Learning To Speak A New Language



Paris Metro - Elizabeth Harper 2010


During my recent visit to Paris with my sister Margaret, she snapped this shot with her iPhone on a crowded Metro train (can you see how small I’m trying to make myself and the disembodied hand over my left shoulder) All over Paris we kept seeing signs advertising classes designed to teach people how to speak Wall Street English. Reading them, I had visions of Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko standing before a chalk board with ” Greed Is Good ” in large letters and a class full of French folks repeating the words slowly one at a time.

Success in any field is contingent upon many factors only one of which might be understanding the language and language can expand to include the necessary knowledge of the industry such as in my case yesterday with regard to news reporting versus feature writing.

Yesterday, I sent off what I thought was a fairly well crafted letter to a large US newspaper suggesting that perhaps there might be a place for my type of writing. I was clearly thinking of my style as being one easily adaptable to feature writing, but I was quickly and very nicely informed that the kind of writing I proposed, ” does not fit with our mission to cover local news and features. “

The woman who sent me the nice response did say that she enjoyed my blog, but it still felt a bit like getting the ” Miss Congeniality ” award to me. I was glad to receive a response at all though and sent back a short thank you while thinking to myself that even though I don’t speak the language of the newsroom, I certainly could do excellent feature work for them on a variety of topics including some more serious areas such as healthcare in the UK versus America … based at least in part on the personal experience of a medically savvy American living in the UK. This suggestion did not get my foot in the door either.

Having spent a great many hours researching the newspaper and the changes it has been through in recent years, I thought (maybe naïvely) I might have a chance and while I don’t think I need to go back to school if I want feature writing to be part of my future, perhaps I might need to work on presenting my ideas using the language of the industry a bit better.

Thanks to everyone who has commented on my first giveaway post if you haven’t had a chance to stop by, do take a minute to listen and comment here. The contest ends this Friday at 2:00 am Eastern Standard Time.