Friday, March 11, 2016

Writing in a Foreign Language

Flash Fiction Online is an international publication.

We publish stories from all over the world, by authors of many different nationalities and cultures.

However, we're also an English language publication, which means we publish stories in English.

This creates something of a quandary.  We receive a relatively large number of submissions from non-native English speakers, but publish relatively few of them.


The answer is the language.  A language barrier, really.  Nearly all of our non-native English speakers submit stories rife with grammar and syntax errors.  As an English publication we can't print stories written in a form of English that is largely incomprehensible to readers of the English language.  In addition, I do not have the time or resources to be able to work with authors whose English skills need polishing. Besides, that's not my job.  That is the job of the author, to present as clean and readable a manuscript as possible for me to consider.

Let's turn the tables.

Here in the United States our high school students are required to have a certain amount of foreign language training in order to graduate.  Most Universities also have foreign language requirements for graduation.  While valuable, a few meager semesters of beginning German does not qualify an English-speaking American to write and publish stories or articles written in the German language.

But, just for argument's sake, let's say I wanted to.  Let's say I wanted to use my limited understanding of German to write a story in German.  How would I overcome the obvious deficiencies in my translation?

Google Translate?  No.  Absolutely not.  (If you are not a native English speaker, test it by copying and pasting this article into Google Translate and translate it into your native language.  See?  Don't use Google Translate.  It's a useful tool for certain limited applications, but is not a solution to this problem.)

There is only ONE solution: I would find friends who are native German speakers.  Not only that, but these friends should be competent in the rules of grammar associated with the German language.  I would ask those friends to read over my manuscripts for the specific purpose of helping me with my grammar and syntax, to help me make my story understandable and competent to native German speakers.

How would I find friends who are native German speakers?

I would spend time at multiple online writing forums and workshops, asking around until I found someone willing and able to help.

Then I would be very, very nice to that person for doing me such an enormous favor.

1 comment:

Fernando said...

Thank you, Suzanne. As a foreigner author, I find your input on the matter really useful.