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So the experience has been intense but worth the effort. I’m not giving up.

June 25, 2010 10 comments

I started blogging two months ago and I feel I needed to think and share about this new experience. When I told a friend of mine that I was starting a literary blog in English, the first question she asked was: “Who’s going to correct your English?” When I said that no one would be re-reading before publishing, I saw several feelings flash through her eyes. Awe (“How can she dare sending to the void all these incorrect sentences ?”), reprobation (“Isn’t she a bit presumptuous to think she’s good enough for that?”) and astonishment (“Why not do it the easier way and write in French?”)

These have been intense two months. My head is so full of English words that I sometimes stumble on a French word when I speak, the English one coming first to my mind. Never mind, my colleagues probably already think I’m weird anyway and my husband knows whom he married.

I’m trying to learn as fast as I can many little details about writing in English that I never learnt at school or used in writing business memos. Among those are punctuation rules, how to insert book titles in a text, how to quote an author. All habits which are different from French. I still haven’t found how to create “clean” links in a post, but I keep on trying.

Truly, I knew this would be challenging for someone who hasn’t spent more than three weeks in a row in an English-speaking country. I’m not disappointed on that point and my dictionary is becoming my best friend.

What is the most frustrating is when I read other people’s posts that shout to my face how my English is poor and when I read mine, I see how the language barrier narrowed my thoughts. I almost gave up and was thinking about writing in French when I got my first comments. Thanks for the indirect encouragement.

Wandering on English-speaking blogs reminded me why I had made the choice in the first place: to expand my horizon beyond France. I’m not disappointed on that point either. It is refreshing to read about French literature through the eyes of people having another background. For example, I would never have considered reading Saint-Exupéry again without Max’s post on it. I got bored to death reading this at school and I was prejudiced against the author.

It is also very interesting to hear about other literatures and discover new reading possibilities. Thanks, I now have a long list of Hungarian and Czech authors to look for in my next stop at the bookstore.

So are reading comments and following discussions. The Anglophone world has issues about reading I couldn’t have imagined because it’s simply not an issue in France.

My endless curiosity is probably the most powerful motive.

There have been unexpected obstacles due to the permanent switch between the two languages.

First: Quotes. I can’t quote anything of an English book I read in French. Translating it back is out of the question. So with any luck I can find the original on the net and if not, there will be no quote at all and it impoverishes my post. Too bad for Sam Savage’s Firmin. I would have liked to show his lovely style.

Second: book titles. I have to look for the English names of French books, which took me a tremendous amount of time for the French reading list. The other way round, how can I find the corresponding French title of a non-Anglophone book if I want read it after seeing someone else’s review on it ? Nobody ever gives the original title, and to be honest, I wouldn’t have had the idea to put it either if I were writing in French. 

I also started blogging to force myself to pause between two books and think about what I read. This requires other skills than the ones I use all day long at work. My brains lack the training, hopefully, I will improve. My not having a degree in literature or arts doesn’t help either. (My English classes mainly consisted in translating fascinating FT articles in French and even more fascinating Les Echos articles in English…)

For me, reading is above all a pleasure. I don’t plan what I’m going to read, I have enough of planning and scheduling in my professional life. I’m impulsive on the choice of the books I read. (In French we say “un coup de coeur”, a blow of heart).

I don’t intend to write lectures about the books I read but mostly to share of my personal experience with them. I’m trying to keep a  balance between a distant tone and personal feelings. 

I feel I have to say that I’m not writing this to attract comments or encouragements. I just wanted to share about this, that’s all.

So the experience has been intense but worth the effort. I’m not giving up.

Emmanuelle.

PS : I saw a pub in Paris named The Frog and the British Library and I thought “Damn it! This is how I should have called my blog!”

Categories: About reading
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