I haven’t written much on my blog lately. I have fifteen (or more) really good posts that I want to write. But I haven’t published much lately. I’ve been really busy, but that’s not the real reason why I haven’t written more.

The real reason is that its much harder to write now that it used to be. I used to be able to crank out a good blog post in 30 minutes. Now, I get started and nothing seems to flow. My main ideas are there, but they’re poorly expressed. I use too many words to get my point across. I reread what I’ve written and I realize it’s not as good as most of my older posts and I just delete it all and give up and work on something new. Or it just sounds dumb.

I’ve had a few periods like this over the past five and a half years of my blog, but they were mostly because of laziness, summer or work. This time is different. I didn’t figure it out until last week when a friend of mine sent me a few sentences to translate from spanish to english that he needed to use in marketing copy. I was happy to help.

I took a look at the first sentence and started to translate. My first crack was:

You’re invited to get to know our new b2b website, the new tool that will help us improve our sales process, give you more information about our products and create closer client relationships.

I finished, but knew two parts sounded wrong. Nobody says “get to know” or “give you more information.” I knew it was wrong. I sat there for five minutes wracking my brain, trying to figure out how to say it more clearly. I gave up and asked a friend from the states who fixed it for me. We ended up with:

You’re invited to explore our new b2b website, the new tool that will help us improve our sales process, deliver information about our products and create closer client relationships.

Much better. It dawned on me that my writing is worse because of spanish. So is my english. I say stuff in english that I know instantly isn’t right. Or just sounds funny. A while back, my Chilean friend and business partner Enrique and I had to give a short talk in english to 50 entrepreneurs. Enrique led off in english, then threw it over to me. I stumbled through my simple two minute talk. It was terrible. Enrique, a Chilean, clearly spoke better than me.

After our talk, we mingled with a few entrepreneurs. The first two were from Argentina and Mexico and we started out in spanish. After a few minutes, they asked where I was from, confused. They clearly knew I wasn’t a native speaker of spanish because my accent is still terrible. But they didn’t think I was a native english speaker either.

I’m out of practice and have been avoiding writing here because the finished product isn’t as good as it used to be. And it’s harder than it used to be. The goal of this post is to force myself to just keep writing and hopefully it’ll come back.

Have any of you struggled with this problem when learning a second language? If so, did you do anything that helped make it better? I’m frustrated here. I’ll take any ideas.


  • Nate…cacha que sufro de déficit atencional, lo que sumado a que siempre se me olvida todo, hace que normalmente escribir sea una pesadilla, pero como desde siempre me gustó escribir en blogs (llevo 10 años ya en el “negocio”), al final del día lo que hago –y para aprovechar los blocs de notas que me regalan– es anotar en primer lugar la idea que tengo, luego cómo quiero abordarla a través de un punteo de ideas y más tarde simplemente llego a casa y comienzo a escribir siguiendo la pauta.

    Con la práctica (que no es muy larga) comienzas a redactar por arte de magia, y mucho más rápido de lo que puedes llegar a imaginar.

    Al final lo único que se hace lento, es cuando citas otras fuentes, linkeas contenido y subes fotos.

    • Si, parece que escribo mejor con un outline que hice offline con papel y lapiz, pero todavia tengo problemas porque ahora es mas dificil que antes.

  • Nate – totally know how you feel here. 7 years in Germany & while my German has gotten pretty fluent – its taken my English down with it… In fact – I´ve been considering starting to blog precisely to overcome this challenge. I figured that writing more often would bring me back to my comfort zone. I imagine the trick is to keep writing – dont focus so much on the quality but more on the content – and have friends who are “still native” edit it until you find your comfort zone again..

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one. I used to a really good writer. It was probably my best skill, if not in the top 3. you’re right, its just more writing and doing it more consistently, but its hard. i think i understand how an aging sports player now feels, hoping to be able to do something they used to be able to do easily again.

  • I agree with Jain and also with Syed (“Bounce”). I blog first for clarity and then for better writing. Along with Syed, I do progressive practice. I try to write better with each post if only to use a few words taken from literature in that language or a mellifluous sentence. As Ezra Pound once said, you can tell the quality of a writer by the quality of the people he steals from. Good luck.

  • HereI is my attempt for today in order to teach me the word ‘peregal’ meaning equal and to do vocal word play.

    If you peregal of dark beer with a gal of good ginger beer, you get a shandygaff. Drink that cold with your friends and hot summers goes by more placidly. As to the proportions of the liquids, peregal or chacun a son gout.

  • Reading a good book in the native language really helps in this situation. I had times when I worked as an interpreter and lived with foreigners when I forgot how I could express my ideas clearly in my own language. Staying in a place like a foreign country or even talking with them for too long might worsen your eloquence. I felt it myself when I worked with a group of Australians. But after I read a couple of good books with nice words I understood that it ain’t over till it’s over.

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