Why I chose to write in English

25 October 2010 21:01

Once people get past the initial shock of hearing I am writing a book, they invariable end up asking why I chose to write it in English. Seeing as I am from the Netherlands, my first language is Dutch, so it would seem logical that my stories should be written in Dutch too. Yet here I am writing in English, and in this post I’ll try my best to explain my reasons for doing so.

The first reason is historical. It� all started when I was eight years old. At that age, I knew no language other than my mother tongue (aside from some rudimentary German, but that’s a different story). The same was true for all my classmates, until one day a girl walks into the classroom and shows off the fact that she "knew French". Of course, her knowledge of French was limited to about 30 pre-written words, but it was on that day I decided I was going to learn a foreign language as well, and I chose English (my choices were limited by what my parents could teach me, which left English and German. German was already familiar territory, and English was therefore far more intriguing). It all started simple of course, but through watching Star Trek on BBC I managed to get a basic grasp of the language (even if my vocabulary was a bit limited at the time. I knew what a "photon torpedo" was before I knew what the word "tap" meant). It seems strange, but if it hadn’t been for 8 year old Maike speaking French in class I might never have mastered English this well.

I started reading fantasy books before I properly mastered the English language, and the first books I read were Dutch translations. Lord of the Rings, Shannara, Landover, the Word and the Void, the Belgariad, the Death Gate cycle, all of those I read in Dutch. It wasn’t until my mother’s cousin recommended reading them in English that I first tried doing so.� Jos, if you ever manage to read this, best tip ever! This was a pivotal moment for me, as reading those books in English proved to be far more enjoyable. Despite the skill of the people who translated the books, much of their value is lost in the translation. As such, fantasy books written in English feel more exciting to me.

The second reason for writing in English is the ambiguity that exists in the Dutch language when describing fantasy related terms. There are no distinct words for "sorceror" and "wizard" for instance. Such ambiguities can cause unintentionally humerous situations, in which an author describes an "army of Elves" and the reader envisions a cloud of small people with pink dresses and butterfly wings. Such ambiguities are far less common in English.

The third reason for writing in English is the size of the audience. There are about 27 million people who can speak Dutch as a first or second language. English has at least 500 million, possibly as many as 1.8 billion. By writing in English, I can reach a lot more people.

The final reason is a simple one. I feel more comfortable writing in English. Even before I started my book, I tended to write more English texts than Dutch, due to active participation in several English language forums as well as having to do all the reports for my Master’s Degree in English.

Anyway, I hope that clears things up a bit.