on Live Write Thrive:
Do you write in a language that is not your mother tongue? If so, then you’re an exophonic writer, a term coined in 2007 by three German academics.
Exophony is practiced by many writers around the world. Pulitzer Prize–winning author Jhumpa Lahiri published a novel in Italian in 2018. Xiaolu Guo wrote A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers, having written her previous books in Chinese. And Kader Abdolah, who moved from Iran to the Netherlands in his thirties, writes his novels in Dutch. These are just a few names, but, really, the list is endless.
There may be various reasons for choosing to write in a language that’s not your first. Writers may choose a particular second language for their writing because they’d like to reach a wider audience. Or, maybe a writer immigrated, and when they signed up for writing classes or other writing opportunities, there was only a “foreign” language available to them.
Maybe there’s no particular reason for writing in a non-native language, other than that it feels right. The latter is the case with me. I was raised bilingually in the Netherlands and speak Frisian and Dutch, but I only write in English.
Here are some things to consider when you write, or aspire to write, in a language that is not your mother tongue: