I am Estonian but I write in English instead of my mother tongue. It might seem like I’m just trying to shake off my national identity and score points in being cool and international but it isn’t quite that simple.
I have a degree in the English language and literature and I was trained to write coherently and clearly in this language. I live and work in the UK and I am the one who tells my employers, both native English speakers, how to spell words. Honestly, their spelling is quite questionable. For two weeks we offered deserts (sic!) as part of our menu. However much I’d like to take the mickey, I would be in the same position in Estonian. I haven’t really written much in Estonian after finishing school and I keep questioning the grammar and spelling. Bizarrely I feel much more comfortable and confident writing in English and this is one of the main reasons I choose to write this blog in English.
Obviously, by writing in English, I could potentially reach a wider audience. There are hell of a lot more people who can read English than there are people who can speak my tiny little language. Also, I know people around the globe who might be interested in reading what I write and not every one of them speaks Estonian, but they do all speak English. Whether we like it or not, English is the lingua franca of the world.
Besides those obvious reasons, there is a more personal and psychological reason for choosing English. As a member of a very small language community (approximately only 1 million people speaking the language), my mother tongue is a little bit sacred for me. It’s a language of secrets and personal stories. I feel that I am much more vulnerable and much more naked if I use my mother tongue. By using English language, I am as if building a barrier between myself and what I put out there. It’s me, but censored through translating it into English. I feel more removed from my feelings and thoughts if they are not written in Estonian. It’s still me writing here as honestly as possible, but English allows me to feel more comfortable about opening my soul because I am not using a secret code. It might also be the thought that my parents cannot read English and therefore I feel more comfortable using the language that would “protect” them from my thoughts.
I live and work in the English language environment, I think in English a lot of the time just to save energy. I read and write in English. The songs and the films around me are all in English. Estonian is my secret language, something that’s only mine in this place far away from home.
So by choosing to write in English, I am not trying to be pretentious and rootless. Instead, I am trying to protect my identity outside the world wide web.