1. TheNumber2
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    TheNumber2 New Member

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    Language Problem!

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by TheNumber2, Feb 12, 2011.

    Hello,
    In the novel I am working on right now my main character goes to Spain. I am stuck because there are some people that only speak Spanish, and others who speak English. The book is written in English but is there a way I can show that one character is "speaking Spanish" and the other is speaking English without saying it every time? I would just put the phrases in Spanish but then the audience that does not speak Spanish would not know what was being said. Help please! Also, if there is a novel out there that deals with this problem that you know of that would be a great help as well! Thanks!
     
  2. joelpatterson
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    joelpatterson Member

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    Tough problem... could you make the first word the of the Spanish sentences start with a Spanish word? "Senor, I am telling you, when we got to the..."

    Kind of a hokey approach... but the real answer may well lie in some "signaling" like this.
     
  3. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    Do you know both languages you want to use? Or do you know someone who can help you if you don't?

    This came up in Haruki Murakami's After Dark and I think it was dealt with well there. The foreign dialogue was written in italics with the translation in brackets immediatly after. Eg:

    "Yao da dianhua ma?" (Do you want to use the telephone?)
     
  4. TheNumber2
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    TheNumber2 New Member

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    I do speak both English and Spanish, so that will not be a problem. I do like that idea of the italics and then brackets after...that might work! :)
     
  5. HeinleinFan
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    HeinleinFan Banned

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    In the novel Dragonwings one of the characters starts out unable to understand much English, so when his friends or family talk to him, the speech is rendered normally, but when English is used the writing is in italics.

    Example:

    Han nudged his little sister. "Xia, be polite. Say 'How do you do?'."
    She looked up at the smiling newspaper seller, going over the strange sounds in her head. "How do you do?"
    The newspaper seller laughed. "What a little lady! I'm quite well, thank you." He turned to her brother. "But I'm sorry, she's too young for a paper route. Ask again next year."
    Han nodded, shook hands Western-style with the strange newspaper seller, and headed out of the store with Xia close behind. "Did we get the job?" she asked.
    Her brother sighed. "No. Maybe next winter."
     
  6. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Another alternative is to add some sort of extra sign to things spoken in language X.

    "Bla bla bla." = English

    "~ Bla bla bla bla.~" =Spanish
     
  7. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    You could make the story all from the perspective of a person who doesn't speak Spanish, but gradually learns the language. For every spanish word the person hasn't learned, put it in spanish. Put all the other ones in English. Slowly, over the course of the story, conversations will start to make more sense to both your character, and the reader.
     
  8. Honorius
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    Honorius Active Member

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    Really you either need to put what the character says in Spanish ("Holla, Como esta?") either with or without a translation, or just explain that he said something in spanish. A translator also helps. If there's someone to translate, then you can not even explain what the Spanish speaker says. All you need would be "He says, 'how do you do?'"
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    read how the pros have done it... you can start with 'for whom the bell tolls'
     
  10. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    I haven't read Shogun, but that might be another good example. And now I might have to read it myself.
     

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