Wednesday, February 6, 2013


There are many things that can make a writer insecure. Losing words in translation is one of them. As an American living in a foreign country I am faced with that problem every day, not only in my writing but in daily life. Language can be easily misinterpreted so learning how to deal with the confusion words can create on a daily basis can be frustrating and it affects my writing habits. My inspiration is fading and my support is nonexistant. Here I am writing and thinking English everyday while all around me another language is constantly intruding. My family and friends have no time for my words, nor do they understand them the way they should. Maybe I should just stick to making food, at least my cooking does not need to be translated and at least that is appreciated.

Do you ever feel misplaced and misunderstood? Do your words get lost in translation? This year marks my 25th anniversary of moving to Norway and I have realized that even though I will never be completely at home here, I have learned to love and even hate at times this place and the words that leave me lost in translation.  

Check out The Insecure Writers Support Group and visit some very talented and inspiring writers. Your words DO make a difference.


Annalisa Crawford said...

Just to twist this post slightly, I sometimes think books that have been translated into English lose some of the beauty of the original language. It's good to explore other cultures this way, but it's not the same experience.

Siv Ottem said...

Annelisa, I notice that too with books that have been translated from english! I often wonder why friends and family buy me a book written in english and translated to Norwegian. I watch movies and look at the subtitles which make little sence, not to talk about the titles of the books and movies being totally taken out of context.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Siv! Good to hear from you.
WE understand you!!! Sorry there isn't appreciation at home, but here online, we appreciate you and your writing.

Siv Ottem said...

Thank you Alex, kind words come at a time when I really need them. Feeling a bit lost and overwhelmed these days.

Susan Roebuck said...

I have the same problem, Siv. My books are only in English but are not really understood by my Portuguese family. That's OK. It's a different culture. And I understand about another language filtering in, I often find I need more time to think of the proper English word. Don't worry! Your writing's great - you can't call yourself an author if you don't have any self-doubt :-)

Karen Walker said...

That is a long time to live away from what is considered home. Siv, my husband and I are considering a trip to Norway, Denmark, Sweden. Where do you live?

Siv Ottem said...

Susan, do you speak Portugese? I find myself often speaking in a language that is a combination of two! Always nice to hear that I am not alone.

Karen, I live about two hours south of Oslo, would love to meet you! Let me know if you come my way :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Siv .. I can understand what you're saying .. I have trouble with foreigners here - they think they understand, but don't .. but then that applies to English people too!!

Interesting to read you love and hate Norway .. returning home - I'm glad I came back to the UK .. yet I'd love to be somewhere warm!! Cheers Hilary

Susan Roebuck said...

Hi Siv! Yes I speak Portuguese - that's the problem LOL. I saw your comment on my blog and I'm so happy - I'd do exactly the same for you! I can't find your email, but I'm at sueroebuck(at)gmail(dot)com. Love to hear from you

Ciara said...

I'm sorry you've never found a home in Norway, but I'm glad you've adjusted. It can be tough living somewhere else. I hope you get to visit home often.

Nancy Thompson said...

You were very brave to move to a foreign country. I could never do that. 25 years is along time. I imagine it's brought an immense richness to your life, even while you might feel isolated. I've moved around a lot all my life and that's hard. But I think as long as you keep giving and participating, you will receive in kind, even if some is lost in translation.

M. J. Joachim said...

And then you have your online blogging friends...there are so many wonderful people online, people who get it. They know the life of a writer, someone who needs to communicate and be heard. It's never about where we live, as much as it is about who we are. Chin up!

Johana Vera said...

It's like you stole this post from my brain. (Did you? My brain is a strange place, so I wouldn't be surprised.)
Let me tell you a bit about why I think that.
I live in Paraguay. I was born and raised in Paraguay. Spanish and Guarani are the official languages of my country. My parents don't speak english, but for some reason they thought sending me to a school where half the education program was in english was a good idea. So here I am.
Basically, the english-thinking black sheep of the family.
When my mom learned I wrote stories in english, she looked at make for a long time, then sighed.
I can't imagine how frustating it must be for you.
Hang in there! The online community is SO supportive. You'll always have us around.
Some days, that's what keeps me going.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hey, Sis,

Gee, so sorry for the dilemma. I guess that can really GRIND on your nerves. Too bad the family isn't behind you, BUT YOUR BLOGGER family is and certainly your Cyber brother is!

I am always an email away.... remember that!

I feel like you lately... in the BAKING dept. It seems I have a new sort of career as a baker. 144 decorated cupcakes due later today for a Mardi Gras themed party at a law firm. The money sucks, but it's something and I did get to stay at home to do it. What pain though... have you ever made mini cupcakes? EEEK... They are such mind numbing work. Filling all those TINY CUPS... i'm surprised I didn't have a nervous breakdown. LOL. I get to decorate them in a few hours... EEEK! More tedious, mind numbing work.

Life goes on though. At least it is a CREATIVE OUTLET.... right?

Nigel Mitchell said...

Translation - it does make you think of the power of words. One of my novels was published in Chinese, and I can't translate it. I sometimes wonder what it says. Is it an accurate translation? What if they took an entirely different book and put my name on it? I would never know

Christine Rains said...

I can sympathize. So much is happening in my mind, but I find it difficult to get it out verbally. I stumble and mispronounce. Usually I just say nothing at all.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

I wrote Friday's post for you.

Each of us resides in solitary confinement inside our minds. Men are from Mars;Women from Venus -- but it often seems as if authors are from another universe to those whose dreams do not include writing.

I wish your family understood that dreams are what brings spark to our souls. I may not love sports but I try to nod and make supporting comments to my team-mates who live for football.

It is as if they do not see you I know -- at least the part of you that murmurs in your heart. You are like a dog who sees color when the rest of his friends do not. You look in wonder at the rainbow as they puzzle at a horizon filled with shades of grey.

You are in my thoughts, Roland. :-)

Tammy Theriault said...

very true! funny thing though, this goes with the movie...i was so freakin' lost watching the movie i feel asleep! ha!

Yolanda Renee said...

I don't mean to take your post lightly, being in a foreign country would be difficult. However you asked if we ever felt misunderstood, lost in translation?

Yes, on so many levels -- you just described my marriage to a T! :)

Glad to have met you Siv!