Tips for being a 2nd language travel writer

Today’s guest post is by Juno from Juno’s first language is Korean, but she choose one year ago to start writing about her travels in English, even though she had never lived in an English speaking country, or been formally trained in the language. She did so because she wanted to connect with a larger audience. As someone who’s only fluent langauge is English, I’ve always been interested to find out what it is like for a 2nd langauge writer, and I thought it would be useful for Juno to share her top tips on here for anyone thinking of doing it…

[Note: I’ve deliberately left in any mistakes in Juno’s writing for this piece, as for me travel blogging is about sharing useful tips, insights, and advice. Juno’s writing is about substance over style, and I think it’s important for aspiring 2nd language writers to see that you don’t need to write perfectly to be a successful travel blogger like Juno!]

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I am a second language writer, using English from Korea. Once I wrote about what is it likes to be a second language writer on my blog. From many, many thoughts.. long story short, it’s brilliant. Lots of second bloggers share the world everyday and I can say they love what they do as well. Yes, being a second language writer is fun. Once you started.

As a one year old second language writer, I have few small tips for you, who is afraid of start writing.

Don’t over think it

‘But my grammar is not good.’ ‘And I am not a good writer.’ ‘What if I say something wrong? It’s embarrassing!’ This is all valid questions and statements but you know what? No one cares except you. Of course an article in perfect structure with flawless grammar is an easy read, but we are not writing for a school book. That is not the point at all.

Travelers, backpackers are very passionate people more than any group of people. When you are talking about travel to them, do you think they care about whether you use present tense or past tense or present participle? And think about it, when you use your mother language, do you use the most perfect grammar? I doubt that. As a student of the great professor earth, it is all about learning. ‘Do not know’ is not embarrassing. ‘Not willing to learn’ is embarrassing. Don’t over think it and just do it, like you know who said.

Remind yourself why you are doing it when it gets hard.

Why you choose to be a second language writer? In my case, my mother tongue is perfectly setting to use Korean but I choose to use English because I want to mingle in a bigger playground and that was an English pool. As a backpacker, it seems more natural to be in a bigger circle.

Writing is harder than talking and way more difficult than write in my own language. Something called ‘writer’s block’ hit me many times not just because of lack of idea. How can we get over this? Simply, think about why I am doing this. No one forces me, watches me behind, it was just completely my free will from the start. And why I am doing this? Because I love it. I love the fact I am part of the writer who share the love of the world with magnificent travelers. I think it is the same reason why we all travel. We love explore the world and now we want to share the experiences with fellow travelers. It’s a good reminder for self loathing depression. [Symbol]

Love your own language

In my humble opinion, no matter how much you love second or third language, you cannot fully enjoy them until know and love your mother language. Of course it is not that important to many people who are naturally growing up with multiple languages. However in my country, and I believe also many numbers of countries, we are very proud of being a single-race nation and use our own language created by our ancestors. Language is an enormous part of our culture and ethnicity.

Learning languages is superb because I can pick bottomless implicit knowledge up in the process. I do love English, but there’s certain things can only describe by that certain way with the certain language. It is very inspiring. Even in your language, some expressions make you go ‘Oh wow.. .’ I’ve known and been using the same language for twenty something years and I still got inspired by it. This feeling boosts me up to be a better second language writer because I know the greatness of language better and better every time.

One of the favourite subjects in the travel community is ‘off the beaten path’. Why not in writing? Being a second language writer one way of off the beaten path, and it is hard beyond any doubt. However as a backpacker who prefers ‘off the beaten path’, I love challenge with my blog every day. Because I chose to be in a bigger pool with English speaking people, I learn so much about the world, and now I have numerous friends all over the world. In life, there are always ups and downs and same in blogging world. So far I can proudly say there were more ups than downs.

Are you afraid? You have every reason to be. But you never know how it is going to be unless actually try it. So, stop worrying and start writing!

12 Responses to “Tips for being a 2nd language travel writer”

  1. Very awesome tips, Juno. As someone whose first language is not English, I tend to overthink my writings waaay too much. It’s hard not to do when you read dozens of blogs written by talented writers. But I do find that it’s a lot easier to do when writing my first draft not to worry about grammar or structure and just… write.

  2. Allison Joy says:

    Thank you so much for such an inspirational and uplifting read. I get into a funk sometimes and neglect my writing, and I don’t even try using my second language of Spanish. You have really opened my eyes to the purpose of writing for leisure – it’s enjoyable! No need to stress…getting ideas on the paper, regardless of sentence structure and grammar rules, is the most important part of writing. AWESOME!
    If you’d like to read my latest post, check it out – Sagrada Familia
    Thank you!

    @MANICinTheCity on Twitter

  3. Laura says:

    As someone who’s in the process of learning to speak a second language I found this post really encouraging. A lot of the advice translates to learning to speak as well, though I’m sure writing in a second language on a regular basis is even more challenging. Great tips!

  4. Jeremy B says:

    Juno, absolutely incredible! Not only should people be in awe of your writing in a second language and having no fear in doing so, you are incredibly wise in what you have to share. I admire what you do even more after reading this!

  5. Evan says:

    I really admire all of you who write in a second language. It’s awesome. Juno is inspiring me to study Korean even more – maybe one day I can write a post all in Hangul! 😀

  6. Rease says:

    Juno- I really love this! I am bilingual (English/Spanish). I write about travel in English for the same reason you do, it reaches a larger audience. However, I truly love my 2nd language and find some things are better expressed in Spanish so I don’t always translate everything. I also currently live in Buenos Aires so sometimes I want my local friends to know what I am saying too!

    I also have taught both English and Spanish and I think knowing two languages definitely makes your love your own and really appreciate it.

    Excellent article!

  7. Juno says:

    Thanks for having me here 🙂 I had so much fun writing this. It is hard but is challenging, every single day.
    Looking forward to continue share the world with you Jane!

  8. Juno says:

    Glad to see many other second language writers are agree with me. We all are having fun, aren’t we? 🙂

  9. This is such an inspiring blog post! Juno is completely right; those of us who love to travel know first-hand what it’s like to be in an environment where one is not a native speaker and as such can appreciate the tremendous amount of courage it takes to write in a second language. Plus, being a second language writer really gives you a unique voice, infusing your writing with a cultural dimension it would not have otherwise.

  10. Steven says:

    Excellent post. Jealous of you folks who are non-native English speakers. Makes me think of doing some writing in Ukrainian….

  11. Hey Juno, nice article! Congratulations for this initiative!
    I’m also in the same boat as you! I’m a Brazilian writer and just started a new blog all in English as a challenge to myself and to improve my English writing as well. It’s definitely so much fun!! But sometimes, I’m still a bit afraid of writing something wrong! Thanks for the tips, I’ll try be more relaxed! If you wanna have a look at my blog, here it is:


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