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Should I?

Poll closed Apr 2, 2020.
  1. Follow the lyrics other language with a translation in English

    1 vote(s)
    12.5%
  2. not write in the other language at all

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  3. don't include lyrics to songs

    3 vote(s)
    37.5%
  4. depends...

    4 vote(s)
    50.0%
  1. OB1

    OB1 Senior Member

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    songs in another language

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by OB1, Mar 19, 2020.

    Hi,

    I just wanted to get an opinion on including songs written in another language say for example a fantasy language that the reader won't understand.

    For example, my character in question is smithing a sword and she recalls a song her father used to sing when he was hammering the steel so she starts to sing it. It is in the old tongue that isn't used anymore except for rituals, folk songs and other special occasions.

    Should I a) Follow the lyrics other language with a translation in English b) not write in the other language at all c) don't include lyrics to songs d) depends...

    Please can you follow your poll by a reasoning and advice I would very much appreciate it.

    Thank you.
     
  2. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    2p.png Assuming the presentation is seperate, and not interwoven into the narrative, I say... do not include songs. I have never once stopped to read these things. Anne McCaffrey did it. GRRM did it. Tolkien with his shimmering glimmering glimmering shimmering... blech, but yeah, he did it too, and I skipped right past it every time.

    If the lyrics are crucial to understanding the story, all that's going to happen is that I'm going to be frustrated with your story because - given the history - I just ain't doin'it.
     
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  3. dbesim

    dbesim Contributor Contributor

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    I think it depends.

    Some writers have pulled it off quite well. That’s not often the case. But how confident do you feel about this? That applies with riddles too. J.K Rowling is an absolute master at it in the Harry Potter series. However, it’s still a somewhat ambitious thing to do. I wouldn’t rule it out.
     
  4. Necronox

    Necronox Contributor Contributor

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    Personally I find it depends on what the song is. For example, if it's a lament for something and in a foreign/conlan language, then you could just describe it and maybe have a couple characters translate maybe a line or two for relevance if there is a particular meaning that needs to be conveyed.

    Though in my opinion, I rarely ever read the whole lyrics, maybe the first couple lines and the move on. That's just me though.

    All that said, I wouldn't say to never do it. It's you book/novel/story/etc..., write it how you like and how you think it's best. I find it's best to write what you think it best fitting for the story and not so much what you think the reader would prefer to read. Then again, i'm only a hobbyist because I enjoy writing in my spare time, i'd never do it professionally much less make a proper effort of publishing either.
     
  5. OB1

    OB1 Senior Member

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    Ok thanks for the input so far
    Here is a passage from my WIP as an example to put it into context

    Red waves crackled across her face and the constant bombardment of heat beat her brow to weep. One arm brushed over her face taking the accumulated sweat away from her eyes, while the other kept hold of the stout iron tongues clasping the glowing block of stål. Chink…the cold hammer fell… chink…sparks a-flurry shimmered in her face… chink…the stål resisted each strike. Kylah recalled the lessons from her father and the songs he sang when he was pounding the stål into submission, and it felt like he was there, whispering in her ear.

    Mae gen I garreg,

    Mae gen I garreg,

    Nid oes gennych ddim,

    Byddwch chi’n ildio.

    With each beat of the song, she struck the stål with increasing intent…chink… and then straight back into the furnace, where the embers intensified the iridescent glow of the hot metal.

    Mae gen I dân,

    Mae gen I dân,

    Rydych chi’n ddur,

    Byddwch chi’n ildio.


    She could almost feel her father holding her hand as she quivered, transferring the red-hot metal to the anvil where she struck…chink…

    Rwy’n eich taro’n galed,

    Rwy’n eich taro’n galed,

    Efallai y byddwch chi’n gwrthsefyll,

    Ond mae gen I dân.

    Until…hiss… the fierce radiance was no more.
     
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  6. Cope Acetic

    Cope Acetic Member

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    I'm with @Wreybies. Don't bother, most people will skip it. Songs aren't really meant to be read, anyway. In this age of the internet, you can actually compose and record the song, then post it for anyone interested. Multimedia literature is something I'm in favor of.

    If you must, keep it to a single line, something that matters to the story a whole lot.
     
  7. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Mae yn Gymraeg!

    OK, ok, I'll behave. For better or for worse, your song is in Welsh, and proper Welsh, too. Which those in the know will not take for one second as a "fantasy language" that's not used daily anymore. In fact, they'll be looking for Welshness all through your tale, and wondering why steel is referred to in Swedish.

    That said, I did something of the sort in my first novel, but the language was French. I made sure there was enough of a translation so the reader would know what the song was saying, and why it mattered to the story. Kind of like, "'Mae gen i garreg . . . '" she sang as she struck the block of steel, " . . . 'I have a stone' . . . "

    Hit the high points. Note down enough of the song to give the feeling, with translation so readers won't get lost. Then provide the whole thing in the back matter, with translation and proper credits.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2020
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  8. Reece

    Reece Senior Member

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    I nearly always skip reading song lyrics, and when I don't, I regret it. So cringe-inducing 99% of the time. As stated above, if there is some key piece of necessary info, the requisite line will suffice.
     
  9. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber Contributor Contributor

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    I don't know. I'm a big fan of folk music and folk lyrics, so if that's the tradition your drawing from I will happily read the song, and probably look it up and listen to it too, and maybe forget your book altogether :-D
    Folk traditions are artistically infallible, so their songs are never cringe inducing. But I would avoid using any songs other than traditional ones. Songs written by the author are usually cringey even if they're in a foreign language because someone might speak that language.
     
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  10. OB1

    OB1 Senior Member

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    Thanks Catrin,

    Yes I have mixed welsh with sweedish, because the world this is set in is a world which is a cross between wales and Scandinavia it is as if the two countries were assimilated at one point in it's history. Essentially they are a cross between celtic and Norse.

    I might change the words to look more like a mix between welsh and norse. I just liked the rhythm the words produced in the song. Essentially the words to the song say:

    I have stone
    I have stone
    You are steel
    you will yield

    It is to be a blacksmiths song. What they sing whilst they are striking the red hot steel.

    but might also have to change the word stone to Iron as my material science is all wrong because stone probably can't cause steel to yield.
     
  11. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I actually like that. Four short lines at a time are quite easy to take. They have quite a rhythm to them, even though I don't know what they mean. I would not want to read the whole song unbroken by narrative, though.
     
  12. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Yeah, I was wondering about the stone part. "Mae gen i forthwyl" ("I have a hammer") might make even more sense, except you don't want your readers going all Woody Guthrie on you. :D

    But I'll leave it at that, because it's beside the point of your original question.
     
  13. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    You couldn't have picked a worse language to capture the rhythm, given the spelling of Welsh. I like languages, can read quite a few, but I just blew the Welsh off in your sample because the spelling makes it impossible for anyone who hasn't studied the language to say it properly. Stick with the English.
     
  14. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber Contributor Contributor

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    That's part of the mystery, though, isn't it? It's not too difficult to look up a basic Welsh pronunciation guide.
     
  15. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    That is asking a lot of readers. A few will most will not. I did introduce one foreign language song in the opening chapter of the E&D

    "The paradigm had shifted, the executioners were dismissed and the remaining men were roughly unbound by grumbling Parthian soldiers. They marched themselves back to their encampment to eat and sleep for the first time in days. The next day, Marcus negotiated with the Parthians to retrieve their battle gear along with their cohort and century standards. He then ordered the remnants of III Cras to form up and march out of the death camp, re-equipped with a motley collection of damaged swords and ill-fitting blood-stained helmets, carrying their wounded on litters, led by a squadron of the foreign soldiers on horseback. They were heading somewhere east, he judged by the sun, not west and home to Rome, but they were alive and going as soldiers. Someone picked up their marching song, and the whole troop joined in:

    Sive sequimur aquilas, sive progredimur ad cornices soli,
    Nostra superbia est in legione
    Et pugnans peditatus est domus genusque.


    Whether we follow the eagles, or we go to the ravens alone,
    Our pride is in the legion,
    And the infantry is our family and home!

    The verses quickly deteriorated to unofficial lyrics dealing with their officers, wine and women, amidst the rude gestures of the Parthian soldiers sending them off."

    I did this because the Latin has a distinct marching cadence, sort of a "You had a good home but you left, your right" feel so I left it in and so far no one has objected. On the other hand, most people who can read Spanish or Italian can pronounce Latin quite well.
     

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