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  1. motormouth
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    motormouth Member

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    how do i write a bilingual character??

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by motormouth, Oct 5, 2011.

    I wrote this thread already and it got deleted for reasons i don't know why, maybe because i played a prank with the title. But here it is straight forward- How do i write dialogue for a character who speaks English as a second language but Spanish as their primary??? I.e they speak Spanish more comfortably as their natural language but since they are now married to a person who speaks English as well as being among English speaking people since they left Colombia. My original idea was that certain spanish words pop up into the conversations i.e insults but also when she gets angry in the script, (which is alot) she breaks into full Spanish sentences

    Any advice?
     
  2. Marranda
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    Marranda Senior Member

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    Ah. I know this struggle, except it's the opposite for me. I have characters who are English, with Spanish as their second language, and who are incahoots with a largely hispanic community, thus the need for them to know and understand spanish.

    I don't know what methods you've tried, or are using currently, but what I do might help you.

    I make a list of words in Spanish that I find are easy to implement in my story (usually used in dialog), and put them in a 'word box', then as my story and characters progress, I introduce the Spanish words as I see fit. Sometimes the English translation is put in a narrative section, or another character will chime in and use the same words but in it's English version.
    Example::
    Father: "Go change your dress. That one is feo, no me gusta."
    Daughter: "I don't care if you think it's ugly and don't like it, papa, I'm wearing it anyway."

    I know this isn't fool proof, and there will deffinitely be a need to change things up instead of always using the translations in narration, character's thoughts, or dialog, but that's what I do, and I don't do it very often.

    I hope this all helps!

    ---------- Post added at 11:34 AM ---------- Previous post was at 11:28 AM ----------

    http://www.writingforums.org/showthread.php?t=44023&highlight=

    ---------- Post added at 11:34 AM ---------- Previous post was at 11:34 AM ----------

    That might also help
     
  3. mugen shiyo
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    mugen shiyo Contributing Member

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    ^ I like that suggestion.

    Maybe also, in some way, make it known in your story when the guy is speaking spanish or not and just write the parts in english that he's speaking if you need the reader to understand what he's saying.

    "What'll it be, man?" the cook yelled over the counter in Spanish, not bothering to turn from his grilling.

    "Red beans and rice, no onions," Robert replied in kind, natural as breathing.



    You might be able to increase the effect by having parts where their is no translation and you write what he is saying in spanish. The reader doesn't have to know what he said, or if they did, it can be translated through the following actions of the people or the following events of the story.

    Other than that, I'm fresh out of ideas.
     
  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    You didn't ask for advice on this, but I can't help noting that the hot-tempered Hispanic woman who loses her temper and rants in Spanish is a bit of a stereotype.

    ChickenFreak
     
  5. Marranda
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    Marranda Senior Member

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    As stereotypical it may be, it is still a valid one. My mother's side of the family is Mexican Indian, and the hot tempers and switching to Spanish when pissed off is very common for us. Having grown up in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood, I know it's not just my family that has fiery women and Spanish-speaking tempers.

    Also, I've seen a lot of people on here say that everything's been done already, it's how you do it that defines you as a writer. So what if motormouth has a hot tempered hispanic woman who prefers to cuss in spanish? It's their character, their story, and that's what's going to make it unique.

    Hopefully? :)
     
  6. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    I agree with Mugen,
    let the reader know how it feels for a conversation to go on without knowing what is said.
    That is common when one person doesn't speak as well as others. When surrounded by people speaking rapidly(muy rapido)
    it doesn't help to figure out word 4 by the time the speaker is on word 30.
    (I know, I have walked down a German/Greek/Spanish street alone, and had people speak to me)
     
  7. Kaynic
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    Kaynic Member

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    Personally, I feel readers can often figure out, if not the exact meaning, then the gist of what character is saying. One of my own occasionally slips into his native Albanian when he speaks about something he's passionate about, or when he's emotional. Also, though he does speak fluent English, if he's having trouble describing something or finding a word, he'll fall back on his native language. Much of what he says is not translated -- the characters understand him, in a way -- but I think given some kind of context most readers will understand the gist. So you might consider this option, of including Spanish phrases and using context or the comments of other characters to clarify, though you'd want to be careful, as it could very well seem false and stilted; most people won't give any hint of what someone said in a different language if they speak the language themselves -- they'll answer them just as if they were speaking normally.
     
  8. motormouth
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    motormouth Member

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    Thanks- a couple of points not noted
    This is actually for a play script not a novel.
    I originally envisioned her as being hot tempered but now its been a slow burn- basically, shes a newly wed and she and her husband are constantly butting head, so shes pretty much frustrated from months of conflict when we first see her.

    I've envisioned her as talking like this
    She speaks English with an accent usually, however, she will not use contractions as i don't think they exist in Spanish (as far i know ) so in stead of i don't care she says- i do not care.
    Plus- she will switch to natural spanish occasionally if she doeskin know the word or is angry and will translate back words back to people

    e.g - Diga me vijo.... Listen to me ,old man
     
  9. Lalli38
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    Lalli38 Member

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    Hello all!

    I suppose I have the same problem in my novel, and it has been an issue, especially in dialogue bits. My main male character is just learning English and he doesn't speak it well. I suppose I don't really alter the dialog to make it seem as though he is faltering. I would NOT write "I am no very understand you" (as one of my friends actually would say =P) I would write it in correct English, but in the part where I describe him, his appearance, mannerisms, etc. I include something that points out his heavy accent, etc. Something like "Antonio Garcia's stumbling English showed nothing of the privileged education he had been afforded. He had managed to accumulate only the very basics in his high school English class, but what he lacked in vocabulary he made up for with the luxuriance of his thick Venezuelan accent." blah blah blah.

    And about the hot tempered Latin woman thing- totally not a stereotype...well, maybe it is, but I think most of us would gladly admit we are just like that. =P I save my Spanish for rants and complaints. Where it concerns those, English just doesn't cut it for me XD

    Cheers!

    ---------- Post added at 09:59 AM ---------- Previous post was at 09:54 AM ----------

    Oh, and also... If you are going to throw in Spanish phrases they MUST be correct. FYI... "Diga me vijo" doesn't really mean anything. It would be Dígame viejo. Or Dime viejo.

    No worries though! If you have Spanish grammar questions, there are plenty of resources out there. If all else fails, turn to google translate. =)

    Cheers
     
  10. motormouth
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    motormouth Member

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    thanks. i actually made a mistake using an online translator- i put in the like - i want to quit (the marriage) and it put up fumar as the word. only for my spanish speaking friend to tell me i put she is going to stop smoking.

    Heres the original dialogue
    fell free to critique

    Marianna(hold his hand and pulls him back). Uno momento.
    Sydney-- What???
    Marianna- You’re not going to wear that shirt are you????
    Sydney- Why not??? It’s my favourite one.
    Marianna- But we’re out on a cruise!!!! Why didn’t you wear one of the new ones I bought you????
    Sydney (puzzled) Because…… I don’t want to…..
    Marianna (angry) That is so like you!!! You NEVER appreciate anything do for you!!! You’d rather go out looking like a vagabundo . Do you know how long I looked for those shirts!!!!! (meanwhile everyone in the bar is looking at them argue)

    Sydney(angry) Marianna!! Are you really going to make a scene here in front of all these people over a shirt???

    Marianna- Escena? No estoy haciendo una escena. Nadie es ....(looks and sees them watching them, everyone quickly goes back to what they’re doing except Walter, who stands there laughing)

    Marianna- What is the joke????

    Walter- Joke?? .No joke,I’m just laughing at the fact that I haven’t seen anyone get dictated like that since I left boot camp. Senorita Castro.
    Sydney (angry) Hey!!!!!
    Marianna (angry) Digame, Viejo, I am not dictating him, ¡ So Métete en tus asuntos !. And numero dos. I am not Cuban!! Soyo Colombiana.
     
  11. Lalli38
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    Lalli38 Member

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    Got it. Ok, here we go:

    Marianna(hold his hand and pulls him back). Uno momento. :::::::::::::::::This should be un momento

    Marianna (angry) That is so like you!!! You NEVER appreciate anything do for you!!!::::::::::::::::: You're missing an "i" in anything I do for you, unless you purposely left it out to communicate accent. If that's the case, I think you should find another word to leave out. For most people who learn English in Latin America, they would learn "I ..." phrases first and don't usually forget it. I'd say you could leave out so in so like you.

    Marianna- Escena? No estoy haciendo una escena. :::::: Ok, at least in Venezuela we wouldn't usually say "escena" for this. We would say "Escándalo" so: Escándalo? No estoy haciendo un escándalo!" which is literally scandal. The problem here is that you're trying to bounce off of the English expression. But in my opinion, escandalo is more authentic.

    Nadie es ....(looks and sees them watching them, everyone quickly goes back to what they’re doing except Walter, who stands there laughing)::: If you're saying "es" because you realize there is more to the word and you cut it off to dramatize the stop I suppose its fine, but if you were going to say no one is looking/paying attention, etc. it would be "nadie está"

    Marianna (angry) Digame, Viejo, I am not dictating him, ¡ So Métete en tus asuntos !. And numero dos. I am not Cuban!! Soyo Colombiana. ::: I don't really understand this part. Anyway, it seems like you're trying to say "mind your own business" but I wouldn't say it as metete en tus asuntos. I guess I would say "no es asunto tuyo" actually most native speakers would use something more informal like "no te metas en lo que no te importas" (don't get involved in something that doesn't concern you" or if you want to go really authentic you could say "zapatero a sus zapatos" which is kind of funny and appropriate. It actually means that a shoemaker minds his own shoes.

    Also, it's SOY COLOMBIANA not Soyo

    Cheers!
     
  12. motormouth
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    motormouth Member

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    thanks alot alot of those are typos which i made due to typing quickly. My problem is that i use google translate wich provides literal translations rather than the informal one which the locals would use. If you dont mind ,i'd put up some phrrases that i would like her say.

    heres one- Why are you so stubborn.

    Nothing is wrong with that, nothing at all
    i ll get some more
     
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