1. dannyboy
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    dannyboy Member

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    Using local language

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by dannyboy, Mar 17, 2014.

    Hi all,

    I'm wondering if it is okay to use local language and jargons in a novel that is open to readership internationally. For instance my novel revolves around a pilgrimage in India, and out of 3 pilgrims only one can speak good English while the other two can understand and speak a little bit however they are more comfortable addressing a person in their local language for instance the word Dude, or Mate, or Bloke is not used often among Indians they use their local language to address their friends can I use that and explain in the beginning what it means or should I just avoid it?

    Can you give me your insights on this???

    Many Thanks

    Daniel
     
  2. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I would not use forms of address that the characters would not use, and if you know the English translation for a term of familiarity that the Indian characters would use, then I would use that. But to include tracts of dialogue in Hindi and then provide English translations would be deadly to the flow of your story. You're quite right not to use terms that would clearly be out of place (and possibly anachronistic).

    In Shogun, James Clavell had scenes with extensive dialogue between Japanese characters, but rendered them all in English. When the one English-speaking character was present, it was very clear he understood nothing that was being said. But as he was there longer and longer, he grew to understand the language and this was reflected in his growing participation in dialogue. Only a handful of Japanese words were presented and used. To my recollection, only one - seppuku - was directly explained to the reader. The meaning of any others, such as shogun, were made clear through the narrative.

    I'm currently facing a similar challenge. I'm writing a historical novel set largely in a Spanish-speaking country, with modern elements set in the US. My narrator does not speak Spanish (nor do I, except what I learned from a Spanish-speaking coworker early in my career), and so I use small bits of Spanish dialogue to put the reader in the character's position of not understanding, then allow the reader to gain understanding of what has been said the same way the character does. For the historical segments, I use Spanish street names, place names, ranks and titles. I don't translate or provide an explanation for any of these, but in the case of ranks (i.e. military ranks), I use the English word enough so that it is easy for the reader to discern that teniente is "lieutenant" and comandante is "major".
     
  3. dannyboy
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    dannyboy Member

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    Thanks Ed... Its the common understanding throughout the world when mentioned Indian Language its Hindi, but my Character is in South India and the Language is Tamil which is a very old language, in fact older than Hindi. The character moves from one place to another in 10 days and picks up different dialects, accents, cultures and habits very new to him even though he is from India. Since I'm looking to get my novel in the international market I was wondering - will using the local language extensively attract the reader or rather amuse the reader to see within 350 kilometer radius there are so many differences with in the same language spoken through out the state.
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    @dannyboy - the specific language is irrelevant. Your problem as a writer is to convey the difficulty in dealing with the changes in language and dialects without either presenting the reader with unreadable passages or providing long translations for dialogue that likely adds very little to the story. That means that your best means of presenting the MC's difficulties is through narrative, not actual unintelligible dialogue. Put the reader in the MC's shoes by describing his frustration and what alternate means of communication he uses (e.g. sign language). The reason I recommended Shogun is because, especially in the early chapters, there are presentations of the Englishman's POV wherein he does not understand Japanese and is trying to discern meaning from actions and gestures, and others from the Japanese characters in which they do not understand the Englishman.
     

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