A Brief Summary of Experience as a Language Student

Mine, mine alone, and I’m not an expert but I saw a post again that irritated me by assuming that people did things wrong by doing what I did daily and had to say something for my own peace of mind.

I took French and Spanish in school. I’m an English speaker by birth but I’ve wanted to learn other languages since I was a kid. Mostly French, but I once had grand ideas about knowing them all. I was going to take my French and Spanish and learn all romance languages. I learned a bit of Dutch because of the guy I was dating. I taught myself some Irish and some Italian for stories. I tried hard to learn Ojibwe/Chippewa as I am of that descent.

Now I’m older and I know I won’t be learning everything, but here’s what I know from my experience…

I was at a point where I would and did think in other languages. I would mix all three of them in the same sentence even though I knew the words in English. I would dream in the other languages.

Even today I will randomly ask “ou est mon -?” Like with my phone, even though the last word is almost always in English. I speak bits and pieces of things in other languages no matter what I’m doing or who I’m with, and yes that can be embarrassing but just because I’m around all English speakers doesn’t mean I won’t mangle some French or Spanish in there.

I am someone who doesn’t use bad language as a rule, but believe me, I abused the heck out of knowing the curse words in my other languages, especially in French at work, I swear.

I read a lot of French in the past, sight translating it. I went crazy and collected French music and sometimes randomly sing it.

My friend is learning Spanish to communicate with her step-mother-in-law, and it has sparked a reawakening of both languages in my mind, not just Spanish. I’m mixing in more words in thoughts and spoken sentences than I have in years.

I find it irritating to be told people don’t act like I did myself and that shouldn’t be in the story. I lived it like this, so it shapes my writing. Maybe I’m not the most popular example, but I’m not invalid, either. I exist. I did this. So people do it.

My point with languages like everything else is that it’s unique to the individual. Someone else’s experience as a bilingual/trilingual will be different from mine, and I accept that. I just wish I wasn’t seeing a very popular post going around telling me what I lived was wrong and telling thousands of writers not to write like I lived.

On Giving Advice

I started this about a bit of writing advice I saw, though I think it can be stretched a bit to other things, to a point. I got done with it, and despite the headache and the way I feel right now, I thought that it was something worth sharing here, too.

I just got done seeing another bit of writing advice, and I’ve actually had this conversation and see the person’s point. Mom could attest to that, if I was going to be more specific, but I don’t want to start anything and it’s not just this one post I saw that I found upsetting. Still, Mom and I discussed the issue before, and as I said, we sort of reached the same conclusion this person had reached.

Only I did not and do not agree with the way they said it.

Here’s the thing:

Advice is your opinion.

You have experience. You know things. You’ve seen it or discussed it.

You have that knowledge. You have things you can share. You have strong feelings about it.

I get it.

Just remember, this advice you’re giving doesn’t always work for everyone. Your opinion is no more law than the one you’re so very against.

Stop and think about the words you’re using (yes, this is ironic about a post for word choice) and remember, you are talking to an audience. Maybe even a young one. An aspiring author can be more fragile than you realize.

Many writers take years to hone their skills. My skills now compared to what I did when I started are very different.

Back then, though, if I’d seen someone call the way I’d been taught to write what this post did, I’d have been crushed. Even now, after making the changes I have and even following this advice of theirs to a point, I feel hurt.

I just think that people need to remember that it is not just about what they have to say but how they say it.

You can ruin the best, most necessary advice, the thing someone needs to hear if you say it wrong.

So consider what you’re saying. How you’re saying it. Think about how it may impact someone. If you are speaking to be a force for good, do your words reflect that?

I hope mine do. I hope if anyone does read my advice it makes them think, but it doesn’t make them hurt.