Yesterday I mentioned on Twitter that I got a comment on the blog, on my most popular entry, about my writing/English. It shouldn’t have bothered me, but it did. I kept going back to it and what it meant. Was I, not a good enough communicator? I decided that I was, that I am at least a decent communicator, since that story is still my most popular. I still get comments on it, and even emails about passing the qual, failing it, and what to do next.
It is no secret that I’m not a native speaker. I grew up in a house dominated by the beautiful sounds of Spanish. I am not ashamed of my roots, nor my accent, let alone my writing. My blog does not pretend to be a full-on, super critical place to talk science. I do not blog about science, or the scientific process because I don’t feel like it. Plenty of people are already doing a fantastic job on that end, check my blogroll and/or my Twitter timeline and see how many RTs of fantastic people talking about science I share.
My blog was/is intended as an outlet to vent the frustrations of my everyday life as a scientist. First as a student near the end of her PhD, then as a frustrated postdoc, then leaving academia and getting a job as a staff scientist at a core lab. Not all I do is strictly academic, but I still do research. I just don’t talk about the specifics. That’s my choice. Life as a scientist is not all peaches and cream (feel free to check my posts from October 2010 to June 2011, what I call the epic job search of 2011) which is the main reason I blog.
I don’t need to be applauded or treated in a condescending way because English happens to be my second language. While it feels nice to be complemented on it, I’m not fishing for complements. I just want to be treated like any regular old human being, no exceptions, no special treatment. I decided long ago to write my blog in English to practice my writing, to keep those wheels moving. Sometimes it comes out pretty, sometimes it doesn’t. I write like I talk; what you get on this blog is what you get in real life, except, with much more profanity (I can swear in at least 4 languages). If my writing or my speech sound “funny” and you suggest I go back to school and take classes to improve it, then you’re ignoring that I am much more than my speech, my writing. I’m a scientist, a woman, I’m bilingual and damn proud of that. My pronunciation and syntax are still not perfect, and guess what? They never will. And that’s OK. What is not OK is to phrase a comment in a condescending manner, by adding the “but” in the middle of it. A “but” does not make it better, it makes it sound like there’s this sense of superiority in it, and that I’m less because I can’t speak or write like a native. I had great school and college teachers, and I’ve been complemented on numerous occasions on my grammar. I’m a product of public education in a dysfunctional system, and I am extremely proud of that and of all the teachers and professors who got me here.
I get it, it’s better to point out the failures in my way of telling my story, than to comment on the content of the entry, which is that I’m trying to give hope to students out there, to trainees of all sorts that it does get better, that failing an exam is not the end of the world, and that they too can have a story with a happy ending.
So, Dr. Peters, if my entries are long and scattered, if I end sentences in prepositions, or use apostrophes, commas and other types of punctuation wrong, that’s my choice and that’s my style. I’m frankly tired of people trying to feel superior by pointing that because I’m a latina, a woman and I happen to be fluent in more than one language, I’m still less. It’s tough being bilingual, or trying to pass like one. In my case it amplifies my feelings of being an imposter. But I’ll be damned if I let a “well meaning” comment stop me from blogging. In my view there are two choices, you either suck it up and keep reading, or you delete my blog from your bookmarks. It’s up to you. Till then, me and my funky sounding English will keep the ball rolling. In my opinion, there are many out there who can overlook my shortcomings with a second language and gather something useful from what I have to say.
27 and PhD for over 3 years