Most of you know English is my Second Language. It’s my preferred language.
I came to live in the USA back in 2004 and I knew English very well, but not nearly as well as I know now. Of course, practice and going through college here and speaking with other English speakers made (and still makes) my English better and better.
I’m proud of being bilingual, but it’s a pain in the @$$ sometimes. For one, I’m getting worse with Portuguese. I keep forgetting words when talking to my family, and Portuguese went through a huge orthographic change a couple of years ago, while I was already living in the US, so I didn’t follow the change, not completely. And second, my English will never be perfect. I know this. In ten years—and I’ll have several books out by then I hope ;)—my English won’t be perfect still. I try to comfort myself saying that it’s impossible even for an American to know all words in the English language.
So sometimes it feels like I’m losing Portuguese and not gaining any English …
After all, what triggered this post, you may ask. Well, I just participated of a few contests and online critiques and people always commented about some preposition problems (oh, I hate prepositions! They are evil!) and awkward phrasing. People have no idea English is my second language when they comment like that, and, obviously, they are going to critique what they see. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate people showing me where my mistakes are. (you can read my short story here by the way and see the mistakes for yourself).
I know this, but honestly, I don’t know how to fix. I don’t even spot these “errors”, not alone at least. That’s why, a couple of times, I paid freelance editors for line-edits and copy-edits, because they can fix those “errors” … but, they are expensive, and, if I pay them for every draft I write, I’m gonna have to sell my house. Can you imagine? I finish a draft, then hire an editor. Then, along the way, the opening changes or something in the middle changes, or a subplot is cut or enhanced … and I have to send it back to the editor to do their magic again.
Other thing about freelance editors is that some of them have a full schedule. Right now, the ones I like to work with are scheduling for December/January … so, besides having a lot of money, you have to have time … to wait.
So, what am I to do?
Not enter contests because I’m ashamed of not having a perfect English? If I do that, then I have to stop writing on my blog and my group blog, NA Alley, because I’m sure that all my posts have awkward phrasing and a few grammar errors. I can’t help it. I can’t SEE them … Sorry my NA Sisters for making errors on our beautiful blog.
And I should stop tweeting too. Since tweewing is “automatic” and spontaneous, I just write what comes to mind and only after it’s posted and way down my feed I realized there was a typo, or a concordance error, or a wrong preposition. Ugh!
But I can’t expect to be forgiven. I don’t expect to be forgiven. I mean, what the agents I send my manuscripts to care if I’m ESL? They want perfect grammar (or almost perfect) and beautiful writing. They won’t pat my head and consider me with a different eye/mind because I’m an ESL. And I really don’t expect them too, don’t want them to. That would make me feel worse, as if they were selecting me for pity.
Still, I have to say, I’m sorry. I wish English was my first language and that I had studied it all my life. I wish my grammar was perfect and that none of my phrases were awkward.
Moments like these, reading the comments on contests and critiques, make me want to give up writing. Not of writing in English, because honestly, I can’t imagine writing in Portuguese (and let’s not talk about the industry, because books in Brazil is a whole different thing). I’ve been writing in English since 2008. The ideas come and flower in my mind in English. I dream in English, I think in English. Though I make mistakes, English is my official language. And because I make mistakes, the idea of giving up of writing crossed my mind. Though I assure you it’s nothing serious, because I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I didn’t write. I don’t want to do anything else.
Sorry about the long rant. I’m not expecting pats on the head or compassion or whatever. I just … I needed to take this off my chest, because it was really bringing me down and I was tired of feeling blue because of it.
And to finish this, I want you guys to know I’m taking yet another grammar workshop that started last Thursday.