This blog is not about the Basics of English Language. If you still had to learn that you wouldn’t be reading this now, am I right? There are a lot of Courses out there that teach you the basics of any given language and all good Word Processors correct misspells; so there’s no need for me to repeat what you can get, in person, from a qualified teacher or with self-help books and DVDs that already flood the Market.
What doesn’t exist out there is a Self-Help book on Creative Writing for Foreigners wishing to write in English. The Courses that do exist teach how to build a CV, interact within a society and how to handle customers. When you’re at ease with common expressions and grasp the logic behind english grammar (many times better than a native, as they write without thinking about the rules but because it comes natural – as you do with your mother tongue), you can evolve to write business letters and project proposals. But even so, you aren’t taught to write creatively. [Exception: good Graduate Degrees in your own Country, set to teach English as a Foreign Language]
English Courses sell practical, useful Packages of Tools, but Creative Writing is more about quality than quantity. It has less to do with what’s needed to convey a message, and more to do with the multiple ways in which that message can be interpreted. This is a matter that seems so abstract and difficult to explain, that an English Course expanding on Creativity and Novel Writing would take several months to teach and have to be much more personal – and therefore more expensive – than what existing Packages have on offer.
After an English Course for Foreigners, you are not equipped to write beyond the technical words or chitchat slang that fills any other everyday job. Foreigners are left to learn on their own the intricacies, ideas, metaphors and similes, that exist behind the english language – foundations of all expressive thoughts. Empowered by their single will, blocked so many times by the months and years of hard work standing in from of them, foreigners often give up before they start. Writing creatively is hard work for any writer, this effort doubles when you are swimming in an undiscovered and often judgmental new World of words.
I am still too little, as a writer, to judge the reasons why there are no such courses, but I can guess at a few:
a. Almost no candidates up for that challenge;
b. Almost no chances of finding an agent willing to work with a slow writer;
c. The difficulties of teaching Style (feelings, rhythm, balance, inner meanings) in a language that is not the student’s mother tongue – innate source of all his thoughts.
Let me assure you that I never found anything about this subject, but it’s something that intrigues me often. I’m used to the idea that if something doesn’t exist yet is because: 1) there’s no market for it, 2) profitability or 3) nobody really cares about that service – and, of course, all factors are interrelated. But in my opinion the difficulties of defining Style [ c. ], much less confine it in a set of rules and concepts in order to convey it to one another, is the main reason why these English Courses for Foreigners don’t go beyond the mere basics. I call it The (Necessary) Shift of Style.
This shift occurs at first with a lot of hard work – mostly through reading – and evolves subtly to a new understanding of the rhythms behind the new language. At times, the foreigner almost misses this instinctual editing, and doesn’t recognize his thoughts are being re-organized within is mind before they reach the page. However, many don’t understand that a shift is not only needed, but crucial, and continue to write with a ‘foreigner accent’ unaware of their mistakes. After you improve as a writer of a second language, the Shift of Style allows for the transformation of sentences from mother tongue into the new language and, within that process, clean all artificiality, roughness and lost of meaning.
The Shift of Style is, therefore, a main and permanent goal to all writers who choose to express creatively in a new language. The sooner you acknowledge it and work to improve [ergo: reading,] the better the chances of writing ‘like a native’.