“Language Is Like a Soul”

March 15, 2013 • Interviews

CWM:  Cecile’s Writers is a blog dedicated to writing and launching a literary magazine aimed at people who write in English, which are either non-native speakers of English or are native English speakers living in a non-English speaking country.  What is your take on writing creatively in a 2nd or 3rd language?

Crystal:  This is a natural process of development, though it takes some time for a mature local style to evolve, reflecting local culture and identity. It’s a hugely important moment when writers are confident enough to write poems, plays, novels, and so on in a second language about the things that matter to them, using a style which differs from that encountered in standard British or American English. We see this process taking place in such areas as Caribbean poetry, the West African novel, short stories in Singaporean English, and so on. Nor are such developments restricted to former colonial territories. I talk about this a lot in my ‘Stories of English’. There’s huge scope for the evolution of a ‘Dutch English’, therefore, involving the use of loan words, expressions that don’t translate into English (lekker), cultural allusions that don’t travel outside Holland (eg to do with dykes), and many more such features of Dutch identity. And the same applies to Danish, French, or any language where a significant local use of English has built up. I am sure there will be a Dutch English literature one day. You may know of examples already.

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