Why not (to) blog in my native language?

 

The idea that I should (at least occasionally) blog in my native language has crossed my mind quite a few times. I’m a patriot and I believe Czech language is beautiful. However, I’ve never had the courage to try. There are several reasons for this:

First, haven’t written anything longer than a few lines since grammar school. My final exam essay had to be at least four A4 pages long – written on the spot, from the top of my head; something today’s students can’t even imagine – and honestly, neither can I anymore. All I produce in Czech nowadays is e-mails, messages, various applications and forms. The longest piece of text I’ve written in the past two years was my MA thesis summary. It was a tremendous challenge and it took me longer than a whole chapter of my paper. As I haven’t had enough practice, I’m not very confident in Czech grammar. Czech is an inflectional language with complex and complicated rules which drive every school child crazy (nouns, adjectives, pronouns and numbers are declined, seven cases over a number of declension models, and verbs are conjugated…, you name it).

Second, I honestly don’t know what I would write about in Czech; even if my grammar was perfect, I can’t think of a topic that I could elaborate on in my native language. This has probably something to do with the fact that I mostly want to write about ELT-related stuff. I want to share my everyday experiences from the classroom – that is the L2 classroom. Moreover, I can’t write about ELT-related stuff in Czech because all my training has always been conducted in English, so I simply don’t know the terminology. As a result, as odd as it may seem, a normal sounding English sentence about teaching English sounds totally inappropriate in my mother tongue. The same happens if I want to translate something I learned in my psychology course, for example, into English – it seems so unnatural and even trivial.

Third, 99.9% of all the stuff I read about ELT is in English. As I often get inspired by other people’s blogs, it would be difficult for me to suddenly switch from English into Czech. When I think about it, I permanently live in an L2 environment (at least the virtual environment). I think and dream in English. Not that I think it’s not possible to write great stuff about ELT in Czech; I remember a wonderful ELT-related post in Czech I read a couple of months ago which made me laugh out loud all along the line and I thought: this is it!

The next point is connected with the previous one; my PLN mainly consists of EFL/ESL teachers or English-speaking educators who don’t speak Czech. There are a couple of Czech teachers I follow on Twitter and Facebook, but that’s just a drop in the ocean. As blogging is about interaction and reading each other’s posts, I suppose I would end up writing for myself. But also; those Czechs who are interested in ELT stuff can speak English anyway. Yes, there are loads of universal edu-topics to write about, but I don’t think that anyone but an EFL teacher would want to read a Czech post about teaching phrasal verbs or functional language, for example. Then, what’s the point in blogging in Czech?

The truth is that the fact that I’m a non-native speaker of English my mother tongue is Czech is a perfect excuse if something goes wrong. I’m not a sloppy writer and I hate making mistakes but I subconsciously hope that a wrong collocation or an inappropriate word will be generously overlooked by native speakers more proficient speakers of English and careful readers.

Finally, and this will sound like a paradox, blogging in English helps me stay less exposed than if I blogged in Czech. This has nothing to do with the number of hits, though. Ironically, using English as the means of virtual communication helps me feel more secure or less vulnerable. This may be due to the fact that, as some argue, you can only express your real, deep emotions through your mother tongue. So I may well be hiding behind the L2 (even though I try to be completely honest and sincere on my blog).

When I look back at all the reasons why not to blog in my native language, I realize that I’ve just prepared a kind of challenge for myself. At first sight my post looks like an excuse why not to try but in effect, the opposite is true; all the above actually gently pushes me to have a go. We’ll see what the future holds for me. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

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About Hana Tichá

I'm an EFL teacher based in the Czech Republic. I've been teaching English to learners of all ages for more than 20 years. I love metaphors and inspiring discussions concerning teaching, learning and linguistics.
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7 Responses to Why not (to) blog in my native language?

  1. venvve says:

    Hi Hana,
    I'm doing a course in e-moderation this semester and it's in Croatian. A lot of the readings are in English but forum discussions are in Croatian and I can't tell you how time-consuming and challenging it is to put together a sensible and (hopefully) error-free post. You might say it doesn't matter if there are errors, and maybe it doesn't, but I always feel as if people will expect me to know better as a language teacher, and also I occasionally translate into Croatian, so there's the concern that mistakes could discourage people from hiring me. I may be overthinking things, I don't know.
    Regarding ELT/SLA terminology, an interesting point was made in my Applied Linguistics program. I asked if I could submit my papers in English and this was denied on the grounds that allowing more people to write in English would encourage the use of English terminology in Croatian research, as people wouldn't be motivated to use Croatian terms if English ones would do. As ours is a country with only 4.5 million inhabitants (L1 speakers), this actually does make sense to me, because if we don't actively work on adding to the Croatian scientific terminology corpus people might take the path of least resistance.

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  2. Hana Tichá says:

    Exactly, Vedrana, I also assume that people expect me to speak and write proper Czech because I'm a language teacher. And honestly, I myself can't help judging people by the way they write (and speak). Not that I believe that a person with poor writing skills is less intelligent, but I think that a sloppy writer may be a sloppy person in general.
    I totally understand the desire to preserve one's native language. The problem is that in a field dominated by English-speaking specialists, it's difficult to translate every single term into L1. What happens is that the result is often a kind of mixture of L1 with L2 terminology, which I consider much worse than if, to use your example, you are allowed to write your paper entirely in L2. I think it's perfectly all right to try to preserve L1, but not necessarily in areas such as computing or ELT where the person who wants to fully come to grips with the subject needs to speak L2 anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sandy says:

    That's a very interesting perspective Hana, and not one I've really thought about before (particularly the part about terminology). As someone who lived in Brno for three years and got to about pre-int level I understand the complexities of Czech grammar, and I don't envy you having to produce them!
    But I also wonder whether having more posts in different L1s might be helpful for those whose English level is less proficient. Maybe it will give them the motivation or the push to try to join methodology discussions? Maybe it will encourage them to want to find out more about different approaches to teaching, or to try and up their level of language to be able to access the rich variety of English-language blogs and resources? Maybe it will be a bridge between the private language school/university focus which I see in a lot of blogs, where perspectives from mainstream English-language (EFL) primary and secondary education seem to be largely absent? I'm thinking here about people I met at one-day conferences who had trouble taking part because of their low levels of language or lack of familiarity with some concepts which presenters thought we generally understood.
    I also wondered if you know about #czelt on facebook and Twitter. I'm pretty sure you do, but it might be useful for others who come across this post!
    Thanks for writing this Hana.
    Sandy

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hana Tichá says:

    Dear Sandy,
    Thank you very much for reading and commenting. I love what you say about the potential benefits of writing blog posts in Czech and I totally agree – the motivational factor is really important. I don't know why I feel so reluctant to write in my native language; I have lots of friends=ELT teachers and we discuss things in Czech without any difficulties. The truth is that it's always a mixture of L1 and L2. The other day I was thinking about a post I might write in Czech but I got stuck with the word 'connected teacher'. I couldn’t find a suitable equivalent and honestly, that's what put me off.
    Yes I know about #czelt and I've been a member for a couple of months now. I think we even exchanged a few comments there. I love Twitter and all social media and I spread the news wherever I go. By the way, I did my MA in Brno and one of my favourite teachers was Nikki Fořtová :-).
    Hana

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  5. Sandy says:

    I guess that's where you can lead the way – by bringing those phrases into Czech, you'll be helping others to express their ideas too! And you can always ask people for suggestions on how to express it – maybe through #czelt? I'm sure people will be happy to help out. I think it would be an interesting experiment to try 🙂
    I noticed you did your MA at Masaryk, and Nikki's a great teacher!
    Sandy

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  6. Hi Hana,
    This post really resonates with me as I’ve been recently thinking about the same issue: why don’t I blog in my native (Polish, also not one of the easiest) language? I guess my reasons are very similar to yours: I haven’t been writing in my native language since high school and I’ve never studied ELT in Polish (what do I call “phrasal verbs” in Polish?!). Also, I’ve been living and teaching outside of Poland for a few years now and 90% of English teachers I know aren’t from my country. Just recently I’ve made contact with a group of blogging teachers from Poland who share wonderful teaching resources (mostly for kids) and guess what, they all blog in Polish. It’s been great reading their posts, but I’m not sure I’d be able to switch now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hana Tichá says:

      Thanks for reading this post, Gosia! I’d myself love to read some posts in Czech, but there aren’t many – at least I haven’t come across many yet. I’m sure that reading about education in your own mother tongue adds extra value to the experience. I mean, some problems are universal, but some are specific to your ‘home environment’. However, if I wrote in Czech, you wouldn’t be able to read this post and comment 🙂 Thanks again!

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