On Writing in a Second Language

Writing entices me. But on every occasion I get all the way down to writing something, I experience it like a bumbling fool. Nothing emerges. Ideas evaporate. Thoughts tangle. Language languishes—my frustration mounts. I quaff caffeine. It doesn’t enhance the high quality or quantity of my writing. I’m me, a writing zombie. Sometimes I surprise approximately the reasons for my inability to jot down fluently and gracefully. The culprits abound. While I discount lots of those culprits, in no way do I stop regretting my choice to put in writing in a 2nd language, English.

As an aspiring author, I am an amalgam of two worlds: Bangla and English, each heterodox and complex. Whenever I immerse myself in one of these languages, the alternative usually stalks me. My writing emerges from different worlds. And those two worlds never seem to mesh. I can’t abandon Bangla altogether. Neither can I personal English the way I’d like to. A writing professional would brush aside such an account because there’s such an entity as a local speaker, but there’s no such entity as a native writer. Every creator, then, is a second language creator. Nothing is gnawing in writing in a second language.


Why did it gnaw Edward Said, then? Said reached the U.S. In 1951 from Palestine, he took a look at a boarding college in Massachusetts when he changed into approximately 15 years vintage. In the Middle East, he had attended faculties run via the British. In his memoir Out of Place, he claims that he becomes so deeply immersed in English and Arabic that he in no way knew what his first language turned into. As Said persisted in staying, observing, and paintings within the U.S., his Arabic atrophied. He didn’t adopt any serious work in Arabic besides contributing an occasional column to an Egyptian each day, the Al-Ahram. He wrote handiest in English with the beauty of an influential highbrow that he was. Despite that, he claims in his memoir that he almost but in no way wrote with a local-like fluency in English.

In his essay “No Reconciliation Allowed,” Said also claims that each sentence that he speaks in English has to echo first in Arabic. Said is not the best pupil whose writing in English seems to return thru a technique of translation. In her memoir Lost in Translation, Eva Hoffman claims that she misplaced her “indoors language” at the age of 13, whilst her circle of relatives migrated from Poland to Canada. She felt linguistically dispossessed and speculated that one’s inner-maximum thoughts couldn’t be expressed with a language discovered subsequently. The version of me that my writing in English represents is perhaps a synthetic one. The more I attempt to be natural in English, the greater I distance myself from Bangla. I lose something familiar, crucial.

That is precisely what Vladimir Nabokov felt while he shifted from Russian to English. In his interview within the “Paris Review,” he claims that he lost a “domestic diction” while he commenced writing down in English in 1940. Yet his Lolita, a few critics arguably declare, is one of the conventional novels inside the annals of literature written in the English language. Nabokov became a craftsman and scholar regarding literature and literary grievance inside the English language; nonetheless, he believed that his English becomes a “stiffish, synthetic factor.” Nabokov as a writer, changed into greater ironic than humble. He won’t have supposed what he stated. Discounting Nabokov’s view, however, warrants a few warnings.

Another state-of-the-art voice in English literature and criticism, T.S. Eliot, echoes Nabokov’s sentiment in his “Paris Review” interview. Eliot wrote some poems in French. However, he stopped his poetic ventures in French as an epiphany passed off to him: “there’s no such component as a bilingual poet.” Of direction, there had been–and are–bilingual poets. Does poetry–and writing, in popular–emerge from the same circulation of consciousness both for a bilingual and a monolingual poet or creator?

Because a few bilingual writers in the English language (Nabokov, for example) grieve for the loss of a “natural vocabulary” and grapple with the “poverty of syntax” whilst writing in a second language, a 2d language author is possibly not like a first language creator. Writing pupils will argue that the sort of binary competition between a primary and a 2d language writer misrepresents the process of writing. Still, some writers maintain to enhance the existential distinction between a first and a second language writer.

Jhumpa Lahiri, for example, affords a weird case of second language writing. She is in no way had a 2d language, per se. She was born within the U.K. In 1968. When she was years vintage, her circle of relatives migrated to the U.S. In her essay “My Two Lives” in Newsweek in 2006, she claims that she speaks English without an accent. She received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2000. But by the distinctive feature of her birth to Bengali dad and mom from Kolkata, India, Bangla is her domestic language.

In that essay, Lahiri dramatizes the tension of a Bengali speaker writing in English. She seems riven between Bangla and English. While I enjoyed studying that essay, I became tempted to think that she pussyfooted with phrases to meet her writerly impulse. I discovered her greater maudlin than proper in that essay. Because of my hobby in second language writing, I was following her career curve with some interest. From her essay, “My Life’s Sentences” within the New York Times in 2012, I found her infatuation with Italian. And the consequence changed into complicated. Since 2011, she migrated to Rome, Italy, and commenced to jot down best in Italian.

In her essay, “Teach Yourself Italian,” translated from Italian into English inside the New Yorker in 2015, she blamed the English language for her flight from it. She asserted that she was uninterested in English, that it becomes a burdensome issue of her beyond that represented a eating struggle and a non-stop sense of failure. Very few second language writers have failed so effectively as Lahiri. For maximum 2nd language writers, failure and warfare aren’t any metaphors. These words literally suggest what they stand for.

I even have had each private and academic funding in English for a extended section of my existence. I nonetheless can’t address the wrenching frustration of any longer knowing the language completely and precisely. I continue to research it. However, I even have did not internalize it. I am perennially perched at the mechanics of the language. The syntax in the English language is tortuous and unyielding; its lexis is layered and abundant, and its punctuations are arbitrary. These quirks of the English language quick-circuit the float of my wondering to limit my freedom significantly in expressing and explaining my emotions and studies in an enticing fashion inclusive of one in all my favored writers, Oliver Sacks, does.

Never am I persuaded to suppose that Sacks is a proficient writer, for I know for sure that a talented writer is a myth. Seldom do I doubt, even though that sack is a natural creator. I am now not. There’s nothing herbal in turning into a author in a single’s second language. It’s all recurring. Developing the habit of writing in a second language is consequential as it brings a writer right down to a “zero-point” of her life when she finally ends up becoming a “compulsive grammarian.” That’s what Costica Bradatan claims in his essay, “Born Again in a Second Language,” inside the New York Times in 2013. I received’t argue against Bradatan.

Writers like Salman Rushdie, Bharati Mukherjee, and Charles Simic might. Rushdie claims in Imaginary Homelands that if one maintains to pick out himself with one language or way of life, he’s the sufferer of a “ghetto mentality.” A author needs an “inner exile” from what he is keen on and acquainted with, even though that leads him to write in a second language. That’s a creative goad, now not a crippling difficulty. Bharati Mukherjee appears proof against the struggle of writing in a second language. She claims in her essay “Imagining Homelands” that she is an integrationist and that being Bengali, writing in English isn’t always conflicting in any manner. Charles Simic migrated to the united states as a refugee from former Yugoslavia in 1954, while he was 16 years old.

He turned into already deeply conditioned by the Yugoslavian tradition and language. He commenced exploring and absorbing the U.S. Way of life with the fervor of a romantic to not pine for his ur language and culture. For him, migration became akin to a re-beginning, as he claims in his essay, “Refugees,” “every cliché approximately getting a second risk and reinventing oneself turned out to be actual” for him in the U.S. He has been a completed poet inside the English language, who gained the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1990. For many of these writers–and lots of others–language is a versatile choice of verbal exchange. It’s not an indelible genetic imprint.

The repute of a 2nd language creator is more psychological than real. There’s a grain of irony in the phrases of Said, Hoffman, and Lahiri. They all are exemplary writers in English. However, they bemoaned –possibly fetishized – their reputation as second language writers. Writing possibly is a translingual ability and is compounded with factors aside from language. Reducing writing to a first or second language is akin to reducing a complicated highbrow phenomenon to two warring camps. Neither of the camps has converted me. I even have opted to write in English because of its redeeming capacity to growing and expanding a brand new world. With Bangla, I oughtn’t to try this. I even have long lived in that world, and I am very comfy there.

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