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CLA Media Mill

Juan Fernandez

Juan focuses on specific writing strategies and his own writing process, offering valuable advice for multilingual writers who find the writing process in a second language to be frustrating and time consuming.

Featuring
Juan Fernandez

Interviewers
Maija Brown
Johanna Mueller
Zack Pierson

Editors
Johanna Mueller
Zack Pierson

Advisors
Farha Ahmed
Daniel Balm
Linda Clemens
Debra Hartley
Huy Hoang
Kirsten Jamsen
Katie Levin
Mitch Ogden
Kim Strain

© 2010, Center for Writing
writing.umn.edu/sws/voices
Please do not quote without permission.

I’ve been studying English since I was little, back in my country, but you forget. And since English is not like engraved in my mind like you have, I have to go by the rules. And, yeah, I’m definitely concerned that grammar may impair my writing or my speaking. That is why I’m always proofreading my job and my assignments, and it often takes me twice the time to write a paper in English than it does in my own language.

What the American reader wants is different from what readers around the world want to find in whatever they read. For example, they really like to read about something... a specific subject with a lot of details. They don’t like to be reading something and then suddenly see that the article jumps to another different theme because that kind of makes them dizzy. So it was really interesting to learn that: how reading culture works here in America.

And I think the problem with many of them is that, as they are writing in English, they are translating literally from their own language. So the final product is something like... although it is in English, the structure is not the same as if an English speaker had written it. So it ends up being very confusing. So, yeah, the habit that we all non-native speakers have to try and master is to start thinking in English-- not in our own language and not translate as we write or speak.

Definitely, my Spanish accent in writing has caused me some troubles as well. Spanish, you will see, is not such a precise language as English is. So it often takes many words to express something in Spanish that is often expressed by only one in English. For example, the word “sulk” in Spanish, it will say “ponerse de mal humor,” which is four or five words.

I always start with a brainstorm. It is not that I sit down and say, “Okay I have to think about my paper.” It happens very, very casual and informal. I starting thinking, “Okay what could I write?” And then maybe I stop to eat something, or I just stop because it is boring sometimes, and then I resume it later. And when I have all the ideas kinda connected in my mind, I write them down. Then I continue by writing a writing plan, writing all the main ideas and connect them with the details and examples that I will use. And finally, the writing process starts after doing so much. And I start writing a first draft.

When I write, the main thing I do is every time that as I am reading something and I don’t understand, I mean a word, I always look for it on an online dictionary, and I write the meaning down. Of course, it doesn’t grant that I acquire the word into my vocabulary right away, but at least it makes it familiar. I grow familiar with it, so if I find it again, I know what at least I have an idea. Another thing that I do is when I’m writing, I’m always trying to find new ways to express the same thing. I don’t want it to be boring when I write. And sometimes I come up with some phrases that I don’t know are actually common in English, and the only way that I can know that is “googling it up.” So I type it in google, and if I find among the results that the words are in the correct order and the context is the one that I want to use actually, I end up incorporating it into my writing.

My main advice is for them to have patience. As I told you, it takes me about twice, maybe more, to write a paper in English, plus all these rules I have to apply when I write, than it does in my native language. So, yeah, the main thing you have to do is to have patience. And also the thing that I learned in my writing class is that writing is a process.

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