Yael Serena

I had wanted to write this post for quite some time now, as it is something I’ve been struggling with since I started this blog. As you probably already know or noticed, English is not my mother language. If you ask me, I’ll tell you that I started learning the language for real only two and a half years ago. I had English courses in school, of course, but I’ve always considered them a joke since they didn’t provide me a solid base to have a decent conversation with a native speaker.

Fortunately, everything changed when I went to Chicago to do my exchange program. After all the embarrassing moments and awkward looks of people who couldn’t understand me, I realized that I needed to do something. Then I started challenging myself with little things that helped me to get better; like reading novels and watching shows in English, spending hours in front of the dictionary, forcing myself to go out and talk with people even though it was the most embarrassing thing ever, etc. Getting rid of the fear of making mistakes was definitely the toughest part for me. Once I had enough confidence in myself and realized that nobody was going to judge me for trying to be better at something, my learning curve increased exponentially.

Beautiful flower

Blogging in a foreign language was another challenge that I set for myself. I wanted to connect with other international bloggers, follow their journeys in different parts of the world, learn other people’s culture and understand the way they think. That’s what enriches my life, and I know I couldn’t have done it if I had written this blog exclusively in Spanish.

I won’t lie to you though; it hasn’t been an easy journey. The worry of sounding like a 3-year-old kid is always in the back of my mind. I constantly have the feeling that I can’t be as creative and funny as I would be in Spanish, that I am not doing a good job conveying people who I am. But the truth is that it’s just me who creates all these worries; I haven’t had a single person be mean to me for the way I write so far. It’s completely the opposite, you guys have always been so supportive, and I cannot thank you enough for that.

I guess my point is that nobody is born knowing everything. Life is a constant learning process that we all have to be part of. Don’t be afraid to do new things outside of your comfort zone, get over the embarrassment of being a rookie at something and keep trying. I promise one day you will be proud of yourself for doing that.




  1. Your command of English is astonishing Yael. Don’t ever worry about that – you are more colloquially proficient than most native speakers I know! I also spend a lot of time proof-reading for non-native speaking English authors; mainly professors here in Turkey who are authoring papers and articles for international publications, as well as post-grad students with 100 page theses. Now if they could write like you, my job would be soooo easy!

  2. Yael, your writing and punctuation is far better than mine, a native English speaker. I have admired your command of the language from day one. And going forward you will only get better. Awesome job!

  3. I would never have guessed that you didn’t always speak English. I’m in a similar situation as I’m French and started English very late. Over time you will lose this “language barrier” and won’t even be able to remember if you thought in english or spanish I bet πŸ˜‰
    Congratulations for your words and pics.

    • That’s completely true! Sometimes when I get lost in my own thoughts I realize that I talk to myself in English, and I feel so proud when that happens. I also remember clearly the first time I dreamed in English – I even woke up Dan just to let him know. I was so excited! haha.

  4. My wife understands me and that is enough. OK, maybe not quite enough as I use her in sometimes editing or translating what I write. I notice that I am usually very quiet when meeting new people. Or in groups of strangers or new friends. But I know this will pass as I become more proficient. Thank you for this post. It made me feel good!

    • I completely understand that feeling Emilio. When I first came here, it was so difficult for me to express myself the way I wanted and I found myself constantly frustrated. It is hard when you can’t show to others the person you really are just because of the language. I promise it will pass, because I don’t feel that way anymore! πŸ™‚

  5. Yael, even as a native English speaker, I struggle with expressing ideas onto the page or onto the screen. It’s often been said that “learning English is easy, mastering English takes a lifetime.” I think what that means is that any language learned is a life-long experience. Your writing is really fine; so do keep on writing!

    • I totally agree with what you’ve said. Mastering a language is more difficult than it seems, there is always something new to learn. I’ll keep writing and improving, for sure! Thank you so much for your encouragement πŸ™‚

  6. When you said “English isn’t my mother tongue” my first thought was “No way.” Actually, your English is really good. Better than lots of other Americans who “ain’t got no time fo’ English.” πŸ˜€

  7. I noticed a while ago that your blog said you were from Spain and was rather surprised given your command of the English language. I never would have guessed you’ve only seriously studied English for a couple of years. I’ve “played” with learning languages and it is not easy. Good for you.

    • It all comes down to invest the right amount of time and practice into something every day. With a new language you have to teach your mind how to think differently, and that’s definitely not an easy task. It surprises me so much to know that some people didn’t know that English is not my mother language, I always had the feeling I was writing like a little kid. Thank you so much for your supportive words, they motivate me to keep improving! πŸ™‚

  8. Very inspiring stuff and beautifully written! I’ve always been curious about the perspectives of non native English speakers who blog in English. I can’t imagine the challenges it must create, I admire your courage. I never would have known that you have been studying for several years. Your command is so good.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words Justin! As I said in the previous comment, when you learn to speak and write in a foreign language, you have to teach your mind how to think and express yourself differently, and that itself is a huge challenge. Writing this blog in English was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made, since it has given me the chance to connect with native English speakers around the world and learn so much from them. I couldn’t have done it without the support of people like you, so thank you! πŸ™‚

  9. You’re doing great! I know what you mean about letting go if inhibitions. I minored in Spanish in college. I always found I spoke better after a cerveca or two!
    Also, we went to visit a friend in central Mexico a few years after graduating, and she forced me to use my Spanish. She wouldn’t translate for me at restaurants and such, so that I had to work my way though it. It worked! By the end of the week I was even dreaming in Spanish! (I’ve forgotten most of it since then sady)

    • Alcohol definitely helps, A LOT! haha That’s why I was saying that the second you get over the embarrassment of making mistakes and force yourself to speak with other people, the improvement is so fast. You should pick up Spanish again, maybe watching some cartoons or movies with your kids in that language. I bet it would be a very fun experience to see how they get crazy good at it in one week while it take you months! haha Jk!

  10. Well, done gal! I should know about it as I’m French! Born with a different language actually means putting in a different feeling in a new language! It can be only positive! After all Samuel Beckett also wrote in French!

  11. You’re english is great – as said many times in the other comments! I sometimes think that too many people concentrate on the way ideas are expressed, than the ideas themselves. Don’t worry – I think everyone who follows you respects your perspective rather than how it reads. You are so lucky that you can speak more than 1 language – even luckier to dream in more than one and talk to yourself! πŸ˜€

    • I’m so lucky for having people who supports me so much here. I really appreciate your words! Dreaming in different languages is so cool, it always make me smile when I wake up and realize that I’ve been dreaming in English the whole night πŸ™‚

  12. I find this post very inspiring and your writing exceptional. If some the people with whom I work could write half as well as you do, my job would be a lot easier. When you talk about getting rid of the fear of making mistakes, I can completely relate to that, and I’m sure a lot of other people can, too. I can be a bit of a perfectionist and don’t like making any mistakes. Over the years, though, I have learned a few things: (1) I can’t control everything, (2) I can only do my best, (3) if I’m not making mistakes, then I’m not making decisions, and (4) if I make the same mistake twice, the second time isn’t a mistake – it’s a choice. I still don’t like making mistakes, but now I look at them as learning opportunities. And that has removed a lot of stress from my life.

    • Thank you for taking the time to write such an inspirational and thoughtful comment Bob. I completely relate with what you’ve said; in my case I’m still learning how to give myself a break every once in a while and accept that I’m going to make mistakes my whole life. I really like your words, thank you so much!

  13. Hi Yael! I would never have guessed that you started learning English only a couple of years ago! You write so beautifully and don’t worry about it, I find you really witty.:) English is my first language and I think it’s one of the most difficult languages to master. As a copy editor, I find myself editing and re-editing my blog posts before I hit publish because there’s just way too much to remember. I picked up Spanish and Japanese fairly easily but even in high school I found myself struggling with English. This is such a beautiful post! Thanks for sharing. xoxo Donna

    • I completely agree with you, mastering English is truly a challenge. I didn’t know you studied Spanish in school, I’d love to have a little chat with you some day! I hope you are having so much fun in Ottawa! Be safe πŸ™‚

      • Hi Yael:) I haven’t practised my Spanish in soooo long. I’m having the most amazing time in Ottawa:) Just got back from ice skating on the canal….it was absolutely freezing out today but we had sooo much fun. I love this city! I’ll upload the photos this week.:)

  14. Have been following your blog for a while now and have loved your writing and photography. Am going to reblog this as you highlight one of the key challenges that people often forget about expats – functioning in a foreign language. And it perfectly complements my own last blog post!

    • Thank you so much! I’m glad I could provide another perspective, and remind everyone that with hard work and dedication we can always accomplish our goals. Thank you so much for the reblog! πŸ™‚

  15. Reblogged this on A Wandering Brit and commented:
    After publishing my last post I started reading the blogs that I follow (it is raining after all!) and came across this one. A perfect reply to my post about language, but from someone who lives in a foreign language. Just brilliant.

  16. Great post Yael. I have wondered this often about you and a few other bloggers I regularly follow where English is their 2nd (or 3rd/4th) language, and how impressive it is. I admire the ideas and thoughts, and it is great that many of the more unique thoughts/words I see and experience are from you and other ESL speakers. Pretty cool stuff. Wonderful post (and enjoyed your photos too, always the main draw in your posts!).

  17. Yael – you are doing a fantastic job writing in English.!! It’s way better than my Spanish.! jajaja…. Sorry, I have been lax reading your blog, my blog news feed has not been updating and so I have fallen behind 😦 Always a pleasure to hear from you πŸ˜€

    • Please don’t apologize for that Rose. Sometimes I get so busy during the week with my daily life that I just don’t have enough time to check out all the blogs I’m a big fan of. I’ve recently read a post of a blogger who was apologizing for being MIA for a while, and one of her reader’s comments was “Don’t apologize to the Internet for having a life outside of it” – I just loved it, couldn’t be any truer!

  18. You have really good English and exceptional writing skills πŸ˜‰ but as another international blogger I completely understand your worries and where they come from.

  19. Happy Valentine’s Day Yael!! You are so brave. Not only do you write and speak well like an American, you know how to craft visuals with your words in your blog. I am curious… was it Grey’s Anatomy that helped you the most with your English? πŸ˜‰

    • I couldn’t have had a better Valentine’s Day – best company ever and the best tiramisu in town! πŸ˜› Thanks again for that, it was delicious!

      Grey’s Anatomy definitely helped (we finished season 9 btw), after hearing technical/medical vocabulary every single night now I feel I could easily have a conversation with a doctor haha!

  20. I understand what you are talking about! I’m from Denmark, and after moving here I got very self conscious about my English. But I find that Americans are impressed if you speak more than one language, because they don’t learn as many languages in school as we do, and I were even asked if families in Denmark speak English in their home, since my English is so good. But I’m still pretty conscious about my abilities and find myself getting a little embarrassed the few times a day there’s a word I’m not pronouncing right. No one seem to mind but me tho.
    Happy Valentine’s Day to you!

    • We both have the same problem Karina, seems like it is never good enough. But sometimes we have to be less tough on ourselves and realized that we have done a great job with our English skills! πŸ™‚ I hope you had a wonderful ValentineΒ΄s Day yesterday!

  21. Wow! I never would have guessed you had only “truly” been speaking English for under three years! Becoming “fluent” in another language is definitely difficult, especially overcoming the self doubt, but if I had not known that you weren’t a native English speaker already, I would not be able to tell just from reading your blog. It’s difficult even for native English speakers to write in a way that sounds natural, and you do an excellent job πŸ™‚

    • Thank you Caitlin, you are so sweet! Learning a foreign language is definitely a challenge for anyone, but I guess I’m the proof that with enough dedication anything is possible! πŸ™‚ I hope you had a great ValentineΒ΄s Day!

  22. I commend you on taking on this challenge and succeeding. I have spoken English my whole life and still can’t get it right. I too have tried to master another language with little success, I have always tried to learn Japanese but get frustrated with my inability to remember things so I give up. You are an inspiration and besides the young fellas will find your accent sexy!

  23. This is an amazing, inspiring story that makes me want to throw myself into learning Spanish the same way. I never would’ve guessed that you’re not a native speaker!

    • If learning Spanish is something you want pretty badly, then go ahead and do whatever it takes to make yourself proud. It really feels good to see yourself getting better at something that you’ve wanted for so long. If I could do it, you can too! πŸ™‚

  24. Your English is absolutely amazing! I tried blogging in Spanish on my oldddddddd blog and it was so intimidating! I was always scared of getting something wrong. You’re doing beautifully on here though! I love your blog :]

  25. Well done! I’m reminded of the time I spent in eastern Canada. I forced myself to use French even though I was uncomfortable with it. The most memorable moments; 1st, ordering a dinner in Quebec City. When I thought I had ordered 2 of the same dinners, only 1 arrived, and my wife refused to share hers with me. 2nd. I found that it was far easier to listen to and understand Acadian French in New Brunswick/Nova Scotia than it was to understand Quebec French! Acadian French is more of a melody. Best wishes from Vancouver Island, west coast British Columbia, cheers, Jim (Jacques).

    • Thank you so much for sharing such a funny story Jim, it made me laugh! I totally admire you for forcing yourself to speak a foreign language, I completely understand how embarrassing that must have been! I hope I can visit Vancouver soon, it’s always been at the top of my “places to visit” list πŸ™‚ Best wishes from Los Angeles!

  26. I’d never have been able to tell from your writing that you are not a native English speaker. This post is definitely encouraging me to step up my language-learing game ahead of my expatriation to France. Thank you!

    • Thank you so much for your sweet words Lisa. Speaking a foreign language is something that it’s going to set yourself apart in the future, I totally encourage you to dedicate some time into it. Good luck!! πŸ™‚

  27. Great post! This gives me inspiration I’m currently learning to speak Chinese! Thank you so much by the way for liking my post To Cambodia with Love. Words can’t express how much it means to me. I wish you the best with everything. πŸ™‚

  28. Hi! I am a fellow expat and LA transplant. I found your blog while Googling something Socal related and have been checking in on and off since. Great photos and great writing! You do a wonderful job expressing yourself.

    • Hello!! I’m so happy to have you here, thank you so much for your kind comment. Where are you originally from? How long have you been in LA? I’m so glad we connected through the blog! Have a great day :):)

      • I’m originally from Hong Kong and have spent some time in Chicago and France before landing here on the opposite shore of the Pacific. Hands-down the best part about LA is exploring its beautiful outdoors! I’m glad you’re getting to do lots of that. I’ll definitely look here for inspiration for next trips. πŸ™‚

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