discussion

Discussion: Why I don’t read books written in my native language

As you might know, English is not my native language. In fact, I have lived in the Netherlands (almost) my entire life and grew up speaking Dutch. I wanted to explain why I am not reading (more) books written by Dutch authors. Just to clarify, I do read books in Dutch, occasionally, but those are translated works, usually translated from English.

When I was young I read only in Dutch, of which I think mainly were books written by Dutch authors. There were plenty of great Dutch authors who wrote wonderful children’s books. Even in my early teen years, there was quite a large amount of books I could choose from, but as I grew older, I had grown to dislike them. Series I loved by authors as Carrie Slee and Francine Oomen (two big writers at that time) were starting to annoy me. They repeated the same things, with annoyingly irresponsible main characters, supposedly relatable moments and topics I was no longer interested in. It felt like at that time, all the books in the teen-genre (YA was not yet a thing back then) were about loverboys, teen pregnancies, and related topics. I was not interested in those topics anymore. However, there was not much else to choose from at my library.

In my high school Dutch class, I also had to read Dutch books (obviously) and of the 12 I read, I enjoyed maybe 3. I felt the same way about these adult books as I felt about the teen books. They repeated the same tropes and annoying characters. I felt like every single Dutch adult literary book was about a middle-aged man with drugs/alcohol/women/criminal issues. And I hated those characters so much. Of course, I am not saying that every book was about those topics, but that was what it felt like.

After being “forced” to read all those horrible books and after having failed to find any enjoyable teen book written in my native language, I just sort of gave up on it altogether. I discovered bookish tumblr and found so many enjoyable books written in English. In that same period, my library started having a YA section! Oh, how happy I was to discover this new genre, with interesting books about other topics! I quit reading books by authors I read before all-together. Trust me, I tried reading several books by Dutch writers later on, but I just couldn’t stand it anymore.

I read translated books, because those were the only ones my library had to offer and my English was quite honestly bad at best. I had never been good at English and I was pretty close to failing my English exams. Therefore I started practicing, at any opportunity I got. Over the years I have gotten better and better, due to the fact that I almost exclusively read in English and watch a lot of English tv shows, and now I am pretty much fluent. So for me, there is not really a point to reading books in Dutch anymore, when English is just as easy. 

Of course, I believe that there are great Dutch books out there, but since I’ve grown to dislike them so much in my youth, I don’t feel the urge to try anymore. You could say every book I read has a three-stare star rating to begin with, and stars can be retracted and added when pleased. The Dutch books, however, would start off with a zero-star rating, which would make it much harder to please me. It would be very hard to make me excited about a Dutch book and I would just assume it wasn’t good, just because my expectations are so low.

Does anyone else have this problem? That a genre or just books in your native language in general, have been ruined for you? Do you read in your native language? Or outside your native language?

P.S. I also strongly dislike every Dutch movie/tv series before having even watched it, this might be related???

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32 thoughts on “Discussion: Why I don’t read books written in my native language

  1. Although my native language is English, I know what you mean because I sometimes read books in French. I used to read quite a lot in French at school and university as it was a requirement but there was only ever one book that I truly liked. Apart from that, whenever I read in French for pleasure they were translations of English books – mainly Harry Potter and Twilight. I do want to start getting back into reading more French because I am really rusty but I can’t find any actual French novels that interest me which aren’t classics. I don’t want to give up searching for a decent book but at the same time, I don’t know why I bother.

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    1. I feel the same way, I kind of want to try reading more Dutch books but when there are so many books out there I really want to read, why would I bother? I have had French in high school but I was never good at it. I think I never got past the children’s books, it was just too hard.

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      1. I get that completely. Whilst I do have some French books that I would probably like (mainly Perrault’s fairy tales and Beauty and the Beast) there are so many English books that they just seem to fall by the wayside. Although saying that I have picked up Beauty and the Beast in the hope that it will reacquaint me with the French language.

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      2. It would but I’ve been speaking it for so long that I haven’t entirely wasted it. I’m just incredibly rusty. I have started to read my French copy of the original Beauty and the Beast though so I’m slowly getting back into it.

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  2. I can totally relate with this entire post! Ever since I started watching TV shows/movies etc in English and then a few years later reading English books, I haven’t been able to pick up a book written in my native language!

    I would read children’s books by German authors and I still have very fond memories of them so I wouldn’t say that has been ruined for me! But then I started reading translated YA books and I loved those as well but after I’ve read my first book written in English, I’ve never gone back. I just prefer reading the original work because it’s the ACTUAL writing! Translated books will never be as accurate when it comes to the writing, the expressions etc as the original book!

    I also hate pretty much every German TV show or movie, I honestly don’t know why XD (except if one of my favourite German actors is in them lol)

    Wonderful post! ❤

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    1. People underestimate the effect of tv shows! That’s basically how my English improved so much so quick. Yeah, I prefer the original over the translation as well! Sometimes when I read a sentence in Dutch you can just feel how awkward it is because it’s not an expression used in Dutch. It’s just too weird.

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      1. Same for me! I got addicted to Supernatural and there were no dutch subtitles to be found so I watched it all in English and I learned so much from it!

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  3. This is so friggin relatable. English isn’t my native language, Arabic is. But I live in Lebanon, where English and French are both very widely spoken. When a kid first goes to kindergarten, the first decision parents must make is whether they want English or French as a side language along with Arabic. Most of the people here sort of ditch this second language, but I’ve grown to love it, even more than my native language. Novels in English are way more diverse. Most of the GOOD books in Arabic are translated from English… Besides, I’ve always felt like English is much easier and simpler than Arabic, so there’s that 😉 Great post!

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    1. I don’t know any Arabic or Arabic books, but I feel the same way about diversity in English books. Dutch books just don’t seem diverse at all.. good thing you never gave up on your second language! Being bilingual has a lot of advantages!

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  4. I never read in Spanish, either. I don’t think there was ever a time where I read it like you read Dutch fiction, but I think there was such a heavy emphasis on me mastering English that I never bothered. The only books I’ve read in Spanish in years is a translated Amanda Hocking novel and a short story collection from middle school. My library doesn’t have a great selection of original Spanish literature that I’ve seen. Or maybe I haven’t given it enough of a try. Really interesting discussion!

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    1. Thanks! I never learned Spanish but it’s a good thing you got to learn English! Too bad your library doesn’t have a great selection of Spanish books, that doesn’t help either..

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  5. Unfortunately, I am super lame and only can speak English fluently. I am learning french right now in my spare time, but I DEFINITELY don’t know enough to read a book in french! I did not know that Dutch was your native language (clearly, I am new around here).
    Something about your story of how you came to be the reader you are today touched me a little bit. I love how you started trying so much more in your English class because you wanted to read so badly! It’s inspiring, honestly.

    Lovely post, Lia 🙂
    Oh, and you write well in English, I never noticed anything amiss!

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    1. You’re not lame! Learning another language is hard, so good luck on that! I tried learning French but I’m not good at it. Aww thanks ❤ I worked really hard on my English and I’m happy it paid off 😊

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    1. That’s great! That you’re good at French, I mean. I’m horrible at French. Too bad the libraries don’t have many French books :/

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  6. Hi! Lately I have been reading a lot of books in English, but libraries still only have a lot of Dutch (translated) books. And yes, I feel quite similar about Dutch books. I especially hated Dutch literature, while I often like English classics. And you’re right, a lot of Dutch adult literary books are about a middle-aged man with drugs/alcohol/women/criminal issues. A lot of them are also about the Second World War, which I was fed up with after a few reads. So I went looking for some books that sounded different and read some literature I did enjoy at least partly.

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    1. Yeah there is a very limited selection of English books in libraries, as well as in bookstores. I mostly get my books online and ebooks.
      I’m glad I’m not the only one feeling this way about Dutch books. There really are a lot of books about those topics!! I feel like there barely are any Dutch fantasy books, but that might just because I don’t know what’s going on in the Dutch bookish community.

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      1. I would like there to be more Dutch Fantasy books, but luckily there are great ones in other languages. And online shopping is great, but I don’t want to spend a lot of money on books all the time, so I wish there were more English books in libraries.

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      2. Yes exactly! Yeah.. the library in my hometown barely has any, but at my university they luckily do have a relatively large selection. I still mainly read translations from the library though, since there are way more of those.

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  7. I feel like your post relates to anyone who can’t stand reading about their culture’s tropes. Although my native language is English, I hate Australian tv/movies and any books specifically about Australia/written by Aussie authors, and I think it all comes down to the trope aspect.
    Like you mention with the Dutch tropes, the Australian tropes are all the same too: set in the outback with big bogan families where family drama ensues. I can’t relate to that at all because I live in a metropolitan city – actually today, I don’t many Aussies could relate to that because it’s just so stereotypical. Even the Aussie slang these novels use is like a different language – I don’t know what half of it means!
    One of the more popular Aussie novels out there is Puberty Blues which I despise so much, it makes me sick to even think about it. A famous Aussie author is Tim Winton who writes about the same things over and over. It just gets to the point where it is exhausting to read about the same plot, the same types of characters, the same background. It’s boring and a little insulting too, because it’s almost as if these are the only types of people who live in Australia: the bogans (rednecks) when actually our society is incredibly multicultural.
    Great post!! 😀

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    1. What is it about books written in a country that they all have to have the same tropes?? It’s annoying. I read Tim Winton’s That Eye The Sky and hated it, so I can definitely see where you’re coming from. Thanks!

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  8. Your English is certainly excellent. I don’t read in my native language either, which is Portuguese. I learned English at 11, and it was love! I prefer English to any other language now, although I have read a bit in Italian and Russian which I studied. It’s interesting what you say about Dutch fiction. I might be prejudiced, but I can’t think of a single Dutch writer and have never read any, not even in translation.

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    1. Thank you! I worked hard on my English skills 🙂 You’re good at English as well! There are some more famous Dutch writers, in YA you have Marieke Nijkamp (from This Is Where it Ends) and in adult fiction I don’t really know any popular authors (because I don’t read much adult fiction), but I’m sure they are out there.

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  9. I absolutely loved Dutch children’s books as a kid, but then when I started to outgrow those I couldn’t really find Dutch books meant for my age that I liked. Carry Slee’s books never appealed to me and the only Francine Oomen book that appealed to me was Ezzie’s Dagboek and that mostly had to do with the cute format haha. Her other books never appealed to me either, plus I mostly read fantasy at that age so I mostly read translated fantasy books. I too was forced to read horrible adult books and your description of them seems spot on haha. I’m sure there are books out there that don’t fit that description, but oh my goodness I couldn’t stand those books. A lot of the time they were really sexist as well so I’m really put off by them

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