1. There_She_Goes
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    There_She_Goes Member

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    Expressing that a character is speaking another language?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by There_She_Goes, Mar 30, 2012.

    So, how do you do this? I've got this crazy super-hyper-multilingual story. For example:

    X: (In a foreign language) My dog ate your shoes.
    Y: (In a foreign language) What?! Is it retarded or something?! My dog would never do such thing!
    Z: (In English) What are you talking about?

    or...

    X: (In a foreign language) Mom, can Z come round for dinner?
    Y: (In a foreign language) No, she can't.
    Z: So, what did X say? May I come?

    And the story should be told from the point of view of X. And it should be like "normal text" so not a script.

    Any ideas/techniques?
     
  2. Erato
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    Erato Contributing Member

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    You can say (assuming you're in first person, or else adjust for third):

    "My dog ate your shoes," I told Y in <language>.
    "What?!" cried Y. "Is it retarded or something?! My dog would never do such a thing!" (<<hilarious)
    "What are you talking about?" asked Z in English.

    "Mom?" I called in <language>. "Can Z come round for dinner?"
    "No, she can't," Mom/Y called back.
    "What did she say?" asked Z in English. "Can I come?"

    It would probably be concluded from the context of what we know about X, Y, and Z that Y also spoke in that language.

    You can also say,

    "Canis meus shoesi tui edit," I said. My dog ate your shoes.
    "Quid?!" cried Y. "Stupidus est?! Canis meus numquam quidquid fit!" What? Is it retarded or something? My dog would never do such a thing!
    "What are you talking about?" asked Z.

    You get the idea - and no, that is terrible Latin, I noticed, and if you do use actual words from a foreign language that exists, make sure you know it well, or else be a Tolkien and come up with a grammar system and vocabulary for your own.

    I did this book once where a society had two languages, High Speech, and Common Tongue, and the central character knew both and was constantly translating from language to language to her friends. It was a little tedious, and I had to keep repeating "in High Speech" and "in Common Tongue," but not always, because the reader knew that Vaner spoke High Speech, Thiryn and Haimil spoke Common Tongue, and Seila spoke either depending on which she was talking to. So the context was very important, and I suggest you develop a strong background with your characters. X and Y always speak Pseudolatin around the house. Z speaks no Pseudolatin. Therefore the reason Z doesn't understand the conversation is because it is in Pseudolatin.
     
  3. KindJester
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    KindJester New Member

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    Erato is right, and I add the you must be aware of the POV you've chosen to describe the scene.

    Either you find the correct transcription for the language you're trying to reproduce and write sentences down in the original form, leaving the reader, like your character, unaware of what's going on (and this elevates the reader immersion, in my opinion) or you use indirect description to tell the reader what's going on.
     
  4. There_She_Goes
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    There_She_Goes Member

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    Thanks a lot :D! I've never done this kind of a story and I was so desperate, but now I know exactly what to do :).
     

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