Those of you who’ve met me or have read my bio details know I’m Greek. You may also know I’m a Greek teacher of English. After twenty years of teaching, even more years of speaking and reading English literature and reference books (thanks to my ongoing postgraduate studies) I have become bilingual.
The most important thing is I think in English. As an author, my inner voice is English, not Greek. Pointing this out does not imply in any way that I disdain my first language; quite the contrary. But my tendency to select English when I write is a fact I cannot ignore.
In the past, I tried to write my stories in Greek. The ideas were there, the story was flowing in my mind, but when my pen touched the paper- yes, I used pen and paper back then- there was an odd block. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t satisfied with the Greek words I read in my draft, why the feeling they conveyed wasn’t the same as what I had in mind. That was no self-expression. It gave me no pleasure.
One day I decided to write in English and… a miracle happened. I couldn’t stop myself. I relished every page, every word. It’s not as easy as it sounds, because no matter how good you are in the second language, it is hardly possible to use it like native speakers do. That’s why I spent months editing my first book (and still I’m insecure about the errors you may find in it). But the bottom line is I write my stories in English I’m really excited about that.
That alter-ego of me, the researcher of bilingualism- urged me to look deeper into that proneness to using my second language as my author voice. And I came across some really interesting stuff. Did you know that many famous writers were bilingual? These links will take you to very interesting articles. For instance, in his article “From William Shakespeare to Amy Tan: Do bilinguals make better writers?”, Word Jazz wonders: “in more scientific terms, is there any causal link between individual bilingualism and linguistic creativity?” I cannot tell if bilinguals make better writers and you’re going to have to read his article (both parts!) for more information, but I’ll give you a hint; there might be scientific evidence to that proves a relationship between these two.
My favourite article is that by François Grosjean. (I have great respect for the man, my thesis wouldn’t be the same without the insights of his writings). I quote him in this epilogue, hoping that one day I will be able to achieve what he describes: “it is still rare for bilingual or polyglot writers to create work that has the same weight in more than one language. Those that do are truly exceptional people!”
What is your opinion? If you too are bilingual/multilingual, what’s the language of your inner voice? And if you’re not, what do you think about bilingual writers? I’d love to hear from you, so keep in touch.