1. Francis de Aguilar
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    Francis de Aguilar Active Member

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    Using foreign phrases

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Francis de Aguilar, Sep 12, 2016.

    This is an extract from a scene I am working on. Does the use of Italian work? I have tried to use context and dialogue to make it understandable.

    The rapid staccato of an Italian tv game show issued from the next room. Dick leant on the window cill enjoying the warm breeze at dusk and was just about to call Maisie when he was approached by a tall, rather imposing man.



    “Richard Pentangelo?”



    Surprised, he looked up, “Yeah Why?”



    Dick did not understand when the man said,



    “La dichiaro in arresto.”



    As the man spoke two men in uniform pushed past him and into the room.



    “Per favore,” said the tall man, placing a firm hand on Dick’s upper arm, he led him back into the room.



    Suzie sat up in bed, hastily clutching the sheet to cover herself, the policemen leered.



    “You are both arrested because of drugs,” The tall man said, in slightly broken, but excellent English. “We will inspect this rooms. Cerca il posto,” he barked. The two officers tore their eyes away from Suzie and began to poke around.


    “Please Signorina, put on some clothes, we must leave soon.”


    Susie stood, bringing the sheet with her and headed toward the bathroom.


    “A moment Signorina, Il bagno è pulito,” He called to the officer who was in there.


    “Si commendanti.”


    “Okay, go ahead.” He nodded at Suzie. She gathered some clothes from the chair.


    “Lo terrò d'occhio il suo comandante,” said the leering officer.


    Susie turned and said, “Fuck off you perv.” His wide grin snapped to a scowl.


    “No Theo”—he shook his head—“please go ahead Signorina.”


    “What was that about?” asked a stunned Dick, who was only now recovering from the shock of this turn of events.


    “Ape man here wanted to ‘keep an eye’ on me,” replied Suzie, firing a withering look at the leering cop.


    “Fucks sake.”


    While Suzie was getting dressed, Dick asked the tall guy, who seemed to be in charge, what his name was.


    “I am Commander Altobeari of la squadra antidroga, how you say?”


    “The drug squad,” Suzie offered, as she emerged, dressed, from the bathroom.


    It was at this point that Theo, the leerer, emptied Suzie’s bag onto the bed and poked around, triumphantly he held up her little silver coke bottle saying, “Il Comendante.”


    Commander Altobeari produced a small polythene bag and held it open for Theo, who dropped it in, he winked at Suzie, his grin broadening as he did so.


    “Prenderli per il Commissariato,” Snapped Altobeari to the uniforms who led Dick and Suzie out and into a car.



    “They’re taking us to the police station,” Suzie informed Dick, as they were marched out into the warm night air.



    After the formalities had been observed, they were escorted to a sparse room where they sat at a metal table. Dick looked round at the faded and patchy green walls. There was an old worn wooden bench along one wall and two sides of the room had wired glass panels, through which could be seen a corridor on one side, and an open plan office with half a dozen desks on the other. A group of uniformed guys were sitting around smoking and talking in animated terms, every now and again one would turn and glance at them, usually, the one Dick had come to call ‘the leerer’.



    “What are they talking about?” asked Dick.



    “Us, well me, one of them is saying he saw my tits when he came in to the room, not sure if he did or not. Now he’s saying you’re a lucky bastard to have me in your bed.”



    “The grinning ape called Theo, I’ll bet?”



    She nodded.



    “What the fuck is going on here Suzie,” asked Dick, “any idea?”



    Before she could answer, Altobeari came into the room with a fat folder wedged under his arm and a cardboard tray holding three paper cups. He dropped the folder and placed the tray on the table.



    “I think you may be wanting coffee.” He took a cup, pushed the tray towards them and began to fumble around with the folder.



    “Do you know this man?” He pulled a picture of Freddie and placed it before them.



    “No,” snapped Suzie.



    He produced three more pictures and placed them on the table like a croupier dealing a losing hand, they were all of Freddie and Suzie together.



    “Let me begin again Signorina Tanney-Wright, do you kn…”



    “Okay yes, I know him, so what.”



    “And you, Signor Pentangelo?”



    “Yes, a bit.”



    “What means, ‘a bit’ please?”



    “I know him a little, I know who he is, we’ve met.” Dick touched his bruised face.



    “And what is his name please?”



    Dick hesitated and looked at Suzie, unsure what to answer. “What exactly are we charged with Commander Altobeari?” he demanded.



    “This man is a drug dealer Signor Pentangelo, a drug dealer who works for a bigger drug dealer who I will put in prison.”



    “That does not answer my question.”



    One of the uniforms stuck his head round the door and spoke, “Comandante, una telefonata per te.”



    Altobeari gathered the pictures, got up and left, leaving the leerer behind in the room. Suzie scowled at him.



    “A phone call, I think he has a phone call,” said Suzie.



    Dick sipped the coffee, it was rather good, but not sweet enough, he drank it anyway. They could vaguely hear the Comandante shouting.



    Altobeari came back into the room and sat, clearly he was angry, he drummed on the table and looked at Suzie and began talking in a quiet voice, “Where would he go Signorina, he has left the house?”



    “What house,” asked Suzie, defiantly.



    “The house you were living in until yesterday Signorina, the Villa Rosa.”



    “A phone call,” announced Dick, out of the blue, “I want to make a phone call.”



    “All in good time Signor. Signorina Tanney-Wright you will be charged with possession of cocaine. You may also be charged with conspiracy to traffic in drugs with this man.” Again he produced the picture and tapped loudly on it with his forefinger. “We believe the large sum of money you have been moving around to be the proceeds of drug trafficking. You Signor Pentangelo, are being held on suspicion of trafficking in drugs and conspiracy”—he paused, and continued to tap on the picture—“we need to find this man as a matter of urgency, if you have any information or knowledge of his movements or location you will tell me now. I must warn you that conspiracy is a very serious crime in Italy, one that could mean many years in prison for you. It is unlikely that we would proceed with conspiracy charges were you to cooperate with us in this matter.”



    “What about my phone call… our phone calls?” Dick glanced at Suzie, wondering who she would call.



    “Of course, Signorina do you also wish to place a call?”



    Susie shook her head, Dick could see in her eyes how alone she felt as she realised that there was no one for her to call.



    “Can you get us out of this?” she asked Dick, her eyes pleading.



    “Maybe”—he reached across and took her hand—“I’ll do my best.”



    Commander Altobeari led Dick out of the room and to a desk and asked him to sit, he picked up the receiver of a telephone, dialled a single digit, listened then handed the phone to Dick.



    “Can you write down the number for here, a number for you, so I can give it?”



    Altobeari scrawled a number on a post-it note and turned it to face Dick.



    “What’s this mean?” He handed the receiver to Altobeari, who listened.



    “You need to dial the international code for the UK, is forty-four I believe.”



    Dick tried again, he got Maisie’s message.



    “Maisie we’ve been arrested, I was supposed to call Alice today, can you get Gemma to get her to call here. We are in a police station in Bologna the number is”—he related the number—“Have her ask for Commander Altobeari, they are threatening to stitch us up on a conspiracy charge Maisie. Suzie is nicked for a little bit of charlie as well. Can you look into getting us a lawyer here just in case? This may be the only call I can make. I miss you sweetheart, love you.”



    Dick and Suzie were taken to the cells. Theo, the leerer, and one other led them along a corridor and then down a few steps to the holding cells. The ceiling of the small square area had stains that dripped down the walls, the place smelled of drains and urine. A stark neon light hummed and flickered occasionally.



    Theo held Suzie’s wrist and said, “Ricerca di lui” to the officer holding Dick, who began to pat him down, he removed Dick’s belt.



    “Il tuo turno,” Theo said, with a huge grin, and spun Suzie to face the wall. He leant his body against her back, took her arms and spread them, placing her hands high on the wall. He backed away and began to run his hands over her body. This was clearly nothing to do with a search. When he cupped her breasts she spun round and attempted to strike him, he grabbed her wrist, his grin widening.



    “Lo ha messo in una cella,” he said to his mate, Dick’s guard yanked open a cell door shoved him in and slammed it shut.



    The guard went to shut the little window.



    “Lasciare,” said Theo, it was left open. Dick watched helplessly.



    “Tenere il suo,” Theo said to his companion who grabbed Suzie’s upper arms and held her while Theo resumed his groping, at one point his hand went under her dress and between her legs, she gasped and spat in his face. He slapped her hard, cursing, “Cazzo di farmaco puttana.” He spun her round and shoved her in the cell opposite Dick, and slammed her window shut. He came over to Dick’s cell and grinned in at him, lifting his hand he sniffed at his forefingers, grinned again and slammed that window shut as well.



    “Susie, are you ok?” Dick called at the door of his cell. He listened for a reply, nothing. He called again, raising his voice to a shout. This time, he heard a reply.



    “I’ll live, you?” it was faint.
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I didn't read the whole thing because it's too long, but if the reader can understand it through context, then feel free to use foreign phrases. Personally, it gets annoying only when I have to resort to Googling the phrase to understand what's happening.
     
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  3. Brindy
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    Brindy Contributing Member Supporter

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    I did read it all the way through, and it was understandable through your context and dialogue, but I did find there were more phrases than necessary and I found it was beginning to be a little irritating.
     
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  4. Francis de Aguilar
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    Francis de Aguilar Active Member

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    Are there specific instances you feel could be left out?
     
  5. Brindy
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    Brindy Contributing Member Supporter

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  6. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Since this isn't the Workshop I'll control myself and keep to your question. You have Dick, who seems to understand little or no Italian, and Suzie, who can figure out a good bit more. I'm not sure how much, since this is from Dick's point of view.

    It seems to me you need to keep it to what he can actually "hear." He's not going to take this in in perfect Italian, nor will he "see" it spelled correctly in his head. It'd make more sense to have something like:

    Surprised, he looked up. “Yeah, why?”

    The intruder said something like, "La deecharro een arresto."

    Did that last word sound like he thought it did? His fears were confirmed when two men in uniform pushed into the room.

    And so on. Put words and phrases he understands (like "per favore") in proper spelling, render what he half-hears in corrupted, incomplete phonetics, and for the rest do what you're already doing: have him fail to catch it altogether ("The leering ape cop gabbled in Italian") and have Suzie translate.

    Assuming you want us to sympathize with Dick, reflecting his confusion at having all this incomprehensible lingo thrown at him at such a terrifying moment will go a long way towards putting us readers into his skin.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2016
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  7. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    This might seem like an obvious observation to make, but I think one area we have to be careful of when using a foreign language is getting the translation accurate. Assuming you don't speak fluent Italian and have used a simple online translator, it's important to make sure the syntax is correct. We've all seen the laughably bad translations of Chinese to English in the manuals for Chinese electrical goods.

    In other words, you need to make sure that to someone who speaks Italian, “La dichiaro in arresto.” doesn't read as, "Are under you arrest." (or whatever that line is)
     
  8. Laurin Kelly
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    Laurin Kelly Active Member

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    If possible I always find that you should find a native speaker to translate. With social media this isn't as daunting a task as it used to be. Through my online connections I was able to find a native Italian speaker who was able to translate the phrase "It looks like someone took a shit on it" into the proper syntax.
     
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  9. Francis de Aguilar
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    Francis de Aguilar Active Member

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    Very helpful thank you. I have yet to get the Italian checked by an Italian speaker, though I do have someone I am waiting to hear from about that. I will be making some changes based on you insights.

    Thanks to everyone who has responded.
     
  10. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Google translates “La dichiaro in arresto.” as "I'm under arrest"..."You're under arrest" translates as "Sei in arresto", and this agrees with what (little) Italian I know. Playing around a bit with my limited knowledge, I got Google accept "te dichiaro in arresto" as being "You're under arrest".

    I disagree with @Catrin Lewis about spelling it the way an Englishman might hear it - but then, I hate it when authors write in thick dialect!

    Having read a fair chunk, I do feel that you've got a bit too much Italian in there - I'd suggest losing some of it and replacing it with The cops jabbered away in Italian, and then...

    I also feel that your cops are WAAAY too polite. The cliché "We will ask the questions" is for a reason. They'll ask you "Where were you on the night of the 27th of March", and won't even give you an answer if you say "Was that last Thursday?" And that's just regular police; I'd expect the drug squad to be much more hard-ass. Although I'd also expect them to flash ID at the point of arresting them, complete with a "Anything you say may be used in evidence" sort of warning - in Italian, of course!

    You describe the cop as speaking ...slightly broken, but excellent English. Broken implies poor English, but comprehensible; I think you mean slightly accented.



    You have a tendency to use comma splices, as in the following example.

    Dick sipped the coffee, it was rather good, but not sweet enough, he drank it anyway

    Here, you have three independent sentences, each with a subject and verb (see below). When you run them on, you end up with three subjects in the same sentence. While Dick and he are in fact the same subject, and could survive in the same sentence, the coffee can't survive being both object (in the first of the three sentences) and subject (from the second).

    Dick sipped the coffee.
    It was rather good, but not sweet enough.
    He drank it anyway.

    Each sentence is complete, and really needs some more work if you want to run them together. Perhaps: Dick sipped the coffee, and found it rather good, although not sweet enough, but he drank it anyway.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2016
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  11. Francis de Aguilar
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    Francis de Aguilar Active Member

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    Thank you really useful stuff here. My tendency to comma splice is something I need to sort out.
     

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