1. JillOfHearts
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    JillOfHearts Member

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    Character Learns Second Language

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by JillOfHearts, Dec 25, 2011.

    Hi everyone,
    Merry Chistmas! It is currently boxing day in Australia.
    Okay, I have a problem. In a novel that I'm writing, the POV character learns a second language. I was just wondering how you'd write that.
    I have seen it written like this:
    "Saal. Akht Kinje Welf, mu Quin Laef. Shunaan,"
    "Welcome. This is King Welf, I am Queen Laef. We bring peace," the woman says.

    "Welcome. This is King Welf, I am Queen Laef. We bring peace," the woman says in Jeyan.

    I prefer the second one, but I just wanted to know what the your opinions are.
     
  2. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't recommend the first. It makes it look too much like separate speakers, I think.

    The second is something much better, as you've got two options.
    For a character who knows the language, you get to write:
    For a character who doesn't know the language, you get to write:
    With the second method, you get to describe body movements and even the sound of the language. For the first option, it's a lot more streamlined than adding in the actual language itself, especially since that relies on you having a strong, accurate knowledge of the language itself; if you have grammatical errors, native speakers will notice.
     
  3. JillOfHearts
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    JillOfHearts Member

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    Thanks! I agree with you.
    (BTW, it's a language I made up, so there wouldn't be any native speakers)
     
  4. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    I thought "Jeyan" didn't sound like the name of a real language, heh. That's even better then, as it gives you more control over what the language sounds like. You can describe it as "lilting" or "harsh" or however you like, and it'll give readers a good impression of how it comes across. Good luck, yeah?
     
  5. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    Funnily enough (it's not funny at all, actually), that response is useless since it doesn't answer the OP's question.
     
  6. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    You could insert the language itself if writing from the perspective of someone who doesn't know it. If writing from the perspective of the guy who's learnt the language, translate long segments and just tell the reader what language they're in.

    (If you were doing a movie, I'd handle it with subtitles.)
     
  7. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    Two things with that, though. When someone's speaking, for example, Japanese, which I don't understand a single word of, I can't recall any particular set of syllables. So I'm at a loss as to exactly what's going on. If you insert the actual language itself for a character who doesn't know it, that almost suggests familiarity.
    As for films, subtitles can be annoying. As far as I'm concerned, subtitles should be used sparingly (unless you're watching a foreign film, like El Laberinto del Fauno, which is brilliant in Spanish.
     
  8. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    Oh, I love subtitles. I have auditory processing issues so I'm more likely to understand written words than spoken ones. And it really bugs me when they have multiple people supposedly speaking different languages but it's all in English. I find that a lot more jarring than text on the bottom. (Then again, I see text in my head when listening to someone talk, so maybe that's why.)
     
  9. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've got no problem with subtitles ordinarily. I like to make sure I don't miss what a character says. But I'm talking about subtitles being used in films to show what a foreign character is saying when the main character doesn't understand it.
    For reference: see any bad comedy with a foreign character speaking their native language.
     

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