Someone asked me once: “So why do you write in English?”
The question caught me off guard. Why do I write in English? I’m not raised bilingually, I didn’t live abroad nor did I attend any international schools. It got me thinking. At a certain point I decided to switch to English, but what had gotten into me to decide to do it in the first place? Questioning myself wasn’t going to help right there and then, I had to give some kind of answer. So I said I didn’t know why. Instead, I told her how it started. It all began with a three coloured, perfumed diary.
Keeping a diary started out promisingly, but within a couple of weeks I proved not to be cut out to be a diary writer. The entries became shorter and the information in each entry became so similar that months passed without any new entry being written. I guess my life was too eventless in those days to be penned down. The gaps between one entry and another became even bigger once I started writing stories. My diary didn’t see many entries until the last year of my primary school days.
During that last year, more and more English words started to appear in my mostly Dutch entries. At the start of secondary school, my entries were completely in English. Granted, the grammar was Dutch and the translated words were not always chosen correctly – working with a dictionary was a skill I had yet to master.
The most important thing I learnt during my first year of English was the use of a dictionary. I guess that, together with my interest in the language and the knowledge of how to use a dictionary, I had everything I needed. The entries in my diary saw a few weeks of growth and the grammar improved, there was improvement in choice of words and the sentences became more complex. But the growth soon stopped. Writing diary entries in English went fairly okay, so my next challenge was writing stories in English too.
I wonder if I’ll ever find an answer to the ‘why’- question. It was a process that happened partly instinctively. The idea probably began developing after my first introduction to the English language as a ten-year-old. But the next time someone asks me that question, I’ll tell them how it came about, instead of why.