As I discovered the work of Samuel Beckett several years ago, I read that despite being a native English speaker, he prefered to write in French, a language he felt allowed him to write ”without style”.
I could not help but wonder if that was sarcasm, especially coming from someone who’s first language was English. No offense, native English speakers, but I find your language much easier to learn and speak than French. The later is more complex, has a richer, more colorful vocabulary, and relies on grammar rules which are far more difficult that those found in English, in my opinion at least. Feel free to disagree and even contradict me. In any case, it is neither a good or bad thing. Each language has its own merits and I enjoy speaking them both. It allows me to communicate with more people, and I actually use them differently.
In the last few years, I believe I have gained a clearer understanding of what Beckett meant.
When I started blogging the obvious choice was to do so in English.
The audience I wanted to reach with The Geek Anthropologist was geek culture, which is centered around media and fandoms which are overwhelmingly anglophone. The majority of anthropology bloggers I wanted to connect with wrote in English. Blogging in this language would give me the opportunity to consolidate my writing skills. And anyway, I already spent hours every day writing and reading in French, so switching to English when I blogged would be a welcomed change.
And blogging in English appeared easy, maybe even easier than writing in French, my first language.
Don’t get me wrong: I can speak English fluently, but writing is something else altogether. The sentences may come easily to my mind, but it doesn’t mean that they make sense to native speakers. And I still depend heavily on the spell check WordPress device to bring you pieces that don’t look like they were written by a 5th grader.
Yet blogging in English comes easier to me. Perhaps it’s because I can’t actually tell if what I write is any good. Maybe knowing the only basics of the language frees me from trying too hard to write something superb, grandiose, frilly. I suppose I simply cannot create any artifice in a language I do not master as much as my own.
Beckett stated about English:
“More and more my own language appears to me like a veil that must be torn apart in order to get at the things (or the Nothingness) behind it. Grammar and Style. To me they seem to have become as irrelevant as a Victorian bathing suit or the imperturbability of a true Gentleman. A mask.”
He had his own reasons for writing in his second language*, and mine are nowhere as ambitious of course. (Plus let’s not forget that I am much less of a genius than he was.) I simply want to blog efficiently, connect with people who share my interests, and focus on my skills and gain new ones as I do so.
I have learned a lot from blogging in English, so I now feel that it is time to blog in French as well. If anything, it will allow me to reach some of my friends, family and colleagues who simply don’t read what I write in English. I know there are some great geek francophone communities out there as well, and some great blogs written in French.
So expect to see some pieces in français on this very blog soon. Hopefully we can get a GeekAnthropologist.fr page up in the next few months too!
*See Beckett the Poet by Marjorie Perloff (pp. 211-227) in A Companion to Samuel Beckett edited by S. E. Gontarskby.