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OFF-TOPIC Questions to non-native English speaking people that write in English

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mon_fi

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I have four questions for non-native English speakers that get paid to write in English.

1. Is it possible?
2. Do you feel that being non-native impacts the quality of your work?
3. Do you feel native speakers deliver higher quality work than you do?
4. Do you have any advice for non-native speakers looking to write paid content in English?


Thank you : )
 

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Jon L

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I'm following this thread ... I've tried to hire content writers in Pakistan (where people are taught English as a second language in large numbers), with no luck. People there just don't understand the US culture well enough for it to work well. At least, not the ones I've run across. I may be looking in the wrong places, though.
 

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I have four questions for non-native English speakers that get paid to write in English.

1. Is it possible?
2. Do you feel that being non-native impacts the quality of your work?
3. Do you feel native speakers deliver higher quality work than you do?
4. Do you have any advice for non-native speakers looking to write paid content in English?


Thank you : )

English is my first language but I have hired a few Polish writers and my biz partner is Polish too. Their work has been excellent and they are probably more technically proficient.

That isn't a very detailed answer but just wanted to show it can definitely be done.
 

Stargazer

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The answer is yes but it depends upon what you want written.

If you wanted something conversational you would want someone who also understood 'the lingo' of the audience so I agree with Jon above. That is more likely to be a fluent speaker who also lives or has lived in the customers country.

The Daily Mail for example is the most widely read online English newspaper in the world. A lot of content is from Australia and the US in addition to UK news.

You should see the comments when it is clear a piece has been written by one of their US or Australian journalists. It's rarely about the actual article.

Dan
 

Bekit

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English is my native language, but I sometimes write in Spanish, so I'll answer your questions based on the times when I'm writing in my second language.

1. Is it possible?
Yes, of course.

2. Do you feel that being non-native impacts the quality of your work?
It depends on what you mean by quality. Let's say I'm writing a sales message for someone selling an online course on accounting.
  • The substance of what I'm writing is not affected by my language ability. For every topic, I will start with a varying level of knowledge on the topic, and then I will have to supplement my existing knowledge with research to understand the topic and write effectively enough to convey the topic clearly. This is the case whether I'm writing in my first or second language. For an accounting topic, since I'm not an accountant, I would do some supplemental learning on the accounting topics I'll be writing about.
  • The research phase is identical and the language is largely irrelevant. I can do research in my first language or my second. For this example, I would interview the accountant, learn about the target audience, immerse myself in the problems and frustrations that the client's course solves. I would also research the course itself by going through it and noting all the interesting things I can talk about.
  • The persuasiveness of the sales message comes down to sales skills, which is more of a human thing than a language thing. Why do people buy an accounting course? Who are those people? The structure of the message will be the same, no matter which language I'm working in.
  • The organization of my thoughts comes down to how disciplined my mind is, not how good my language skills are. I love the saying, "Good writing is clear thinking made visible." So true! If I am still confused about accounting, that's going to come through in my writing. If I know how to organize my thoughts in a way that will make sense to the reader, I'll be able to do that in my second language just as easily as my first.
  • The value the writing brings to the reader depends on what key takeaways and "aha!" moments are included. Language skill is irrelevant to coming up with these things. If I'm writing about accounting, I'll be looking for "What will the reader find valuable? What might I be able to share that they don't already know? What do they already know, and what would they appreciate finding out?
  • How interesting the writing is depends on your effectiveness at pacing, storytelling, and selecting the right things to talk about. Language doesn't matter for this. You can write about accounting in a way that's dry as a bone, or you can write about it in a way that's full of life and interest and relevance to the reader.
All of the above points affect the quality of any written work, and all of them are completely unaffected by whether I'm writing in my first or second language.

There are only two points I can think of where being a non-native speaker impacts my writing:
  1. Speed. I can write much faster in my first language than in my second. In my second language, I think more slowly, I read more slowly, and I occasionally have to pause to look up a word.
  2. Culture. Occasionally, I might run into a cultural issue where I unintentionally step on someone's toes or say something in a way that a native speaker wouldn't respond to as well. This can be overcome by having a good editor who is a native speaker.
3. Do you feel native speakers deliver higher quality work than you do?
It depends. Based on all the bullet points above, I can deliver very high-quality work in my second language. My writing in my second language has very few errors. Native speakers who have read my writing without meeting me have assumed that I was a native speaker.

In every population, there's a spectrum of literacy. I can definitely write better in my second language than many of my friends who are native speakers but who don't care about spelling, punctuation, or grammar. I can write on par with people who are native speakers and who write for their living. I cannot write as well as a native speaker who has a full command of the nuances of the language, the proverbs, the idioms, and the little touches that make a written work absolutely sparkle.

4. Do you have any advice for non-native speakers looking to write paid content in English?
  • Always stay hungry for constant improvement. Wherever you are now, there's always room for growth. Keep learning.
  • Don't sell yourself short. I've read your posts here on the forum, @mon_fi , and I would have never guessed that you were not a native speaker. Your English is excellent. Don't let impostor syndrome knock you down.
  • If you're trying to get writing jobs and keep getting rejected, this is probably a reflection on your sales skills, not your writing skills. Work on developing your sales skills, and you'll have plenty of clients.
  • On the other hand, if you are getting hired for writing jobs, but then keep getting fired, this may be a reflection of your work ethic or attitude, not your writing skills. Your writing skills were obviously good enough to get you hired for the job, but then you lost the job. Why? Work on that.
  • If you live in a country where the cost of living is cheaper than the US, you have a massive advantage over native speakers, simply because you can charge less than they do and still cover your bills.
 

mon_fi

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I'm following this thread ... I've tried to hire content writers in Pakistan (where people are taught English as a second language in large numbers), with no luck. People there just don't understand the US culture well enough for it to work well. At least, not the ones I've run across. I may be looking in the wrong places, though.

Try Ukraine, or the Baltic countries.

From my experience, countries that don't get along with Russia have citizens "more American" than actual US citizens lol


English is my native language, but I sometimes write in Spanish, so I'll answer your questions based on the times when I'm writing in my second language.


@Bekit thank you for this long response man, really appreciate it!

Don't sell yourself short. I've read your posts here on the forum, @mon_fi , and I would have never guessed that you were not a native speaker. Your English is excellent. Don't let impostor syndrome knock you down.

I guess it's my main problem. I read Medium articles or blog posts written by US bloggers and think "damn that's good, will I ever reach this level?"

But that was three days ago and since then I have picked up cashvertising...gotta say, it opened my eyes!

If you live in a country where the cost of living is cheaper than the US, you have a massive advantage over native speakers, simply because you can charge less than they do and still cover your bills.

Hadn't thought of it, thank you!

I am not trying to get paid to write, I am only working on improving my writing skills. I have built a digital product and am trying to get it sold, hence the importance of writing good copy....

I have been focusing on about improving my writing in English lately. I found out I was making a lot of mistakes!

I further plan on looking for resources to expand the breadth of my vocabulary, especially for adjectives.
 

mon_fi

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So anyway, I did some research. Turns out that there are quite a few English writers that weren't native speakers.

Wikipedia has an entire list of them: List of exophonic writers - Wikipedia

The good news is that you can definitely become a good writer even though English isn't your primary language. I am now learning (after 93 blog posts...) that I have to write short sentences, avoid adverbs, avoid the passive form and be to the point.

I hope these won't f8ck with my French writing skills...
 

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I have four questions for non-native English speakers that get paid to write in English.

1. Is it possible?
2. Do you feel that being non-native impacts the quality of your work?
3. Do you feel native speakers deliver higher quality work than you do?
4. Do you have any advice for non-native speakers looking to write paid content in English?


Thank you : )

1. Of course it is. It requires a lot of practice but you can do it. I'm a bestselling self-published author with dozens of published books. In the past, I also worked for a while as a freelance writer (but didn't enjoy it as I write best when I write for my own projects).

2. It does because you don't think like a native, even if your levels are native-like. But that can be sometimes useful because you'll be able to borrow interesting comparisons/idioms from your other language(s).

I'm not sure how much time it takes to surpass the level of native speakers but I hope to achieve it one day.

Note that it doesn't mean that you'll be a worse writer in English than any average native speaker. Being a native speaker gives you an advantage. But if a native speaker doesn't work on their writing skills, then a non-native, even with imperfect English, will produce much better work.

3. As above. But also wanted to add that non-natives may try harder and be more careful which will translate into better work.

4. Specialize. Focus on topics that interest you the most. It's difficult to write on topics you don't know much about and that bore you. Write as much as you can (not just articles but also forum posts and other types of writing) and make sure that you always learn something from each project. Read a lot, too. Use English as often as possible.
 

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