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Building things as a non native speaker

I tried searching about this topic on another website and I got a long list of people suggesting that blogs in English are a saturated market. Non native speakers should stick to their own language and enjoy the great benefits...

... seriously?!? Maybe I tried a place where most people think of blogging as a career path, but for me it is just one the many tools I should deal with. There is the journaling part of it to organize my thoughts, the brand building and the networking with like minded people. Later of course, comes the big world of content marking. All those are things I do not want to avoid and I really dislike the idea of having an intermediary every time I need to reach out the world out there.

I can post around forums without worrying too much. On a mailing list or a product page thou, I do freak out quite a bit. However I don't think I will get better at it without practice. Probably because of that I even need to start blogging more often!

Blogging of course is just part of the bigger picture. Documentation, answering back in forums or support requests, email list... there are many places (and a lot of proofreading expenses) where I will be exposed when building a community and I want to cover the largest possible audience.

For the native speakers out there. How do you react when you find content from a non native speaker? Do you run away? Is it just normal for you? do you ever get used to bad English?

For the non natives. How do you manage your "getting better at it"? do you just avoid worrying too much? spend some cash on professional proofreading? in which cases do you take that step?

  1. 6

    I used to doing everything myself when launching products.

    Once I wrote a witty copy for my website and got a lot of hate on reddit because of it. Everybody started pointing out that it was written by a non-native. But it sparked a quite fruitful discussion and comments. And I got a lot of sign-ups.

    Therefore, I'd advise that you should do what you want no matter what. Be focused on your goal and ignore the naysayers. Language is just one of the variables in the equation. If you have interesting things to share, you'll always find those who'd listen.

  2. 5

    I have the same thoughts and worries as a non-native speaker. When you are creating content in English you are not doing it only for the native speaking audience. Chances are that most of your audience is non-native. I would even suggest @rosiesherry
    to start a Twitter poll to check how many of indie hackers are native speakers. I'm curious to see the results.

    You should just focus on clear writing. Use simple words, avoid the fillers, keep the sentences short. Grammarly is fine, but combine it with Hemingway app to strip down all the words that can be a cognitive load to the reader.

    My issue is that I want to start a YT channel, and I'm scared that my viewers will have a bad UX because I'm not fluent enough nor have the perfect pronunciation. So I'm just procrastinating and practicing my speech instead of just creating videos and let the quality come later.

    No one cares about the level of English if they can get value out of the content.

  3. 3

    Non native. Honestly I don't care about it too much. I'm not a super good writer in my native language either ha. Depending what it is I ask someone else to proof read it for me. The things I end up not posting usually are because Im struggling to finish it, or because in the end, I'm not liking the post or feel I dont know enough, and not for possible mistakes.

  4. 3

    You certainly don't need to be a native speaker to write well. Surely, it takes time to get better, but tools like Grammarly can help you immensely while you're learning. Besides, when you have enough contact with the language, you kind-of learn along the way, without even having to do it consciously.
    As for blogging - I'd say it depends. I'm running my personal web development blog with over 100 articles written (almost all above 1K words mark), and I think picking English was the right choice. Maybe it is a "saturated" market, but I feel like if I was blogging about this particular topic in my native language, my potential audience, and as a result - my actual audience would be much smaller. I feel like web development and programming, in general, is filled with people who either speak English natively or know the language as it's somewhat required for the job. But again, this depends on your particular niche.
    For landing pages and products - I'd say if you're going global, you must have an English version (not so much for localized products). In my case, I go for English in all my professional activities first and foremost.
    Lastly, mistakes are part of human nature. In the case of languages, you make them whether you're a native speaker or not. Practice and tools help make them less common. I haven't gotten any negative feedback regarding my language/grammar for a long time now. I have some people even thinking that I am a native speaker, even though I'm not. All thanks to practice, attention to detail, and - yeah - Grammarly. 😅

  5. 2

    Being non-ntaive speaker: I tried spending cash on professional proofreading when wrote articles before.

    But stopped it, because native proofreaders modified things I wrote so much, that the ideas behind it was lost.

    So I decided that being not ideal is OK for me :)

    Especially, when it comes to messages, emails, posts etc. it's impossible to order proofreading every time.

    Basic Grammarly is well enough to let me get rid of rough mistakes.

    P.S. When I need to be 99% sure I write things in a clear way, I just write them in short sentences, avoiding any complications :)

  6. 2

    To Francisco, and any other non-native English speakers in this thread, I’d love to help you. I’m a copywriter and content writer. If you have any questions, or just want me to look at your sales page or blog post, I’m down. Just shoot me a DM!

  7. 2

    Hello Francisco,

    As a native French person working mostly in English, I've encountered the issue you're dealing with: Our French company was influenced by very American-culture minded people for whom every piece of content had to be "native-like".

    Eventhough I could speak a very decent English, every article I wrote had to be proof-read by a native speaker, or had to go through Grammarly. I was also forbidden creating any video or audio content with my French accent.

    The issue with this self-limiting rule is that creating content was much more tedious, expensive, and less spontaneous than it could have been. After a while, we hired native English-speakers who helped proofread. Sure enough, the improved a bit my sentences, fixed me an Oxford comma here and there, but I didn't feel like it changed a lot; neither did the analytics.

    My 2 cents is: Try avoiding as few English mistakes as possible. But if the content of your is high-quality, people will take it over a lesser quality, Buckingham Palace-grade English written article.

    We also tend to forget that a majority of people reading articles are not native English speakers, and therefore will enjoy best an easy to understand article. I'm not advocating using Donald Trump's 200 words vocabulary, but you see what I mean: Keep it simple.

    Hope this helps!
    -Jules

    PS: If you're looking for examples to follow, Guillaume Moubeche from lemlist and Tom Soulo from ahref are both non-native speakers making super good content in English.

    I help digital goods makers sell to emerging countries more efficiently on exportator.com
    Let's talk about Purchasing Power Parity! Reach me out on Twitter @julesmaregiano

    1. 1

      I was shocked reading about being forbidden to produce video/audio because of your accent. That is a whole new level. I expected that case to be an advantage because people can tell an accent means the speaker is not native and be more forgiving. Mistakes in written form tend to be more like "this was not important enough for the writer".

      Maybe we both lived in the US, we would be even forced to take that role, because it promotes the "diversity" image of the company.

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        Your point about how a native person would feel to a badly written article is interesting.

  8. 2

    As a non-native speaker I practice English by reading and writing it every single day. I've been doing this for decades. I also use a grammar and style checker, ProWritingAid, and read about writing and English.

    What I find encouraging is there are info products, by both native and non-native English speakers, which sell well despite minor grammar or style issues.

    Although blogging in English may be a saturated market, the potential audience interested in certain niche topics in other languages is often negligible. And likely a complete waste of time.

  9. 1

    Nice thread! Being a Spaniard myself, I'm exactly in the same boat. It certainly feels like being at a disadvantage sometimes, but note the vast majority of English speakers had learned it as a second language.

    Luckily technology can help to level the field. I'm actually working on a SaaS product to tackle this exact problem and help us sound more native 👍🏼

    I'm starting with validation, if anyone is interested and wants to help, I'd love to share some ideas and collect feedback from fellow IH'ers.

  10. 1

    This thread makes me think about my English. My native is Spanish and I have learned by my self like many of you.
    English was a limitation for me because I have never feeled confortable with my level. And the truth is it does not matter. In fact I know English native trying to speak Spanish and they are awful BUT they can even do business in Spanish with a very limited speaking and that makes me feel less unconfortable. So ... don’t think too much about your level just do it 😊

    Btw: I did’t use Grammarly to write this (and I know my gramma is bad!! Haha)

  11. 1

    I’m a native french speaker. I’ve learn english by myself. think about how many mistakes I made without noticed it myself. You’ll probably find some in this comment. 😌
    I wouldn’t worry much about it, use tool like grammarly to help you out, and go for it. You’ll learn in the process.
    I’ve learn that if people understand what you are saying and the value you are providing, they don’t care if you are native or not.
    Never be sorry for your english 😊

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