1. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Is it ok to use a foriegn language for the sake of continuity?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Cave Troll, Jan 24, 2016.

    First off I don't speak another language (English & American are my native tongue :p). I have a character that is Russian, and she has taught another character to speak it and vice versa. So my question is: Is it ok to use the characters native language in moderation within their dialogue?

    Not trying to say that I use it constantly, but only in certain situations as a way to keep the characters continuity with their roots.

    What are your thoughts? Thanks :)
     
  2. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think that "continuity with their roots" is a good reason. Especially as only one character has Russian as her roots. I worked with a couple, he was English, she was French, he had learned French well enough that they would converse in French because otherwise she would have to speak a foreign language ALL day at work and at home too - and her English wasn't that good. But I don't think you need to keep reminding the reader of her Russian roots. Establish it well enough in the beginning, and they won't forget...especially if her name is Russian.

    First, why do they need to use it? Occasionally having a native German saying "Liebchen" may reinforce that English isn't her first language, and she sometimes has to lapse. But, unless you want to give that message, it's a bit stereotypical. Unless you want to have them conversing in Russian to fool those stupid Americans, ha-ha!

    Second, is your readership going to understand the Russian you put in? Or are you going to have to give a translation? In which case, why don't you just write He said in Russian.?

    Third, if you don't speak another language, you run the risk of getting it wrong, and looking stupid to a genuine Russian-speaker.

    ETA: and why would you want to put the publisher to the heartache of using Cyrillic script?
     
  3. kateamedeo
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    kateamedeo Active Member

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    I have to agree with @Shadowfax. If you establish the Russian roots well enough, the reader will remember.

    Another thing with using a language you do not speak fluently is that the text might look foolish to any reader that does know the language (makes me cringe every time I watch American movies with 'Russians' in them :D or Chinese or Italian for that matter ).

    You could use the occasional 'broken English' for that character's dialogue. But then again, to convince the reader you should know what are the typical mistakes a Russian person makes when speaking English.

    Edgar Allan Po used French in his writing. It really broke my reading as I do not speak French and it made it more difficult to read. So this is the problem you risk facing by using another language (which uses a completely different alphabet at that). And then you would need to find a mother tongue to check all your spelling and grammar.
     
  4. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    If, by 'in moderation,' you mean the odd word or small phrase here and there, I don't see a problem. I have some background in French, but was ticked off and distracted by the use of whole sentences in Nabokov's Lolita because I almost knew what they meant. So if the context makes it fairly clear what's being said or referred to, it could be okay, as I see it. And you can use the English alphabet for Russian words just as we do for Russian cities, it's called transliteration. The words should be italicized though.
     
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  5. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    I use it in moderation, literally use it maybe once or twice, in an emotional context of the story. But not like they have full conversations in Russian. I use the English alphabet, cause copy and past from a translator screws up Words editor (Found that out on a different shorter piece :p).

    Ultimately I don't beat anyone on the head with it regularly. Only use it rarely as way to show a connection between the two characters, and the type of relationship they have to each other. So I would like to think that in the given context I will be alright getting away with a few small phrases that will only possibly occur once, or twice throughout.

    Thanks for clearing that up. :D

    Excerpt For Reference:


    “I will be with you in spirit and wish you a swift victory”, I say to her in a more fatherly way”, You have grown to be a daughter that would make any man proud to have raised. It is time for you to rise and be the woman you have become. Ya lyublyu tebya moya doch’, mozhet vy kogda-nibud’ borot’sya dal’she.” She smiles in her emotional pain with a tear streaking down her cheek.

    “ Ya tozhe tebya lyublyu papa”, She says with a catch in throat. Although it hurts to tell her this grim concept, she must fly on her own. I wipe the tears from her face, like I had many times since they day I found her as a little girl.

    “Now go and make your future a better one. And if there is a god, I will see you again before I go”, I say with strained optimism.

    “Da papa, I will do my best”, she says with a strained smile, and rises back upright beside the bed letting my hand go. She marches out of the room, and I feel terrible that I will not be there to keep her safe from the bad guys, but she is a grown and lethally capable woman. It is her turn to fly and make her own way.

    I hope this clears up any confusion as well. :D
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2016
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  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Who translated this for you?
     
  7. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Though Russian allows for a variety of word orders due to its inflected nature, S-O-V is the most common, default structure for simple sentences. Ya tebya lyublyu (Я тебя люблю ) would be a more natural way of saying I love you. The moya doch' part (my daughter), no. Russians don't speak that way. He would say her name in an endearing form. Russians make an art of endearments. It's part of their culture. What's her name? I'll find you a good form.

    The second part of the sentence is worded strangely. It's a word-for-word translation from English (can you ever fight on) and that's just not how it would be said in Russian. Also, mozhet (может) is the wrong conjugation for vy (вы). Should be mozhete (можете), but he wouldn't refer to his daughter as vy - too formal - ty (ты) would be more natural. The conjugation for ты would be ty mozhesh' (ты можешь). Also, it's missing the li particle (ли) to make the interrogative complete. Mozhesh' li ty eshcho borat'cya? (Mожешь ли ты ещë бороться?). The verb mozhesh' would go first, idiomatically, because it's the focus of the question, the logical subject, not to be confused with the grammatical subject. The question is about capacity. The li particle always goes after the focus of the question.

    See how far that is from what google translate gives?

    Lastly, if you're going to transliterate it (Latin letters instead of Cyrillic), I might actually drop the apostrophes that represent the soft sign (ь). Native English readers aren't going to have a clue what it's there for.

    I was a Russian interpreter in the USAF. ;)
     
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  8. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think Wreybies has hit one of the big problems - online translator programs just don't do a good job of translating things. If you need proof, find a foreign-language website and cut and past a chunk into the translator - see if the English version is anywhere close to realistic sounding.

    Based on the excerpt, I'd say this wouldn't add to the story, for me. I'm not sure exactly what they're saying, and it makes me feel like I'm missing something.

    A single word here or there might make sense, but entire phrases? I'd rather see the English version, with "he said in Russian" or whatever if necessary.
     
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  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    And how thankful I am for it! I'd be out of a job otherwise. :ohno::-D:bigwink:
     
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  10. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Yeah I know, google translator is not the best. Could you suggest an online translator that does a better job? Thanks. :p

    @BayView It would make more sense to you, if you had read the first book where this is explained. But that will probably never happen cause I doubt it will ever get published, but ya never know. :D

    I wonder if I would have gotten this much flack for say I don't know, using an Alien Language instead of a known language. Pretty sure I would, but nobody would be able to point out the grammar and so forth considering it would not be a "real" language. :p
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2016
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  11. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yep. His name is Wreybies. Right here. Just PM me. ;) There are no good on-line translators for English/Russian. The grammar is too different and they have no capacity to take cultural dynamics into account.
     
  12. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's not just google, it's all online translators.

    Human language is tricky, full of nuance and colloquialisms and connotations - it can only really be understood as a holistic part of the world, and online translators can't do that. (Yet. So don't get too cocky there, @Wreybies!)
     
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  13. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Haha :-D May it happen (please!) in that part of the human timeline where I am already collecting social security. :whistle: :bigwink:
     
  14. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    The answer to these types of "is it OK" questions is always "yes." The qualifier is always "just make sure you do it well."
     
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  15. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    ^^^This is important. I read books written in multiple languages and italics makes like so much easier.

    ^^^^This too. I have a few Russian place names in my current WIP and every person who has critiqued circled the apostrophes thinking they were typos or that I used them incorrectly. I chose to keep the apostrophes, but it does seem to confuse readers.

    I write in multiple languages also. I usually approach it in one of two way. For the short story I just submitted to a fiction contest, I translated it in the text. It looked a little like "Spanglish," but I think it got the point across.
    Example:
    Tá’c méywi,” I greeted him, “Good morning.”
    “No,” he said pointing to his watch, “You’re wrong, it’s almost two-thirty.”
    I smiled at him. “Tá’c haláxp, good afternoon, then.”

    If you are using entire sentences, be sure to footnote it! That's what I'm doing with my WIP and as a reader it makes life much easier. I can kind of muddle through French, but its much easier just to check the footnote and know what was actually said. Or to at least verify that they said what you think they said. ;) And if you were to throw something like Russian at me, I wouldn't have a clue.
     
  16. kateamedeo
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    kateamedeo Active Member

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    mozhet vy kogda-nibud’ borot’sya dal’she. -> didn't get this at all until read further comments :p

    "Ya tebya lyublyu" in this case works as good as "Ya lyublyu tebya", it's an informal conversation and as Russian is a language that permits forms other than SVO it is absolutely dependent on the writer (what meaning he wants to convey and which words to stress).

    Mozhesh' li ty eshcho boyat'cya? (Mожешь ли ты ещë бороться?). -> Mozhesh' li ty eshcho borotsya? (there's a mistake in the transliteration of the sounds, otherwise it spells boyatsya - to be afraid)
     
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  17. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    There are no good online translators, period! One of my favorite authors occasionally takes a notion to write in Gaelic. I've yet to find a decent translator for that.
     
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  18. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Interesting. I have had one Beta that did not even notice the little bit I tossed into my first novel. I don't know the rules for Italics when it comes to dialogue anywho. I think it would be on the same wavelength as thoughts, it can be done with or without them. At least according to a few articles I have looked into involving the topic of how to write thoughts. :p
     
  19. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    I hate italics for thoughts. Italics for foreign languages registers with my brain as, "I don't need to understand this, it will be translated somewhere." No italics and I think, "Shit, now I have to figure this out." At least, that's how I view them as a reader--there will be others who think differently.
     
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  20. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    That was my fault in the translit. Yes, borat'cya, not boyat'cya. ;)
     
  21. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Fair enough. I guess I should consider a terminology index, because I use a fair amount of Slang that is not well known (and yet easily looked up), along with the Alien interpretation of some of the few things thrown out for the sake of having E.T. beings that speak a entirely unknown language. Though would this kill the 'magic' and wonder of the fiction? Why does this have to be so damn complicated?
     
  22. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    You can definitely consider it, but know that there are readers (I am one of them) that get very frustrated at having to ref an index (key term is having to). I'm like Miranda Priestly looking at a fashion collection. One strike purses my lips. Two strikes glazes my eyes. Three strikes and I turn away. Your line will not be featured in the magazine. Some readers don't care. Some seem to love diving into that index. To each their own.
     
  23. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    I guess I will tread lightly, and let the little things slip through seeing as they go largely unnoticed anyway unless they are pointed out. :p
     
  24. BoddaGetta
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    BoddaGetta Active Member

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    It depends on how long they were in their foreign country and if they are around other people that speak the same language. Even then, if it is from the character's POV and they are speaking another language with a person that communicates back, you can still have it in English. Just clarify at some point with they "conversed in Russian" or something along those lines.

    Most of my employers for the past 5 years or so have not been born and raised in America. As I said before it depends on how long they have been here and how often they interact with others from their country.

    My previous employer was Chinese, but to most everyone except those he knew to be Mandarin speaking Chinese, he spoke English, even though he'd only lived there for about 2 years. Toward the end of my time working there if he got frustrated he even cursed in English when he thought no one was listening. He still had a heavy accent.

    My current employer is Russian, like your character. She was raised there until about 10. She has zero accent, I've never heard her speak one word of Russian unless I've asked, and there aren't any Russians around the town we live in.
     
  25. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Well my character has an accent and is fluent. It just feels natural to show it off (however grammatically challenged it may be). :p

    After this response, each of my following will be in an Alien language...so you can have fun trying to decipher what craziness I will be responding with. :twisted::D :p
     

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