So what do they all have in common?
Roald Dahl, author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach
Jack Kerouac, journalist, Beat writer, author of On the Road and The Dharma Bums
Joseph Conrad, one of the masters of English prose, author of Heart of Darkness
Vladimir Nabokov, author of Lolita and Pale Fire
Answer. None of these four authors was born into an English speaking family.
Roald Dahl (1916–1990) was born in Wales to Norwegian parents and spoke Norwegian at home. Referred to by The Independent as “one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century,” he learned English at a series of English boarding schools and became a fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War.
Jack Kerouac (1922–1969) was born as Jean-Louis Lebris de Kérouac into a French Canadian family and spoke French at home. He was not completely at home with English until he was a teenager. Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs are considered to be the fathers of the Beat Generation.
Joseph Conrad (1857–1924) was born as Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski to a Polish family living in Kiev, Russian Empire (now Ukraine). Often considered to be one of the greatest of all English novelists, he perfected his English as a sailor during 16 years at sea on British ships.
Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov (1899–1977) was born in St. Petersburg into an affluent Russian family and learned English and French as well as Russian when he was a child. His first nine novels were in Russian, but his best work was in English. He was also a lepidopterist (expert on butterflies).
There are thousands of people who live on six continents who tackled English, a supposedly difficult language, and mastered it. They can speak English (sometimes, like Conrad, with an accent) and write English as competently as they handle their mother tongues.
At the same time, there are people all across the English-speaking world who claim that correct English grammar, punctuation, and spelling are too difficult. Instead of putting in the effort required to master their mother tongue, they prefer to be semi-literate or even illiterate.
Abraham Lincoln had less than a year of actual schooling He educated himself, and yet his grasp of the English language was extraordinary. The next time your child complains about his or her English homework, you can talk about these famous authors.