Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Blogging in a foreign language: good or bad idea?

Blogging in English has always been something that I’ve felt uneasy about. I’m a German translator, and my professional association’s code of conduct does not allow me to translate into anything other than my mother tongue. Translating is basically writing, so I can’t shake off the impression that it raises eyebrows when I blog in English.






Yet my English has been “okayed” by numerous people: an American colleague, whom I sometimes run blog posts past for feedback (thank you, Will!); other native speakers who read my blog; and a professional editor whom I’ve approached to ask for input into my English writing (thank you, Matt!). I was assured by everyone that my English is fine. Yet the deep-seated uneasiness remains.


I should add for completeness that my professional association’s code of conduct prescribes translating either into my mother tongue or into a “language of habitual use”. Note that, although I’ve lived in the UK for a very long time, my command of English is not (and will never be) as good as a native speaker’s.



As a German translator, I’m not qualified to translate into English, so blogging in English does not have any immediate benefits to my work. Blogging in English is simply something which I enjoy doing. To me, my blog is the perfect tool to further improve my English skills.





(A German translation of this blog post is available here.)

Monday, 13 April 2020

Book recommendation: “Riverflow” by Alison Layland


Gripping, topical and intelligent, “Riverflow” by Alison Layland is an eco-thriller set in a small rural community in Shropshire on the banks of the River Severn. I warmly and enthusiastically recommend it!

“Riverflow” is Alison Layland’s second novel and is “a novel of family secrets, community tensions and environmental protest against a background of fracking and floods on the River Severn”, to quote from the Booka Bookshop website. It addresses climate change, one of the pressing issues of our time, reminding readers of how frighteningly close we have come to destroying nature and the planet for good.

“Riverflow” reminds readers of how frighteningly close we have come
to destroying nature and the planet for good


While many of us translators like to think of ourselves as writers, Alison Layland is a real writer in that she’s both a translator (who translates from German, French and Welsh into English) and a talented and successful novelist. I met Alison at a Twitter workshop in Birmingham in 2015. You can find a short blog entry about her debut novel, “Someone Else’s Conflict”, here.


As I think I’ve mentioned before, I get bored by novels very quickly. I’ve lost track of the number of novels which I started reading, only to put them down again to either do something more exciting or read something much more useful (as you may remember, I’m a non-fiction translator).

So whenever I do read a novel from beginning to end, this must mean something! “Riverflow” with its haunting plot pulled me right in and kept my attention. Alison’s writing style also appeals to me: it’s engaging, original and comfortable to read. And the language she uses is very modern in that it features words like “ecocide” and “upcycling”.


“Riverflow” was chosen as Welsh Book of the Month for August 2019 by Waterstones. You can watch the book trailer here: