So a little while ago someone said that I'll never be able to write on a native level because I wasn't born in the UK or America. I did, however, go to elementary school in the US at the ages of 5-10 or so, so that has to count for something, right? I just feel really let down for some reason. I can definitely tell when a sentence is or isn't grammatically correct, but I just feel like there's something missing. I'd like to write a novel one day, but I have no clue where to start or if I'm even qualified to write one.

Can anyone give me some tips? I'm currently a nineteen-year-old freshman in college pursuing a bachelor's. I haven't decided on a major yet, but I've been considering Professional Writing/Technical Communication because I think it would be quite cool to make a living writing. However, I'm not sure if that would be a poor degree choice. A lot of people say that it's not very marketable.

I do read a lot of blogs and such daily, and I constantly try to improve my writing by writing as concisely as possible. I feel like the biggest thing that I need to work on right now is increasing my vocabulary size--which means being good at something so that I actually have material to write about.


  • 5
    I will say this from looking at your question - you can definitely write like a native English user, IMO. No question in my mind. Sep 12, 2016 at 13:24
  • Did you move out of America at the age 10 and missed English-speaking environment since then?
    – Alexander
    Jun 29, 2018 at 16:34
  • I obviously don't know your exact situation, but I have a similar background (lived in the US ages 5-11) and although I'm not a native speaker in the technical linguistic sense of the word, I do consider myself one for all practical purposes. In fact, my written English is worlds better than my written German. Are you sure your linguistic background is the problem, as opposed to e.g. lack of writing experience which any native speaker might face?
    – Tau
    Jun 15, 2020 at 4:54

7 Answers 7


Joseph Conrad was one of the greatest novelists ever to write in the English language. He was born in Poland and did not become fluent in English until his twenties. It can be done.

But writing a novel is not about being able to write a grammatical sentence. It is about being able to tell a compelling story. There is no certain way to equip yourself to tell a compelling story, but reading lots and lots of them, including the very best ever written, is a great way to go about it. I would suggest starting with Joseph Conrad.

There is no way to guarantee that any specific skill will stay marketable. Not even for the time it takes to get a degree, let alone for a career. (I studied to be a teacher because there was supposed to be a huge demand. Only three people in my graduating class got hired. The boom was over by the time we graduated.) If your heart is set on a career that requires specific training, like teaching or law, you should study that, not because it is marketable but because you love it.

You do not need a degree in technical communication to get a job as a technical writer. A degree (or experience) in a subject related to what you will be writing about can often help much more. Tech writing is one of the most diverse fields on the planet. No one qualification will make you a candidate for all tech writing jobs.

You only get to go to college once in your life. Study the thing you are most passionate about. You will be a better student for it, a more engaged student, a happier student. Whether the subject you study will be marketable or not one, five, ten, or twenty years after you graduate will be impossible to predict, but you will be more marketable.

  • I'm pretty passionate about writing. I would get like 15 electives in a writing degree and also a writing internship. Can you recommend any electives that would be most useful for writers (based off your own experience)? I guess I'm leaning towards science, research, philosophy, and technology electives.
    – ally
    Sep 12, 2016 at 17:37
  • There were no writing courses when I was in school. Writing was considered a general skill that every educated person should possess. And I think you can spend the rest of your life taking writing workshops and participating in critique groups. Writers have to have something to write about, so I think the best preparation is to study a subject, not a skill. If you are interested in technical writing, I would take as many programming course as you can. For a novelist, as much history as you can. I'd say English, but these days you are more likely to learn about marxism than literature.
    – user16226
    Sep 12, 2016 at 18:49
  • Computer Science with a writing minor is my second degree choice, and that's probably what I'll do. Thank you. :)
    – ally
    Sep 12, 2016 at 19:01

If you have a story, you can tell it in any language you know well enough to communicate. Living in English-speaking environment for a considerable number of years would give you a tremendous advantage in terms of getting a feel of the language, but I believe that you can do without it, providing that you do run your lines by a native speaker, who is a friend and supporter, and not the one who told you that you will never be able to write in the language which is not your own.

Send that person a signed copy of your published novel, when you get the author's batch from Penguin Random House.


Yes, you will be able to write as well as a native speaker, in fact you already do. Your written English is already far better than many native speakers, so you now face the same challenge all us native speaking writers do, which is to hone your writing skills 'til they're sharp enough to bleed, find your voice, and then give yourself to getting that first novel penned.


Reading (and listening) is a good way to 'absorb' a language, provided the source material is good. Blogs are likely not to be written as carefully as novels, a BBC news anchor is likely to be more careful with his pronunciation than a random guy on Youtube.

Your writing skills will improve with practice, and with feedback. Join a writers' group (*) and ask people to review your work. Review the work of others (also a learning experience, as it'll force you think about language, rather than use it intuitively).

*: any writers' group, locally where you live or online. Subject doesn't matter, as long as you have fun writing.


I do not know enough about what obstacles you face. What I do know is that no matter what ability a person wants to master, practice is the key. I am sure that you will understand what you need to do when you reflect on your failures. Feedback on your writing helps you find problems with your writing, but it does not help you find out about what obstacles you have inside yourself. Focus your problem solving on your writing process. Watch how you work, what you avoid, how you feel, and what you think when you cannot write, etc. Maybe your problem is not linguistic at all. Perhaps the solution for you is to overcome your inhibition to speak English regardless of your pronunciation. This might be more about your linguistic identity than your linguistic ability.

  • +1 for 'exposure to English mostly through media.' I thought that was an excellent insight. Sep 12, 2016 at 13:27
  • 2
    Disagree. This is about written English, which you learn by reading written English. You can do that anywhere. More than anything, though, it is about training your ear and eye. There are lots of people who move to English speaking countries, even at a young age, and never learn to speak or write like a native. Immersion may be helpful, but it is neither necessary nor sufficient.
    – user16226
    Sep 12, 2016 at 15:46
  • @what, you don't have to have done something yourself to observe that it is possible. You only have to observe that some people have done it. I cannot run a four minute mile. I observe that others have done so. Therefore I conclude it is possible.
    – user16226
    Sep 12, 2016 at 17:08
  • I edited my answer to address your comments, @ally
    – user5645
    Sep 12, 2016 at 17:40

Bah humbug, the other answers should convince you that you can do it.

Another story to remember is that Samuel Beckett was an Irishman who lived in Paris and wrote in English and French.

I am not convinced you need to live in an English speaking place. And if you did, would you choose Goa or Singapore? Botswana or Cardiff? Nova Scotia or Dunedin?

Whatever you do don't become a bad copy of a New York or London writer.

If you can't live in a city of native English speakers you can mix with them in your local community. While they may not know all the latest tween slang, they will provide an unique and authentic voice for your characters.

A writer writes.


First, you certainly have a level of competency that exceeds most native English speakers. If you want more training, consider copywriting. https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/want-to-become-a-better-writer-copy-the-work-of-others/ Mine the writing of decades for the gems of prose. Chew on style and tone, digest it, make it part of you.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.