1. Commandante Lemming

    Commandante Lemming Contributor Contributor

    May 8, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Washington, DC, USA

    Idioms when writing "in a foreign language"...but not really...

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Commandante Lemming, Mar 30, 2016.

    So, I've recently started a side-project that happens to be set (for the moment) in Denmark. My characters all work for the Danish national police force (the Rigspolitet), and as such it can be assumed that they speak Danish in their day to day life.

    I don't speak Danish, and I'm writing in English. So even though the dialogue is technically in Danish, it's written in English.

    I've seen this done a lot - Michael Chabon did it in The Yiddish Policemen's Union - but I keep wondering how I should be approaching the dialogue in terms of using English idioms. Obviously the characters need to have mannerisms, but since I'm writing them in a language other than the one they're actually speaking...how should I construct their dialogue?
  2. NiallRoach

    NiallRoach Contributor Contributor

    Jan 7, 2015
    Likes Received:
    The middle of the UK
    I'd use the Danish versions of idioms if they make sense. For example, there's an Icelandic saying that's basically "No pain, no gain", which is understandable when literally translated to "No one ever became bishop without having been beaten" (Enginn var├░ biskupp ├│barrinn).
    Danish is similar enough to English that there should be plenty of them out there.
    Here's a little list of a few, you can click on them for the translations:
    Commandante Lemming likes this.

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