1. Ashlyn
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    Ashlyn New Member

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    Languages...

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Ashlyn, Oct 16, 2016.

    Hi! I'm new to the site, so hopefully this is in the right category.
    Basically, I need help about conveying different languages in my first ever novel. The story is set on an entirely different planet, and the characters speak a different (made up) language. How could I make this clear? Also, however, one of the main characters occasionally speaks in English, since he is from Earth. This is what I am having trouble with. Obviously, since I'm writing the whole novel in English (otherwise it wouldn't be understandable), would I just put his dialogue in italics when he is not speaking the planets native tongue?
    Any help and tips would be really appreciated. Thank you. :)
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Quick question: What's your POV? 1st person, 3rd person limited, 3rd person omniscient...?
     
  3. U.G. Ridley
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    U.G. Ridley I'm a wizard, Hagrid Supporter

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    Definitely don't do it in italics. Italics will get really annoying if you use them a lot, especially if you do several long sentences or entire conversations. I've seen different authors handle this issue in many different ways. Some people will first write the sentence out in the non-English language, then write out the English translation afterward, but this is only viable of you are dealing with very short pieces of dialogue. If you do that with full conversations, it will get really tiresome to read. Other's simply tell the reader when someone is speaking English and when they are speaking some other language. I believe George R.R. Martin does that a lot. When someone speaks Dothraki, he just says that that's what they're speaking, sometimes pointing out how the language's vocals sound like from the POV of the main character, and having some words remain in that language rather than translating it, usually words that are specific to the culture of that language. Personally, I think the way George R.R. Martin does it is best, so I'd recommend to maybe read some of his books to see how he does it. I'm pretty sure he uses a few different techniques depending on the situation. Also, don't write out a person's dialogue if the POV character doesn't speak their language. In a situation like that, you would just describe how the language sounds like to the POV character and maybe have them recognize a few words here and there if they know any, or maybe they notice that some words are repeated a lot or something like that. Just don't use different fonts for different languages. That'll probably get pretty tiresome for the reader.
     
  4. Ashlyn
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    Ashlyn New Member

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    It's third person.
     
  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Ok, with that in mind, you can use the narrative to indicate. If it were 1st person, we would be limited by what the 1st person narrator can know and understand, but in 3rd person the narrator can let us (the readers) know what's happening. As pointed out by @U.G. Ridley, you can have the narrator give us a feel what things sound like even when the dialogue is written in English for the reader to understand.

    Lakhmer said, "Kill him now."

    Meros did not need to speak Merovian to understand the meaning. The words were spat out in a harsh guttural. His fate was clear.


    Melodramatic, and not meant as an example of my skills, but more just to get my point across. ;)
     
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  6. ChaosReigns
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    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

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    I had a similar issue while writing my series, while Elfish and Dwarfish are both relatively well known languages amongst the fantasy genre, theres another couple of languages i've dealt with (both human languages)

    I use one called "common tongue" (which is English) for the characters to make things easier while writing. However, that's not it, the two i use are Hdrethi and Jasmithri.

    for the most part i do what Wrey has suggested, but occasionally i put some in to make a point. i.e:

    “Kúáézén, they tried to attack?” Zari asked, Isake cringed while Kilnir nodded. “and you got caught by it? damn!” Zari cursed.


    “I rather you didn’t curse in Hdrethi dude, it isn’t a nice language as it is, but the swearing makes it worse.” Isake said.

    or

    “Zari, kaiesh tryish fyl kurien Jas mar kuuro?” Isake asked in Jasmithri


    “hai kiira yalo, kuula frus ju chi xari” Zari replied.


    “I'm surprised you still remember the Jasmithri I taught you those years ago.” Isake replied in common tongue.


    “wait, is there any way we could get a translation of that?” Kilnir asked.


    “the short version is can you still remember Jasmithri? Zari’s response was yes; I can remember it but barely” Isake replied. In common tongue.

    However, i wouldn't include the language(s) too much, otherwise you could turn the reader off quite quickly.
     
  7. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Well you could...
    1. Create an entire language(s)
    2. Simply put in a note or tag saying that the speaker is talking in a strange tongue.
    3. Both 1-2, though it is advisable to define or convert the fictional language to one that the reader can understand.
    4. Just use entirely new language and then either have a glossary in the back of the book. Or for marketing have a separate book
    the language translated to English. Though this might annoy your reader if they need an accessory to get the whole story from
    your book.

    Personally I use 3 as it makes things simple. :p (Also pretty darn tricky if I had to write at least a half dozen new languages.) :supergrin:
     
  8. NiallRoach
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    NiallRoach Contributing Member

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    "Naja", said Niall. "Ich wuerde dir nicht vorschlagen, alles auf diese neue, empfundene Sprache zu schreiben. I wouldn't suggest writing everything in this new, invented language. Sondern waere das bestimmt besser, rather, it would be much better, die englische Uebersetzung zu schreiben, to write the english translation, und irgendwie den Leser wissen lassen, and let the reader know, welche Sprache es wirklich ist, which language is really being spoken."

    Hopefully that illustrates the point. Just write it in English and sod the rest, unless it's tiny parts of speech that don't really matter. Tell us what language they're speaking, and trust us to remember who speaks what to whom.

    To any and all Germans who stumble across this: Entschuldigung.
     
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  9. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    Concur with @NiallRoach. less is more. I deal with a lot of languages in my work, primarily Latin, some Chinese and a smidgeon of ancient Bactrian (one phrase). Use the original language when there is a point to be made. I used Chinese for official titles (weiwei/taiwei, tingwei: ministers of guards, army, and justice), things for which there was no Latin equivalent, (lian-yu, repeating crossbow, kwai-ji "quick bamboo" chopsticks, ma-deng "horse things," stirrups). I used Latin for profanity fellator, cocksucker, organization names Legio XII Fulminata, Twelfth Lightning Bolt Legion, thereafter XII Ful or the Twelfth, and titles Princeps Senatus, First Man in the Senate, the emperor's proper title. In short, enough to make the reader feel they are in the place and time, somewhere different, but not so much as to inundate them with linguistics that contribute nothing to the story. And translate them immediately on first use. Languages are part of the story, as my travelers have to master two, both on short notice, and communications problems emerge. Also some speak only Aramaic (phrases from which I don't include), and I have one Cherokee (not identified, but his words are the clue) Galosga, his name, "he who fell down", dawisgala, flint, huldaji, mountain lion, his pet name for his beloved Hina, and suru, corn, or capitalized, Corn Mother. The latter is never translated because there is no equivalent... he needs some for a ceremony, but has to settle for wheat instead.

    Remember, you want the reader to be impressed with the story and the characters, not your brilliance in linguistic contrivances. Keep yourself out of the story
     

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