1. AgentSoapbox

    AgentSoapbox New Member

    Feb 4, 2012
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    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by AgentSoapbox, Feb 4, 2012.

    Hello all,

    I'm trying to write a novel which takes place primarily in Cuba beginning at the turn of the 20th century and on to the present. For the majority of the story, the setting is in Cuba, however I foresee a problem with the language. Obviously, the language spoken in Cuba is spanish, but my novel is in english. The first problem I encounter is that my characters do not seem real enough in english. Certain phrases just down cross over well into english, and their english equivalent is just makes them seem too American. The second problem I see coming down the pike, is that in one portion of the book, the main character moves to the United States and has difficulty communicating with people. How do I write good dialogue when two of my characters are speaking english, but neither is supposed to understand each other? granted, I could use spanish and english in that portion of the novel, but then the reader wouldn't understand.

    In short, how do I effectively write a novel in english when the characters would naturally be speaking spanish?
  2. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    May 19, 2007
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    Massachusetts, USA
    For each scene, use one of the characters for the point of view. That character will hear the other one talking, but won't understand more than a word here or there. So you won't be quoting the other person's dialogue. But you will observe his reaction when your character speaks. The other character will look perplexed, frustrated, impatient.

    If a third character is present who understands both languages, you can quote both sides of the conversation, but the characters' reactions and the disconnect between what each is saying will make it clear neither one understancds the other.

    Dialogue can, and often does, consist of two people talking about completely different things. What is said is only part of what is conveyed by dialogue. What is not said is also important, as is what is implied by tone, phrasing, and other cues.
  3. Cacian

    Cacian Banned

    Oct 25, 2011
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    I would not have any problems dealing with the idea that cubans can speak perfect English in a story/book.
    I know it is a story so it fine.
    The only thing you may want to do is highlight they way cubans think/behave and make cultural references using English.
    For example a cuban may say something about the fact that they are the best ophtalmologist in the world because they are.
    You may want to cross reference with they way they dress/behave/ their food.In other cuban culture wrapped up in a langauge that is not theirs.
    It makes the whole English more interesting richer and full cultural references.

    For example a cuban in more likely to say this:
    let's play football barefeet on the beach this afternoon.
    This is typical of cuban hobbies because the weather is hot and they do practice football on sand.

    A typical English sentence woul be
    the queen has gone to Balmoral for her holidays.
    This a typical English sentence you would hear on the News or papers.

    These are two perfect English sentences but one is cuban way and the other is an English way.

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