Welcome back everyone!
Back in English this week, and right on time to talk about, well… English. As a second language.

As many of you already know, I was born and raised in the land of milk, honey and Hebrew – Israel. The first I saw of the English language were the four words – Bruce Springsteen, The River and that was when I was about 9 years old.
Now, this is not an apology or a disclaimer. As a writer, who chose to write in English I expect no less of myself than I would a native English speaker. That being said, it ain’t easy…
I still need to call the grammar hot-line (read: ask my wife) as mine still has its problems. (side note: wouldn’t it be just the epitome of irony if this very sentence is grammatically incorrect? or this side note?).
I pride myself on my spelling though. I use the spell check of course, but I’m quite pleased to say that most of the corrections I make are typos, a result of my somewhat erratic attention.
A lot is required of a writer who chooses to write in a language other than his native tongue.  Vocabulary, spelling and grammar being the very basic of all. I’d like to share some of these challenges I find myself facing in my writing.
I guess, somehow, being “stroke by lightning” sounds far more painful than simply being struck by one… so let’s try to make writing in a second language a painless process.
My wife immigrated to Israel as an adult. She followed that up with a Hebrew course for adults which got her up to speed, so much so, that she spoke Hebrew better than many of us local folks. In fact, her Hebrew was so good it sounded funny. The reason being – of course – that nobody speaks that way.
And why am I bringing my wife into this discussion (which is about my damn problems, not hers…)? Well, one of the challenges is to be able to write a language that people understand, can relate to and not find archaic, or downright unbelievable. When writing fiction, we don’t want the reader to stop after every sentence, thinking “Did he just say that?”. There’s a lot to be said about not dumbing down language, but it has to be the actual language used by the people reading (and yes, characters can be somewhat exceptional, but that’s because they are).
And what about slang? The Hebrew slang – I know. At least up to the point I stopped using it heavily. English slang… where do I begin? It starts with the slang that “everyone” use. But then there’s slang reserved to geographical location, social circles, occupations etc. Add to that the passage of time. Slang was different in the past than it is today… oh the woes of being a writer. And that’s not even my slang.
A New-Yorker wouldn’t say (well, not normally) “Dang it Joe, You done messed up. I’m fixin’ to kick your pansy ass!”. Come to think of it… not sure a southerner  would say that either, but you get the point.
Idioms. Gotta know them. Got to know where to use them. Not as easy as one would think when it comes to a second language. I see many misunderstand idioms in their own language. That’s what the interweb is for I guess. Google it. You don’t want your character to sound dumb. Or maybe you do. In which case, you still need to know what to use. Otherwise your reader might feel dumb…
Oh the Irony! Do you know that great song by Alanis Morrissette, Ironic? Well, that is likely the most ironic song ever. I love Alanis. I think Jagged little pill was a jagged little piece of pure awesomeness. It’s just that when she wrote this song, she (admittedly by the way) wasn’t really paying close attention to what she was writing. Irony, a little like idioms is not as easy to comprehend in one’s own language, let alone in another’s.
You know what they say – It’s like rain, on your wedding day, It’s a free ride, when you’ve already paid. It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take. And who would’ve thought… It figures.
Sarcasm. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who noticed that, perhaps the hardest thing to convey in writing is sarcasm. I’ve gotten myself into way too many arguments in recent years over a sarcastic comment to find a solution for it. It will work with some readers, while it will fly over others’ heads. But used effectively, it could help make a character stand out from others.
Now, can someone please tell me what in the name of the lord is the past tense for “Teach”!?
That’s all for today folks. Will see you again in the next Monday Chat.
As usual, comments are welcome. I’m not a grammar nazi so don’t fret.
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