Back in the day [oh how I hate that phrase!] I used to write and receive a lot of letters, especially when I went to school in England for a year and later moved back here. It was pretty much the only way to stay in contact with my friends and gave me something to do and I wish I had kept copies of the letters as they are about times I don’t really remember much. It all stopped about five years ago when increased commitments, the inevitable drifting away from friends back home and my inability to use German made it difficult to write them. These days it’s very rare to receive any letters at all, although I do receive more postcards as I’ve made a habit out of ‘forcing’ people to send me one every time they go away!
Pretty much the only person I write letters to these days is a friend from Germany who moved to India a year ago and doesn’t have the internet there. We write to each other in English, even though we’re both native German speakers and have lived a majority of our lives there.
I’ve discussed my problems with both English and German on twice before, strangely enough both posts were related to NaNoWriMo! In the first one I lamented the fact that I can’t write creatively in English and can no longer do anything with German and in the shorter second one I realised a large part of my past NaNoWriMo failures was due to my inability to write dialogue which, admittedly, I always had problems with in German, too.
Overall I consider both my written and spoken English to be very good. I can form coherent sentences, can play around with words and, most importantly, people understand me. I have made an increased effort in the past months to keep up to date with German which is writing more in German and speaking it on the phone, but it’s difficult. It frustrates me that I can’t use either language to my own satisfaction which, I guess, is where the, normally well hidden, perfectionist in me comes through.
Even though I learned the basics of English at school growing up, it wasn’t until visiting England several times as a teen and later spending a year at school here that I actually learned it by being completely immersed into the language and culture equally. Whilst learning the language at school helped me develop a sense for the grammar, actually living here made me develop my gut feeling of something sounding right or wrong which is what my English is based on these days. It is incredibly frustrating when I chose to ignore my gut feeling as I end up doubting myself just to realise later that I was right in the first place.
Some recent examples that I’ve taken to Twitter:
English question: Is it possible to use the word ‘verbatim’ when referring to copy someone, like mirroring someone’s gestures? #
The Latin origin of the word is ‘word for word’ so the general consensus was that it should be to mimic instead. I ended up using to mirror as that fit the context better.
The info differs from/to what X said? #
This actually led to some discussion. Some preferred ‘from’, others ‘to’ and ‘different than’ was thrown into the mix, as well as these two snippets:
strayjohno: If it helps: “similar to, different from” is what I always remember. As in X is similar to Y, or X is different from Y. #
talldavek: To is more British. From is universal and more logical. So use whichever you like. Than is seldom used these days. #
Obligatory thanks to these awesome people who put up with my English questions on Twitter [though I've probably forgotten some]: cory_grimes, BladedExpert, jamesbmarshall, JoeGizzle, noirem, PCurd, sparc, strayjohno, sulz and talldavek.
Also, I’m shocked by the amount of people that replied to me on Twitter about writing letters. Surely some people still send them?