1. mbinks89
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    mbinks89 Active Member

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    Using Words from Foreign Languages

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by mbinks89, Nov 14, 2012.

    Hey, new forum member here.
    I'm writing a story set in India. My Writer's Craft teacher said, upon returning it and marking it, that there were too many Americanisms, and that I should perhaps ask some of the Indian/Pakistani faculty for words to use. The words, specifically, were expletives. My character, Abheer, will shout English expletives, and sometimes when writing through the lens of his thoughts and perception, I will use "Americanisms." Just wondering, should I maybe, for ones that aren't obvious, include a translation in brackets beside them? I feel like this would hamper the flow of the story, but I don't want to sacrifice clarity.
    Example, for shut up, I'm using the Urdu "Chup Kar." Should I put, in brackets beside it, shut up at first. Likewise for a few others. Thanks for any replies.
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Make sure the phrases are clear from context so that you won't need to use brackets (I dislike seeing brackets used this way). I would also use such phrases sparingly.
     
  3. steve119
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    steve119 Senior Member

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    it will also depend when you story is set in history as to how the character would use the English language. That said people from India/ Pakistan living in those countries who speak English probably wouldn't use expletives from the English language or Slang as they don't tend to learn those words until they have moved to Britain or The US where slang and expletives are in common use
     
  4. starosea2001
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    starosea2001 New Member

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    filling in with a missed word.

    Following on the thought of Steve119, even during the British Rule of India, there were people who were in constant interaction with the British and consecutively quite good in English. So the time frame in history matters. Also certain slangs may have come into use only after a certain time frame and then gradually would have gone out of use. Unless the character is a person of a certain age who is used to the old way of swearing. Sometimes youngsters go back to the usage of very old slangs just for the fun of it too and later it becomes a cool usage for the present time. Also since you are writing in English, even though the setting is in India, the hindi swear words would only add to the indian atmosphere. Most Indians now use almost similar American swear words. Going back to your original query, if you want to avoid brackets, you can just star the word and then provide a footnote below with explanation. This way your flow is not restricted and neither is the translation.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto what steve said...

    and

    do not use brackets or a 'star' [correct term is 'asterisk'] and footnote... fyi, asterisks are not the correct way to indicate footnotes in any case... they're done properly with a superscript number after the word, but they don't work well in fiction...

    if you must use some hindi words, first of all, they should be underlined, to show they'll go in italics when the ms is printed as a book... and secondly, how you use them should make it fairly clear to the reader what they mean... if context and the wording doesn't do the trick, then you either shouldn't use the word/term at all, or have the character provide a translation one way or another...

    see how successful authors handle foreign words to learn the various ways this can be done...
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    You wouldn't just italicize them in the ms?
     
  7. mbinks89
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    mbinks89 Active Member

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    Thanks for the input. I ended up deciding to just let people figure out what it means from the context. Footnotes, brackets, etc., seem too stilted and awkward to me.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The standard for manuscripts is to underline text you wish italicized. Many publishers will accept italics in manuscript, but underlining is easier to see.
     
  9. Yunirone
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    Yunirone New Member

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    The stories I have read from India do not use the native language at all. It is sort of a completely different writing style compared to English literature. I would say as long as you understand the Indian culture and what you need to have readers grounded in setting, you do not need to worry about language at all. Your teacher might be saying that it doesn't feel like India, but if that wasn't the case, just stick to English and avoid American slang and dialect, they were taught by the British after all.
     
  10. steve119
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    steve119 Senior Member

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    it's a sad fact but quite a few people to whom the English language is not native and learn it as a foreign language, actually speak English better than a lot people (myself included) to whom English is their first language. They may sometimes have an accent that may throw you if you are not used to hearing it but they tend to use better grammar and less slang.
     
  11. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Thanks, Cog.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto that... he got here first! ;)
     
  13. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Maia, as far as I'm concerned, you are both THE authority on these matters.
     

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