferred to write in a language other than English. The most famous exophonic writers whose works I admire are Jack Kerouac, Vladimir Nabokov, and Milan Kundera. Jack Kerouac acquired English in his late teens, while Milan Kundera preferred French to his mother tongue Czech.
Why do I write in English?
I love the Turkish language—first things first. I was born into this language. I inhaled and exhaled its sounds and words. How can one hate their mother tongue? I still write my diaries in Turkish because I don’t want anyone else to discover my thoughts and feelings. I love the secrecy of having one’s own language, although Turkish is far from being a clandestine language.
But I write mainly in English.
There are some reasons why I prefer English to Turkish, but none is about one language being better than the other. I don’t believe in language hierarchy or superiority. The two reasons I discuss here are highly personal and might not apply to your reasons to write in a different language.
My desire for global communication
Because English is a lingua franca, I can reach a wider audience if I write in English. Therefore, not only people who speak Turkish but also those who speak other languages can enter my world and leave their footprints in it. That is how I started this blog and met wonderful people across the globe. If I had written in Turkish only, which I did in the past, I wouldn’t have met my current readers.
This isn’t a writing-related reason per se, but I live an international life in a multilingual marriage miles away from my home country, so it’s only natural to wish to speak to other foreigners. And guess! What language do other foreigners speak? That’s right: English! My social circle would not be half its size now if I didn’t communicate in English.
I want to explore other ways to express myself
Some people communicate their thoughts via painting, while others choose music to self-express. I express myself through written words. I love stories—and I am a bookworm. I also love writing, hence my blog. Writing in Turkish is always fun and effortless, but what if I wanted to find other ways to express myself?
Turkish is flexible since it is an agglutinative language. You can bend it, change its order, and play with it. English, on the other hand, is rich in vocabulary. I love diving into English dictionaries and learning new words. There is never an end to learning new words in English. And I am an adventurous learner who doesn’t fear taking risks.
I can’t find any disadvantages to writing in your “adopted” language rather than your mother tongue. But what about my struggles when writing in English? Like Jack Kerouac, I acquired English in my late teens, but unlike him, I haven’t had many chances to live in English-speaking environments. That means I have some unique struggles when writing in English that can be overcome if I stay the course.
I can write up something quickly if you ask for an academic essay. However, it takes me longer to produce casual posts because I know more academic words than collocations and idioms. I need to consult a collocations dictionary or ask someone else when in doubt. I enjoy this process because I learn new things and interact with others!
Another struggle is difficulty adapting my writing style to English. As I wrote above, Turkish grammar is flexible, whilst English isn’t as flexible. For example, I can use inverted sentences in Turkish without making them sound formal or archaic. Look at the example below:
English: I went out to play with my friends.
Turkish: Ben arkadaşlarımla oynamak için dışarı çıktım. // Ben dışarı çıktım arkadaşlarımla oynamak için. // Ben oynamak için arkadaşlarımla dışarı çıktım. // Arkadaşlarımla oynamak için dışarı çıktım ben.
Can you see what I am talking about? Sometimes, English grammar can restrict the scope of freedom to write flexibly—especially for those who speak a language like Turkish. However, what English lacks in grammar makes up for in vocabulary. Perhaps, I can express myself more fluently and expansively if I learn more collocations and idioms.
I talked about exophonic writing, why I write in English, and my struggles in writing English. I am all about preserving our mother tongues and keeping them alive at any cost, but we need to talk about exophonic writing since so many of us, perhaps not for the same reasons, write in a language other than our own.
Have you ever written in a foreign/second language? Do you have any tips for those who want to expand their English vocabulary?
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