What is it like to be a second language writer?

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October 22, 2010
Draw a Heart with a Stranger
October 24, 2010

What is it like to be a second language writer?


English is not my first language, clearly. Yet all of my contents, well 98% of my contents are in English. Time to time people ask me, ‘why?’ It is not hard to figure out that it is more difficult than.. you know, use my native language. The reason why is simple. I consider blogging as another adventure, and I want to in the big league. Honestly, it seems natural. I travel the world and hardly use my own language over there, and why here? Runaway Juno is an extension of travel.

There’s pros and cons like every other thing in the world. For a dramatic diversion, I will narrate ‘bad’ things down.

Can you see agony in my face? 😀

One. The biggest and the most obvious, language thing.

I have a free of speech, but I can’t fully use the privilege.

I’ve never study abroad or had proper language training course. Didn’t get a chance. But I had the best teacher, backpacking. Does that count? 🙂 Anyway, I took a couple of English essay writing classes from university but it was for reports a academic studies. Frankly, and humbly, I am quite a good writer in general-in my language. As a person who majored in Engineering, I would say I’m good at languages.

Humor, sarcasm, creativity which all I have but sometimes it’s just impossible to describe the exact way I want. It can be richer, but unavailable just yet. I’m working on it though!

Yes, this language barrier is the biggest and the hardest problem as a being second language writer instead of using mother tongue.

Two. Less readers from my hometown.

Even my close friends don’t like to read my blog. Well, there are many reasons for that but ‘because it is in English’ is the biggest reason. Well not alone it’s in English and but it’s in ‘incomplete’ English. I can’t force them to read it though, can I? I like my travel writer tribe in social media, but I want to share this experience with my ‘face to face’ friends, don’t you? Friends who have the same back ground as me, I want to hear their story time to time.

On the contrary, there are so many upsides while I’m dealing with these little and big problems.


First, obviously, I have unbelievably many readers around the world. (I thank you all!)

Last month, Runaway Juno ranked #12 in Google travel blog category in US and #70 in UK. (I posted here) Hard work totally paid off. I got over 10,000 visitors in just last month alone, according to Google Analytics, I have visitors almost all over the world I didn’t even visit. That’s awesome! When I started write one piece of article here after another, I’ve never thought Runaway Juno become this big. Well, it’s bigger than I thought it would be. But I dream big, and long way to go, still!

After all, English really is the most global language of this era.

My Soul sister Meaghan

Second, even if I have technical difficulties, I feel more free when I use English.

Do you know what I’m saying? I don’t know what you think but I thought this quite a long time. Korean and English are totally different language in every way. I am not talking about character or grammar; the tone. Emotion, expression, something like that. Korean is very rich language, I don’t doubt that. There are more than 20 words that indicate just one color which is brilliant, Korean is really lyrical, and calm. Beautiful, is the right word.

But I feel more free because of the cultural difference of those two languages. Express the emotion is highly forbidden here. Not as much as used to now, but it’s in the foundation. Love, anger, excitement, if I want to write in Korean, suppress the feeling, one step back, and say it. That’s very usual procedure. That is melted in the whole culture. When you meet Koreans, you will know what I’m saying. So, I raised that way but I found out that’s not who I am. I feel free using English. I am proud where I born and raised, but I just have favor in another language. I don’t know about other languages though. That’s why I want to learn them all. This is certainly effect me in very, very positive way. Climb over the language barrier, I feel free at last!!

So there it is. Reasons and facts. You know what? I don’t regret. Of course if I run Runaway Juno in mother tongue, it would be much and much easier, took less time to write, and probably write better articles. However in that circumstance, I wouldn’t meet you (Yes, you!) and have this wonderful experiences, am I right?  I feel flattered to be in a category of ‘group of travel writers’. That’s I’ve ever wanted.


.Either way, I think the important thing is whether I enjoy or not. And, I clearly do! I like that all of the procedure is another adventure, everyday. Every time I thought of new material for an article, and write about it, it became new adventure. What’s not to like?  Maybe that is what keeping me sane from lack of travel at the moment, possibly.

In conclusion, what is it like to be a second language writer? What’s not to like? 🙂



Juno Kim
Juno Kim
Juno Kim, a happiness-seeking storyteller. Photographer, writer, and trained mechanical engineer. Life-long nerd. I left the cubic farm to follow my true love: the world. A firm believer of serendipity, astronomy enthusiaster, and living by passion and love in life. Currently, on a quest to discover stories and find the place where I can call 'home'. Follow my journey through @RunawayJuno and Google+ .


  1. Peter says:

    Great post. I can somewhat relate. I’m bilingual in Dutch and English, but I shy away from writing in Dutch because it takes me a lot longer to write what I want. And often I’ll just change what I actually wanted to say because it’s easier to write something simpler. I’ve been out of the Netherlands for 13 years now and have lost enough of it that it is now a bit of a chore. English is just so much easier for me.

    Bravo to you for tackling this head on and writing so much in a language that is not your first. It’s something I admire a lot!

  2. Evan says:

    This is a good post!

  3. Emiel says:

    Great post and I exactly know the feeling! I’m Dutch and passionate about traveling. Traveling means meeting other people, other cultures. When we speak Dutch in other parts of the world they think we’re from Mars or something!

    I have just recently started to blog about my travel experiences. I want to share it with the world and of course that has to be in English. I am improving, but still make a lot of mistakes. And yes, you cannot always express exactly how you feel. But hey, isn’t that the same when you travel? Asking directions or explaining what you need in a language you don’t know?

    It’s fun trying to express yourself in another language. And the best tip is to pre-read your post several times, that’s the best learning.


    • Juno says:

      Thanks Emiel. You are right. It’s FUN! Fun express myself in different style, in another language. It’s unique experience. Sometimes it’s better, somehow.
      I read my old articles, and still, I find mistakes and fix them constantly. It’s good thing, right? At least I’m improving than before.
      I would love to share your travel world. Thanks for stopping by and let the journey begin! 🙂

  4. Lovely post. I enjoy reading your stuff, partly because I like to see how you “think” in English. It gives me a better understanding of my language to see you write, beautifully, in it. Thanks for keeping up the great work!

  5. ayngelina says:

    I have so much respect for you for writing in your second language. Communicating in your mother language is difficult enough, I cannot imagine doing it in French or Spanish.

  6. Gray says:

    I think you do a fabulous job of writing in a second language, Juno. I’ve always been very impressed by that. As far as making it more readable for your friends, I think there are translation plugins available in WordPress, though I haven’t looked into it myself. Don’t feel bad about your friends not reading your blog. Very few of mine do, either, and language isn’t the reason; they just don’t have the same passion for travel that I do.

  7. Michael says:

    Truthfully, you do it better then some people who know English as their first language. I’m not some amazing English word smith but sometimes I’m amazed at how little understanding one can have of their own language. Sometimes it’s barely legible.

  8. I have to say, I think you do a great job writing in English. I can’t imagine having an entire blog written in a second language. Although, I do hope to be able to do that someday! Great post!

  9. wonderful post Juno … I have admiration for people who can communicate so well in words other than their own!!

  10. Giulia says:

    Oh Juno 🙂 I understand sooo well.
    English is not my native language and writing in English takes more time and more effort! And sometimes it’s hard to express what you mean. But yes it pays back because you get an international and awesome audience!
    Good job girl 🙂

  11. Ashley says:

    You’re so impressive Juno 🙂 I could not imagine writing my whole blog in Italian – which I am learn right now. You do a fantastic job for writing in a second language!!!

    • Juno says:

      I picked some Italian word from your ‘Italian word of the day’ but it’s not easy to remember and use that in real life. 🙂 Let our second (third?!) language come through!! 🙂

  12. Meaghan says:

    you got balls to write in english. i don’t speak any other languages so i think it’s wonderful that you speak the amount of english you do!
    congrats on your blogs success!

  13. I know what you mean. English is my second language as well and I know how difficult it can be to express what you wanted to not in a second language (and certainly my audience would have been very limited if I have used my first language…). You are doing a great job!

  14. Juno says:

    Thank you all for such a sweet, sweet comment about me and my articles! How could I do all these without you all. 🙂 Really appreciate this little bond! Thank you all. Sincerly.

  15. Sally says:

    Such a lovely post! As someone who has never been particularly good at picking up second languages, I’m so impressed that you have the courage to blog in your second language — and the persistence and talent to make it a success! I can barely mumble a few words at the grocery store without blushing.

  16. Mikeachim says:

    You’re doing something amazing. Something I wish I could do, and something I hope to do some day….but something I can’t. Not yet.

    Writing a blog in another language is surely a really scary thing to do. 🙂 And it’s also probably the best way to learn another language, too. You’ll get some things wrong. We *all* get some things wrong. I remember learning a sentence in Korean to say to a friend, and I said it, and she burst out laughing because apparently it sounded like I was trying to speak Korean with a French accent with food in my mouth. Never ask me to speak Korean to you. Your ears would bleed.

    But that’s ok. Mistakes are a sign that you’re learning. Without mistakes, you learn nothing. 🙂

    You also mentioned something I’m fascinated with – the way that English and Korean require and encourage different thinking. This is why I find learning new languages so fascinating – because languages are like keys to unlock other cultures. They’re culture in action, in sound. You learn a new language, and you start to learn how the speakers of that language really *think*…

    So, you mentioned how speaking Korean changes the way you think. How does English change it?

  17. Sofia says:

    I think you’re doing a great job Juno.

    English is my second language too (Swedish is my mother language), so I can relate to many of the problems you have when writing in a second language.

    I sometimes find it hard to express myself the right way, and I often have to double check that what I said makes any sense 😛

    Keep up the good work!

  18. I studied French in school and even then, would have headaches trying to translate from English into French. With a vocabulary of a child, it’s really tough. Kudos to you for taking the plunge.

  19. AnnaTrouble says:

    Awesome stuff!
    I’m also writing in my second (and sometimes even third language) and people always keep asking me why. Now I should just refer them to your post 🙂

  20. Jenny says:

    I can not imagine having to write in a 2nd language. You’re doing an amazing job though!

  21. Incredibly impressive Juno. Now I have to go practice my Spanish

  22. jipp says:

    good job Juno. You inspired me and a lot of people aroud the world who writes in a second language. Yeah, sometimes there are just so many things that we can express better in English than our own mother tounge language. Keep up the good work.

  23. Gracie says:

    and so… that’s the way to go!

  24. Dina says:

    Hi Juno, I’m with you! I understand what you mean by 2 different language are very different in fundamental ways. Not just about translating, but the emotion, they feeling behind it. I even feel like different person when I talk in Indonesian and English, Our expression is somewhat limited based on the what can be expressed in the language.

    Funnily, I’m more comfortable writing in English than Indonesian. My Indonesian is of course better than English. However I just never exercise my travel writing skill in Indonesian language.

    Many friends and family also asked, why in English not Indonesian. For me, this is a very funny question. Every single one of them know I’m married to a Canadian that is an Englishspeaker. Prior to backpack, we lived in English speaking location for 8 years. If I write in Indonesian, how the heck Ryan’s family and friends, and my new friends from the last 8 years, will be able to read? Frankly, Indonesian is better at reading English than Canadian people at reading Indonesian blog. So…. There you go…

    More than that, I think we can comfortably say that currently English is the most universal language. I don’t want to limit the audience, therefore I use English.

  25. Barbara says:

    Nice article! English is the international language and it’s really great to write in English because it’s possible to reach more people.
    I am a Brazilian girl living in Italy and I have two blogs: one in portuguese (www.brasilnaitalia.net) and another one in English. The interesting part is that often the content of the blog is different because cultures are different.
    Anyway, it’s nice to read and understand you. 🙂

  26. Carolyn says:

    Congratulations on being so successful in your second language! I speak French, but it would take me so much longer to blog in French than in English. Very impressive!

  27. jason m rene says:


    I am really happy for you. That is soo awesome that you have taken the steps to liberation by pursing your own vision of the world you live in through writing and sharing your travel advice/tips. This is the first time I have had a chance to read any work of yours but I will say that you grammar and english is pretty good considering how you learned. AWESOME!

    Keep writing!!


  28. t.on.air says:

    Very good post. I can totally relate to this. English is not my mother tongue either.

  29. I know EXACTLY how you feel! Spanish is my first language and I find it so hard to portray all my emotions and “richness” in English. While it’s a process, I still feel certain words in English aren’t powerful enough (in fact, I was guilty of cussing a bit much when I first move to the USA because I felt “bad words” were the only ones emphatic enough!)

  30. Cez says:

    Hey Juno,

    Being second language writer I can’t agree more with you. It is a challenge, but as you say it’s a journey altogether. Love your post, keep it up.

    Have fun,

  31. I too write in English although it’s not my first language and can totally relate to most of the things you said. Although for me, English is actually more diverse than my mother tongue, Finnish. Sometimes I can express myself better in English than I would in Finnish. But being incorrect and making mistakes in spelling and grammar bothers me sometimes. And also the fact that my parents and grandparents are not able to read my blog when I write in English.

    It is very inspiring to see how you have created this awesome and popular blog without using your mother tongue, Juno! Thanks for setting an example!

  32. Agness says:

    Well done girl! Your English is excellent and I know this feeling as I’m Polish and also write my blog in English. When people point out my mistakes I’m like “What other languages can you speak fluently, coz I speak 3” loool and it always helps. Good luck with your travel! x

  33. Pamela says:

    Hi Juno,

    Great article! Spanish is my first language, so I can also relate with most of the points you made. I like the challenge of writing in English plus I keep learning grammar, vocabulary and ways to express and communicate, all good stuff!

    I’ve been thinking about starting another blog or a new project in my mother language to compare which I like better, but I do agree English is by far the language that most people understand.

    Have you tried to do anything like that?

  34. I really like this. And completely get what you mean
    I love Korean and Korea. But the thing with expression of feelings… I’m not Korean myself but I know through my close friends what it’s like. I also don’t write in my native Polish or German but for slightly different reasons. Anyhow, using English gives one a second personality, as it were. You express yourself in new exciting ways that don’t always exist in the native language. Writing gets a bit more exciting. At least to me. I do like finding successful blogs like this one.
    All the best from 추운 런던!
    Leszek /레셱

  35. Jenna says:

    I teach writing to English learners (foreign college students who are studying in the U.S.), and I know how hard it is to write in a second language. Despite the fact that I can speak Portuguese pretty well, I could not write even one blog post in Portuguese. And the linguistic difference between Korean and English is huge, which makes what you do even more commendable. Nice work, Juno 🙂

  36. Sam says:

    Your English is amazing, Juno! I’m very impressed, especially since I know how Korean and English are at the opposite end of the language family spectrum! I’ve been learning Korean for a couple of years now, and I’m planning to start my own blog in Korean in the near future, but I know just how hard it is to write and express ideas in a language that is foreign and different from one’s mother tongue.

    It seems like backpacking is indeed the best teacher when it comes to languages! Speaking, rather than just learning grammar through books in the hope of passing a TOEIC exam with a high score, which is, sadly, what most people do.

    Anyway, keep up the good work! I’ve been reading your blog for a few months and I felt the need to congratulate you on your language skills and on your blog.

    Greeting from Busan,


  37. Sarah says:

    I love your writing 🙂 I am trying to learn some Korean at the moment – but it’s REALLY hard! Technically I am bilingual, but if I ever tried to write in my other language (German) I would fail completely. So happy for you that, while you still struggle with the language, you excel at providing amazing content 🙂

  38. Olga says:

    Thank you so much, this post has been very inspirational, you really took some words out of my mouth here! I’m a teacher of English but I did initially have doubts before starting my travel blog in English but then I just went for it and never regretted that! You might feel insecure at times and think it could have been a lot different if you were writing in your mother tongue… But English isn’t just my profession, it’s my passion as well and this is what I always say to my students… So whenever I get a chance to speak it, I feel happy and writing is something I’ve been equally passionate even before I started learning English which was a massive journey in itself… So recapturing my travel experiences in the language that I feel so attached too now that I’ve been learning and teaching it (both at a time now) is, as you said, a journey, a very beautiful and enticing one… And as you pointed out, it helps you reach out wider audiences of course! Keep it up!

  39. J Liu says:

    A very inspiring blog you have here! What drawn me to your blog and keep reading (besides the interesting titles of travel) is your fluent English. “If there’s a will, there’s a way” and I can really see it unveils here.
    I love to learn languages and hope one day I can grasp the beauty of Korean language too.

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