META Steemit: writing English posts as a non-native English speaker

in steemit •  5 months ago

For the past six months I've been writing posts on Steemit exclusively in English. My mother-tongue however is Dutch, which means every word and sentence I write is a translation of something else.

I'm sure my English is not perceived as 'bad', but I also know I have to correct after publishing more often than I like, plus I always carry this feeling with me that I would have written something better if I would have written it in my own language.


My English education

In short, my English education exists of:

  • Lessons (boring ones) at secondary school, lessons were held in Dutch until after three years
  • Lots of English science paper reading at university, classes were held in Dutch
  • Lots and lots of American and British television, first with Dutch subtitles, later on with English subtitles once I got at the level I could get annoyed by the mistranslations

Secondary school

I remember getting my first English language lesson in secondary school. All the pupils arrived from different primary schools, so of course the starting levels of most subjects would be a little bit different. I remember opening my book, seeing all these words I did not know. The teacher started it's lesson and already assumed we would know a few basics, like yes, no, house... And just went right on from there!

Now, I was not raised with parents who let me watch television a lot. And since this form of 'education' was perceived as 'normal' it was also assumed 12-year olds would already know these basics from the English language.

Well, I did not.

And although I'm a fast learner I remember feeling 'behind' for the biggest part of that first year of English classes. I basically had to learn and 'learn backwards', all the unspoken knowledge I was assumed to already carry with me.

I kept up with the lessons though, and since 'language' in general was my best subject I could probably make up for my being behind relatively fast. But not without feeling frustrated a lot of times :-)

American English versus British English

Now, after secondary school I learned a lot of psychological jargon in English during my studies. But mainly I went from watching Dutch-subtitled television to watching series with either no subtitles or English subtitles.

No subtitles is perfectly fine for me if there's not too crazy accents involved. As soon as heavy Irish, or some American accents, or English spoken (and often exaggerated) by non-English natives I'm prone to missing a lot from what's being said and I like to use English subtitles.

English subtitles explicitly, because as mentioned above at some point my English had gotten good enough to feel very annoyed when the Dutch subtitles mistranslated the spoken English.

(I honestly feel very conflicted if I'm watching a series on Netflix and the only options available are 'Dutch subtitles' or 'No subtitles'. Knowing the Dutch ones are often bad, but I will miss out on some information if I watch without. What to do?)

Spoken English to written English

Now this means I learned a lot of English through spoken form. Subtitles are not actively used even when they're 'on', only when I miss a word. And this spoken English is different in accent... But the words mean the same and I don't have to be bothered much by the fact if it's an American speaking the word or a person from the UK.

This is different in writing though: some words that sound (apart from dialect) the same are actually written a bit different in these languages!

And: I never chose sides, so I don't explicitly write in American-English or British-English!

As long as you write in the same word editor this doesn't matter much. But as I'm writing in a browser, and even multiple browsers, or on a phone, or sometimes on a different computer... I do get 'suggestions' for my English / mistakes, but these suggestions will not always be the same! It depends on what version of English it's being checked with.

I noticed I have a preference for writing down certain words:

  • Honour (British English) instead of honor (American English)
  • Behaviour (British English) instead of behavior (American English)
  • Realization (American English) instead of realisation (British English)
  • Mesmerized (American English) instead of mesmerised (British English)

Look, my current Brave Browser has a preference:
Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 18.37.22.png

But, even though I have a preference for one over the other I might be impulsive at some days and just 'accept' any suggestion that's being thrown at me. So I might write 'honour' today and you might read 'honor' tomorrow ;-)


Well, I might want to train myself to perfection and/or even take some writing classes! I've actually been thinking about some creative writing classes in English and try to push myself at a higher level. Just for fun and just to help myself feel more confident in my writing. That might also mean I have to pick sides and not mix up languages anymore.

Who knows.

For now I'm honoured to meet you and often realize how lucky and happy I am to be a writer on Steemit ;-)

How about you? Is English your second language? If yes, do you like writing in English? And do you feel you would write a lot different in your own language? Why did you choose to write in one language and not the other? And how many mistakes do I have to correct in the above piece? ;')

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Ahahahahaha. Broncofan 99 and I did a small collaboration. We had a fairly exhaustive commentary on what English form we would use. We compromised on English English which means I had to put too many consonants in some words and too many vowels in others. Thank you God Lieutenant was not in the mix :) I think I'd have had to put my foot down.

I know and respect that it can be a huge problem for non native speakers. I wish there were a way to easily change it. There is not, to my knowledge.

For the record, your English is wonderful. I never think of you as a non native speaker.


LOL! That's cool! Do you have something of that still visible on the blockchain @bigtom13?! I love the 'English-English' idea :')

Thanks for your support and compliments on my English, I'm replying to you after I've done a few edits to my post... Again. Still saw a few mistakes :') Maybe I should let go of that a bit, but you know, after 7 days all I write is forever engraved on the blockchain... Scary thought, right?!

Your English is great :) I admire people who learn the language just from school and tv shows. I'm not sure I would have been able to do it!

English is my first language although the definition of 'native' and the credibility that a native speaker holds in terms of writing/speaking better than a 'non-native' is something debatable.

I, unfortunaltely, write only in English. I could write in French but my spoken French is too urban for it to translate into a well written post.


Ahhh, THANKS! You're lucky English is your first language, it's so widely spoken, very very useful! I'm doing okay but always need a bit of a 'transition period' when speaking English, after a half hour I'm getting more comfortable with it :')

And yes, not all 'natives' are perfect writers in English, I notice that too! Would be interesting to hear you speak urban French, I can understand a bit of French when spoken slow enough, but once it's faster or 'urban' I might lose all understanding :-)


Yes, I understand that transition period very well! Whenever I visit or move back to the North of India, I have to remember my Hindi and at first it takes a while.

My french is a 'jeune francais' - wrong, full of slang and spoken too fast :P It took me a LONG time to understand it and I would constantly complain about the slang but once you pick it up, it's impossible to not use it!

I always have my PC set at British English and I was pretty sure 'mesmerising' is spelt with an S and and not a Z, but Steemit kept on underlining 'mesmerising' in red in my post today so I thought I was wrong. Now I think that's because Steemit uses US English as its telling me off for writing 'spelt' 😏

Am I missing something, what's the difference below:
Behaviour (British English) instead of behaviour (American English)


LOL, I fixed that indeed, the mistake I purposely made got corrected after I fixed a REAL mistake, can you still follow me?! :')

It's interesting to see the spelling correcting software fight among one another, right?! I do sort of suspect the browsers might prefer US English in general since there's simply more 'traffic' in US English? Good luck on deciding which direction you'll go with 'mesmerizing' :')

You know my writing style in Dutch. And you know my writing style in English. Over time, I have become more "aligned" with the English language that I feel my English texts represent ME better than earlier. But it will never be a true reflection of what I can show when writing in my own language.
I PM-ed you the mistake you need to correct ;)


You are my ROCK if it comes to getting a few mistakes out of my texts :') Really couldn't do Steemit without you, you know that right?!

(And yes, I feel you, I often want to reflect something more closely to ME, but it's harder in English. Glad to hear you feel you're getting closer though!)


by the time you are as old as I am, you'll be super comfortable ;) haha
and...awww ❤️

Yeah you kick butt in english!
I'd have a hard time writing a single post any of the other 4 languages I speak.


AH, thanks! Well, I'm chatting in Spanish with a few people on Discord, and I'm okay with that, but I would not be able to write a post in Spanish... Yet. Maybe I should make it my goal to write 1 post in Spanish just to see how hard it is :D

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Interesting subject!
I can only write in English and to my native language which is Greek, so I didn’t have a lot of choices. The thing is that I was never fluent in English and on top of that it has been twenty years since the last time I wrote in that language! So my writing in steemit is a real challenge!
First of all it takes a lot of time and second I always have this feeling that I am making a lot of mistakes or that my writing sounds silly. Unfortunately I don’t have any friends that English is their mother tongue, to give me some feedback but I have often thought that I should find, at least one :)


That's a very relatable experience @fotostef! I'm super proud of you to take on the challenge of writing in English after 20 (!) years!

It takes more time and it sucks to publish a piece you feel 'could have been better' if it were written in your own language... Although English is my second language, feel free to contact me if you need feedback on a piece you REALLY want to be corrected before publishing! I'll see what I can do and/or find someone to look at it for you :D

Oh, by the way, is there a Greek writing community on Steemit @fotostef?


Thank you so much for your kind words and for your super kind offer :)
I don’t really know about Greek writing community, my interest in steemit was in photography from day one so it never crossed my mind to look for a Greek community.

Hey man I would write in English because my dream is to talk with more people, my dream is to communicate with a lot of people with my passion for movies, NBA, tv series and other many things.
I waste a lot of time to write an arcticle in english,
I wish to have a translator believe me!
I am Italian by the way


Yes, I could write in my own language but there's simply less people who I then can talk to! So I understand your 'problem' @serialfiller. It's simply easier to find people reading your posts if you write in English...

I love your name! :D

I think your English is great, and I say that as a native English speaker (okay, it's the only language I know).

Despite being a native speaker, I also very strongly prefer having subtitles in the shows and movies I watch. It's just too hard to pick up on everything without them.

I'm not a native English speaker myself ... But I do think your English is great. And your posting in English is also great.

And yes I do write in English too because you simply reach so much more people when you write in English.

I have few problems with my English. We started learning it in our 5 grade (10 years old). Until few generations before me most schools in than Yugoslavia were learning Russian as a second language.
First problem was that i knew some of it from cartoons and shows and that some was a lot more than most of the students. And that continued through high school. So i did not have to study it and i never really learned grammar (building times, spelling...), most of it i did by feeling (is it sounding right for me :) ).
Second problem is that i don't speak it. I don't need to speak it and i don't really have with whom to speak it. I have no problem with understanding (watching everything without subtitles) but when i need to speak it, it is a problem because i need to think about pronunciation and then i can't think about what i want to say. So most of my English i learned from TV shows and movies, quite a lot from computer games and later from internet and youtube. Fun fact, i am lost when i need to use Windows in Serbian (nothing has any sense when translated :) )
I could not write posts in Slovak, because i did not wrote proper Slovak for 15+ years, could write in Serbian, but it is just smaller audience and anyways sometimes i have a feeling that no one is reading it :D
Steemit definitely helped my spelling, but still not sure how it looks to an native English speaker.