Can you believe that it’s extremely hard to find out how many words there are in a specific language? When I decided to check it out, I had no idea that my casual, miniature googling attempt was going to evolve into a highly unsatisfying venture from hell, but it did and my intended academic introduction to this blog transformed into a pile. And I’m not an academic person, not at all! It’s just that I wanted to appear at least a little smarter than usual, since this blog is going to be hosted by a friend of mine, who just happens to be a brilliant author with a wicked vocabulary.
The topic of my post being writing in a foreign language, presenting the basics about the two languages I would write about, and about B. L. Pride’s work seems the most sensible beginning. So let me just briefly present the basic information about who we are, and why the topic of this blog post–writing in a foreign language–is certainly a topic we know a little something about.
B. L. Pride is a pen name, derived from the names and surnames of two friends from Slovenia, and this blog post is brought to you by B. Pride, the creator of Beyond Life Series. Originally, I wrote the series in Slovene (which is my mother tongue) and even after my best friend suggested I start writing the sequels in English, I insisted on doing it in Slovene because I felt the characters would change, had I started writing in a different language. So my best friend decided she would translate it, and she did. I have no idea how she did it, but she did. Of course, we have gone through the text together for quite a couple of times, debating the meanings, exploring the shades, dissecting the hints (not to mention studying the darn commas with no effect whatsoever), but she translated it and did an outstanding job. A perfect job, actually, because there were things that needed to be brought across, feelings that needed to be captured, convictions I wanted to be heard loud and clear, and she did it. Nothing was lost. Nothing added. I wanted the spark and I got a firework. And when we decided it was time for a native-speaker to have a look at it, we were incredibly fortunate, coming across the perfect person to work with. Addiction (Book One of Beyond Life Series) was published. The journey began. Insanity (Book Two) is coming soon, and since I had nothing left to do (after all, it’s L. Pride’s job to translate, and I have finished the four books of the series), I started a new one. This time, in English.
Ever since we have started translating Addiction, the two languages in question have been creating a wonderful chaos of beauty, meaning, and doubt. Constantly doubting words, expressions, word order. Asking questions that refuse to be answered. Which word would be perfect here? Why isn’t there a perfect one? What do we do when we want a word and it doesn’t seem to exist? What’s with this line? It sounds so good in Slovene and really lame in English, so what’s wrong with us?
Maybe it sounds trying. And it is, of course it is, but most of all, it’s great. If there was one thing, one issue in particular I’d have to emphasize as a problem when writing in a foreign language, it would probably be the constant code-switching that might make you appear a little weird in time. Really. Like sitting at a café with L. Pride and talking in two languages at the same time resulting in her English response to the waiter’s Slovene question. It seems we do this subconsciously, always looking for that perfect expression, for the best way to say it, for the most effective manner of communicating the meaning, balancing between two options that might as well be called two extremes. Both languages having their strengths and weaknesses, we keep switching the codes in ‘real’ life, because we cannot afford to do it when we write. English sounds great, it really does. I love its sound and simplicity (which does not include the commas, though). And Slovene… Oh, let’s go back to the beginning of this writing, and check out the basics.
Sadly, there are no fixed numbers, no certain data on the number of words. Which makes perfect sense, when you think of it, really. The core of language is development created by its users throughout time, and it is a process that never ceases, so expecting to get an exact number when it comes to the number of words is probably impossible. According to all the articles available on the internet, Slovene language has got somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000 words, English 200,000, German 184,000, and French 100,000.
What about the number of speakers? This one is my favorite. There are 2.4 million speakers of Slovene language worldwide, while there are 400 million people who speak English as their first, and another 800 million people who speak English as their second language. That makes at least 1200 million people who know more about English than B.L. Pride does. But despite it all, we’ve decided to publish our books in English. And since the readers of this blog know more than enough about English, let me just point out some of the most special features of my mother’s tongue.
So, Slovene… I love our verbs. The dual. The genders. I love it. It tells you everything. It can even get you a divorce! Don’t believe that? Just take a simple line, for example. English language: We went out. Slovene language: Šli smo ven. OR Šle smo ven. OR Šla sva ven. OR Šli sva ven.
The first two sentences are both plural. The second one tells us that three or more females went out. So if I use the first line, my husband might raise an eyebrow.
The second two are even more problematic. It’s dual. For two people only. And the gender is distinguished, as well. Imagine that! Nothing left to hide! I cannot use the first one, when talking to my hubbs.
Lines like that are just perfect in writing, because they have all these various connotations, they can open up a whole set of problems, make the characters work an additional shade harder. Well, writing in English, this difference (which I call a lack because of my primary code) makes me work a little harder. But harder is good. I love working hard, because that way, getting to the end and reaching that far-fetched goal you thought you’d never reach, is so much more rewarding.
I could go on about this topic for pages. For days. There are so many things to consider, so many aspects to mention, and I would like to write about all of them, but there is one thing that sticks out through all the troubles and the sweetness and the syrupy praises and the cool reactions–it’s the experience that matters. I love writing. I try my best to make my work high quality, and I am aware of the fact that writing in a foreign language can jeappardize the quality level to some extent. However, I do not think that it is impossible to write a good novel in a language that is not your first (or even second). I feel that being an author is pretty much a universal notion, and I try to achieve the same no matter the language I use.
Of course, the main reason behind the decision to enter the crazy world of world-wide indie publishing in English was the number of potential readers, and I think it’s a really, really convincing one. But soon, this English-book-business became much more than just publishing a book we believed in–it became a lifestyle. And an eye-opener. And a whole new dimension of perceiving life. I personally think it was the best choice we could have made, and I’m not talking about the possible exposure and the amount of readers, I’m talking about the amazing experience of living in a different language. It’s just unbelievable how for a while, you actually forget that you’re writing or speaking in a foreign language, and then a simple line, the most simple word, the most ordinary thought becomes an incredible problem. A problem you love solving. Because you love words. The way they sound. The way they make you feel. And you love making your readers feel it, too.
–B. of B.L. Pride, guest blogger
Please visit B.L. Pride’s blog at www.blpride.com. Watch the trailer for their fascinating dark romance, Addiction.
Check out my review of Addiction here!