Tag Archive - language

On Being an Exophonic Writer

Today’s guest post is by Berendsje Westra.

Do you write in a language that is not your mother tongue? If so, then you’re an exophonic writer, a term coined in 2007 by three German academics.

Exophony is practiced by many writers around the world. Pulitzer Prize­–winning author Jhumpa Lahiri published a novel in Italian in 2018. Xiaolu Guo wrote A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers, having written her previous books in Chinese. And Kader Abdolah, who moved from Iran to the Netherlands in his thirties, writes his novels in Dutch. These are just a few names, but, really, the list is endless.

There may be various reasons for choosing to write in a language that’s not your first. Writers may choose a particular second language for their writing because they’d like to reach a wider audience. Or, maybe a writer immigrated, and when they signed up for writing classes or other writing opportunities, there was only a “foreign” language available to them.

Maybe there’s no particular reason for writing in a non-native language, other than that it feels right. The latter is the case with me. I was raised bilingually in the Netherlands and speak Frisian and Dutch, but I only write in English. Continue Reading…

The Magical, Mystical Addiction of the English Language

Today’s guest post is by Dan Vale.

My family lived in Germany for five years, and when we first got there, we went to a German restaurant. We soon learned that we had a lot to learn. When my twelve-year-old son asked a German waitress where the bathrooms were, she gave him a cookie.

In spite of the difficulty of learning a foreign language, I am in awe of foreigners who are able to learn our difficult English language. Still, the complex and convoluted nature of our language is addicting and wonderful.

That is why we writers have become addicted to the English language. Isaac Asimov once said, “If my doctor told me I had only six months to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d just type faster.”

Although we are enthralled by words, we know that reading too many poorly chosen words to describe something is like eating too much of a mediocre meal. The US government regulations on the sale of cabbage, for example, consist of 26,911 words. The Gettysburg Address, however, consists of only 286 words. Thomas Jefferson appropriately said, “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.” Continue Reading…

Chopping Off Words To Make Them Taste Good

I’m fascinated with the fluidity of language and how every day it seems words come and go around us. Think how over time we have dropped the last letter or two off certain nouns—perhaps just out of carelessness or due to our verbally dropping them (and just not hearing them in speech) such that over time the acceptable spelling of these words changed. Here are some words as they were originally penned:

  • panned cakes (pancakes)
  • iced tea (that’s the correct form but we say “ice tea” much of the time)
  • powered steering
  • linked sausages (makes more sense, doesn’t it?)
  • creamed cheese (same here)
  • roasted beef

Maybe over time some of these ( and  many other) words will be shortened even further, as we continue to chop up our language via text messaging. Now even phrases are shortened into acronyms to save time typing (like ROFL and LOL, which I use a lot. If you don’t know what these mean, ask someone who texts a lot!). We now put chops on the barbie and drink (soda) pop and eat dogs. Seems like this is really all about food, hmmm.

Maybe we’re in such a rush to eat, we don’t want to take the time to complete our sentences. Or we’re talking with our mouths full and drop a few letters inadvertently. Something to chew on, eh?