I know that in the translation world – especially in the English-speaking translation world – translating out of your mother tongue is frowned upon. Whenever I tell people that I translate from German into English (and only in this direction), despite being German by birth, I can almost hear the raised eyebrows. So, every now and then, I have to ask myself this question:
How can I write in a tongue that’s not my own?
Because I’m madly in love with it, that’s why. I fell in love with it so long ago – it’s been the most enduring love affair of my life. No one knows why, but that’s not the question. Who knows why we fall in love with someone – or something…
All I know is that I felt drawn to it. The English language has always been like music to my ears. Wanting to speak it fluently, master it, pronounce it right, hear its words coming out of my mouth: it’s been my long-held ambition since I was a young child in primary school.
And now, 40 years on, it does feel like my mother tongue. I think in English, I dream in English, I write in English, I make my living turning German words into English words. It makes me very happy.
I also earn my living making English texts better. English texts written by others whose native tongue is not English. But also by those whose is.
How can I improve the writing of native speakers of a tongue that’s not my own? I don’t know, but I know I can. Maybe my love for it has made it my own.