Saturday, December 7, 2013

Is it OK if English is not my native lanuage?

Mr Lukeman, I am not a native English speaker but I write in English for various reasons. I live in the USA and finding classes/writing groups in my native language would be impossible. Furthermore, the market for science fiction is much bigger in English than French. My question is: should I mention I am not a native speaker in my query letter? Would that scare away agents? I have to say my accent gives me away over the phone. I don’t have the typical French accent -it’s less pronounced- but still you can tell. Thank you very much for your thoughts on the topic. Merci beaucoup!

It is fine if English is not your native language. There is certainly no requirement that English be one's native language in order to pen a great book in English, and there are many authors throughout history who have proved they can be masters of the English language without its being their native tongue (i.e. Joseph Conrad). The issue is not whether it's your native language: the issue, really, is how strong of a writer you are, whether in your native language or in English. The other issue is whether you are as proficient in English as in your native language. Even if you master the English language, it still won't make you a great writer. So continue to improve your writing skills, no matter what, and also continue to work on your English. In the end, you might actually have an advantage, as you may work harder and longer to perfect your English, whereas a native speaker might become lazy over time.

Either way, do not mention this in your query. It won't help, and it may hurt. Besides, it's irrelevant: the writing must speak for itself, regardless of where you are from.

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