4 Writers Who Did NOT Write in their Mother-Tongues

4 Writers Who Did NOT Write in their Mother-Tongues

It’s hard enough to write a literary masterpiece in your mother-tongue, let alone in another language! If you’re an ESL learner who struggles to write in English, find inspiration in these 4 famous writers who were able to write (often prolifically) in English, despite it not being their first language.

  1. Vladmir Nabokov: A true polyglot, Nabokov grew up in Russia speaking Russian, French, and English; but Russian was his mother-tongue. After the communist revolution, he became an exile in America where he felt he needed to “abandon my natural language, my natural idiom” for what he referred to as “a second-rate brand of English.” Luckily for him, the world saw his work as anything but second-rate. His novel Lolita became an American classic.
  2. Jack Kerouac: Considered an all-American writer, Kerouac was actually born Jean Louis Kirouac to French-Canadian parents. Although he grew up in Lowell, Massachusetts, he could only speak French until he was 6. He actually started writing his most famous book, On the Road, in French before deciding to begin again in English. Even as an adult, he wrote “Sé dur pour mué parlé l’Angla,” joual (a dialect of Québecois French) for “It’s hard for me to speak in English.” 
  3. Voltaire: The great French philosopher who is considered one of the leading writers of the Enlightenment also wrote in English. Next time you think about expressing complex ideas in your second-language, just think of Voltaire, learning and then writing long philosophical treatises in a language that wasn’t his first!
  4. Eva Hoffman: This Polish writer wrote Lost in Translation, a memoir depicting her migration from Poland, to Canada, and finally, to the US, in English. Despite her first language being Polish, Hoffman wrote all of her published works in English.

Are your language acquisition struggles getting in the way of you composing the next great novel? We have free conversation classes every Thursday, from 5:30 – 6:30 (English conversation) and 6:30 – 7:30 (French conversation) here in Montreal (397 A Sainte-Catherine W. Suite 202). Don’t forget our online programs: Give us a call at 514-989-1669 or 1-888-989-LRDG (toll-free) to schedule an initial language assessment and go over our different program options.