Don't Listen to Your Teacher

Anne Bonfert

Why are you even reading this?

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

I never thought about writing. Or about becoming a writer. That was never something that would cross my mind. At least not in my younger years.

My memories in school

Growing up in Germany the German language brought me many challenges. It wasn’t my mother tongue, but I spoke it since I was a toddler. Without any accent. But the subject of German in school was never my favorite one. I loved talking in class. Because there, I didn’t have to think. But writing an essay. A poem. A letter. A story. Whatever it was. It wasn't for me. I didn’t get the grammar right. I would place the commas with the salt shaker.

That’s at least how my teacher described it. But I must say I tried. I tried hard. I wasn’t the perfect student, but I had pretty good grades in almost all the subjects. (Except English. I hated the English language.) But I would always just be average in the exams in German.

And it happens somewhere during high school that I have this conversation with my teacher. I was handed the exam I wrote. Lots of red marks were all over it. I read them all. But I wasn’t happy. I wanted to do better. And so I asked him. How can I improve? What is it that I am not getting right?

His answer was:
„Your work isn’t bad. It’s not bad work you handed in. I can see your effort. But you will never become a writer.“

And I walked away. I wasn’t depressed. I accepted it. He said I wasn't bad. He said he did see my effort. And I anyway didn’t want to become a writer. An author? Definitely nothing for me. So he just supported my position with this statement. It didn’t bother me. But it somehow got saved. Somewhere in my brain. And now, ten years later, I find it again. This sentence. This memory.

The time I started to write

I finished school without knowing what I wanted to become in life. I studied something my mom told me to study. Because I didn’t know better. And then I went traveling. Because I knew that is what I wanted to do. And this is where I started writing.

I started writing without any ambitions because I knew I wasn’t good at it. I simply wanted to share my thoughts.

That is why I started writing without thinking about grammar. Or about how the German language works. I simply wanted to share my experiences on this new continent with my family. And instead of writing emails, I decided to start a blog. I wrote long articles. Reports of my daily life in Ghana. Kind of like a journal.

I shared everything with my readers. My emotions. My experiences. If good or bad, I shared them all. And I got a lot of positive feedback. To my surprise! People were contacting me telling me they love reading my stories. They feel like they’ve experienced it with me. As if they were there. In Ghana. People contacted me whom I didn’t hand my website address.

Until today I still don’t know how it got handed over in the beginning. But they kept me going. They motivated me to continue to write. I wrote late at night. I often didn’t proofread anything because I was simply too tired. I just pressed publish and fell asleep right afterward. I didn’t care about my mistakes.

I was only sharing my thoughts with my family. Although I was using a public platform. And I got people commenting on it who I didn’t know. Who found me through the WordPress reader. That was the first time when I thought I might not be such a bad writer.

A new home and a new career

Years later I build up my life in the beautiful country of Namibia.

I built an amazing group of friends around me. An international mixture of cultures. The common ground we shared was the English language. As I mentioned earlier I hated the English subject in school. But after traveling and living for over a year on the African continent, exclusively in English speaking countries, I had to change my attitude towards it.

My French didn’t get me anywhere. And so I started improving. By talking a lot. Like in school. I didn’t care about grammar. I just spoke. And my friends starting correcting me on mistakes. That way I slowly improved.

I still had my blog. I didn’t write daily. I wrote more when we did trips and activities and less when I build up a daily routine in my new home. But I continued to write my articles in German. Remember, I was told I will never become a writer. Whilst German is the language I am (or used to be) the strongest in. How should I write in English? My fourth language.

Well, it was pretty easy. I had by now a lot of friends all over the world with whom I stayed in contact via Facebook. They could see my blog posts and would click on them. Even if they wouldn’t understand them, they would scroll through my pictures.


One evening one of my friends said he would read my articles. He would simply use Google translate for it. I did that with one of my articles afterward. And my decision was made. My English might be far from being perfect. But it is not as bad as Google translate.

I could not accept that my friends were reading my articles through Google translate. Because that was not my writing.

Writing a blog in two languages

And so I started writing my articles in two languages. German and English. German, because a lot of people back home still do not speak or understand English. And English for all my friends all over the world.

Five years after I started my blog I am still writing articles. Bilingual. Every single article I post on my website I write twice. That is how I kept my bilingual audience.

And today?

Recently a friend reached out to me telling me I should write for Medium. I never heard about it. Medium. What is that? I looked it up. An American platform. How should I be writing on there? My English isn’t that good.

But you know what? I will try it. The worst that can happen is that nobody will read it. Maybe I could get negative comments. But I am not scared about that.

And you know what? I actually got some positive feedback from my readers. After being only less than a month on the platform.

“First of all, I want to hug you
Your article resonates with my way of thinking a lot
I also don’t crave for materialistic things
I love being me
I love seeing the world the way it is
And what you are doing makes me proud to know someone like you”
Gurpreet Dhariwal

Do you know how much something like this means to me? To someone who was told she would never become a writer. A lot! A lot more than what I can put in a reply back.

Maybe it was good my teacher told me I would never become a writer. Because that way I didn’t spend much time thinking about it and just started writing.

And I will keep on writing. I will do my best to improve. Because I love to pick up new hobbies. And I love learning new skills.

And soon I will be calling myself an author. Because I am about to finish my first book. And I will publish it. Disregarding what anyone says.

Because I enjoy writing.

“Nobody said it would be easy, so don’t ever give up when it gets hard.” —

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I am a traveler. Photographer. Writer. Teacher. Skydiving instructor. Adventure enthusiast. Nature lover. And fell in love with the African continent. My stories go around travel, nature and all kinds of adventurous activities.


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