1. RobinLC

    RobinLC Member

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    Writing an accent :Russian

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by RobinLC, Jul 27, 2019.

    Does anyone have any resources that can help me write my Russian characters accent?
     
  2. GrJs

    GrJs Active Member

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    There's two ways to do accents that I've seen. Write out the phonetics of the accent or say somewhere when introducing them that they have the accent.

    Like this:
    Illya was sometimes hard to understand, their strong accent slurring sounds awkwardly when not speaking their mother tongue.
    Or:
    Illya, contrary to his sweet as pie countenance, sounded like a steel reinforced wall. Their accent strong and rumbling as many Russians sound.

    The phonetic one is kind of annoying to read. Like reading Hagrid's accent in the Harry Potter books. You either skim over and ignore it, translating automatically what he said, or you can muddle through and take an eternity to read it how it's written.

    As for resources, you really only have to look up videos with Russian speakers in them. Russian media and really listen to how they speak so you can, if writing it phonetically, translate it well into whatever language you're writing in.
     
  3. RobinLC

    RobinLC Member

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    Well, I've kind of done both. This character doesn't have many lines in my work currently. But I will need to figure it out for any sequels I do because I plan to give him his own book.

    The line he has:
    Another with fair hair and a thick foreign accent says, “Shift and see what happens. Sometimes zey faint everrry time zey see it.”

    The "shift and see what happens" line, I can't figure out how to really write phonetically. Also, I've never read harry potter. Just a movie fan of it. lol.
     
  4. The Piper

    The Piper Senior Member

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    Can't give a whole lot of advice on the whole accent thing, but I have to say this - the example you've given makes him sound french, more than anything (well, no, but it makes me think you're trying to make him sound french). I've never heard a Russian use "z" instead of "th", and I think you'd stump a lot of people. The Russian version of they would just be they, because that's just one of those words that, written down at least, doesn't sound any different with the accent.

    Also, three "r"s in "every"? Whatever the accent is, I wouldn't recommend that.

    Final point - you say "sometimes (zey/they) faint everrry time zey see it". Can it be both sometimes, and every time, simultaneously?...

    If you want to go for a phonetic accent, I can't suggest any resources for books with russian characters where the author does the same thing but it might be worth looking at russian speeches/films to get an idea of how they actually talk first. I'd suggest, though, forget the phonetics and just describe. GrJs gave some good suggestions, but even your line about the accent works on its own. Good luck!
     
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  5. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Start here:
     
  6. RobinLC

    RobinLC Member

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    I watched him last night, which is why I took out the TH and replaced with z and added repeat r's. He says he can't make the "Th" sound and he rolls his r's.
     
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  7. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    And it's coo-kee not cook-ee... :) And shit, not sheet....

    I suspect the 'talking with the hands' is also a trait worth noting. I've seen this before.
     
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  8. AndieBoDandy

    AndieBoDandy Member

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    My two cents... I always just mention that they have an accent. Well, my viewpoint character notices their accent. Thick, mysterious, hard to place... If there are areas where the person gets emotional, sometimes the accent becomes stronger, that sort of thing. Doing it all the phonetically all time is just annoying IMO. You could also pick one or two words that might stand out more than others and occasionally do that. But the above example you provided made me think of the candlestick from Beauty and the Beast... lol.
    Another thing to consider is that you don't want to offend anyone, so I usually err on the side of caution. I worked in a vet office and both the veterinarians were Russian, and there were times that their accent could get quite thick. They seemed to understand, and were always very patient when they had to repeat themselves... so your character could always ask them to do that in the beginning... and then, after a bit, internally have them mention how they are starting to become accustomed to it
     
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  9. RobinLC

    RobinLC Member

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    I hadn't considered it might become offensive. Thanks.
     
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  10. GrJs

    GrJs Active Member

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    If you're planning to make a book just for him then really all you have to do is make it clear what nationality he is and people will fill in the blanks on their own regarding accent. Especially if it's already established in a previous story.

    Personally, when it comes to phonetically written accents I tend to ignore the accent entirely because it takes too long to figure out what's being said in some cases. It's a shame you haven't read the HP books, Hagrid's accent is a really good example of phonetically written accents that are hard to read. Actually the fourth book as well is a good example of difficult accents with the Bauxbaxtons, the French school. I'd recommend the books for you purely to check out the use of phonetically written accents, but only the first and the fourth as they're the ones with the most examples of it.

    Your issue with that particular sentence seems to be that all those sounds are ones that Russian's would have no issue pronouncing and thus there's no bastardisation of the sounds. I think it was the Russian accent that would go harsher on the H sound in 'Happens' saying it from the back of the throat, similar to a German pronunciation. Really the whole sentence only has deeper sounds, none of it would be pronounced incorrectly.

    Something else that may help is reading it out aloud in a Russian accent. Then you should be able to figure out where to put the emphasis on sounds. If you're writing an entire book on him I'd steer clear of having every sentence in accented English. It will be tedious to read as the audience. It would be preferable to reiterate every now and then that he does have an accent and use the phonetic presentation sparingly in his own book.
     
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  11. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I hate accents written out phonetically. It makes it unnecessarily hard to read - I don't care that the character has an accent, unless his accent us going to impact directly on the plot, which seems unlikely.

    Also, it looks really stupid most of the time.

    As well as that, if done badly, you risk looking like you're just making fun of them, which is offensive.

    I honestly see no positives in trying to write out someone's accent on the whole. The point of an accent is exactly that sounds and letters between two different languages are not equivalent - there's no way I could reflect how the Czechs pronounce their A using English letters, because it sounds like an English E but it isn't really, but that's because they're two different languages. They're not supposed to be the same. This whole idea of using the English alphabet to represent foreign sounds is just misguided.
     
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  12. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Contributor Contributor

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    Youtube ==> Russian accent

    You get a huge amount or variations.

     
  13. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    I recommend you keep it to minimum. That can get tedious for the reader. Introduce it once as a sample, describe it, then just use the juxtapositions that Russian speakers are noted for, such as dropping articles. They are not used in Russian, and they have a hard time using them in lnaguages that do. "OK, I take car to office." Part of the charactewr's unique voice, but not too obtrusive.
     
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  14. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    @Alan Aspie 's videa really captured the accent well, and note that most of that would be impossible to capture phonetically without making it unreadable. Just keep it simple.
     
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  15. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

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    I think an accent can play well, and it doesn’t have to be consistent IMO.
    I read characters with light accents and it’s enough to remind you that they were different characters.

    A line from, Of Mice and Men....."Ain’t we gonna have no supper." Is a light accent and still easy to read, so if you could find something along those lines, it might work for you. I’m struggling right now with my new WIP set in the 17th century in Hungary. Trying to have my characters not sound like the guy on the 6 o’clock news is always a job for me.
    I know my wife likes Jamie Fraser’s accent.
     
  16. Mish

    Mish Member

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    Why not use Russian "manner of speech" instead? Phillip K. Dick did it well without using the Russian accent.

    For example:

     
  17. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Like others, I, too, am a fan of an accent being stated rather than shown in dialog. I had a Russian character that had a thick accent, but to show it in dialog would have been a distraction from the story. It can also look like you're making fun of the accent, especially if you don't get it right. Think about what showing the accent in dialog does compared to just mentioning it like you did. Also, I don't think you want to say it and then show it in dialog in the same sentence.

    A few years ago I read a book (and the name is escaping me even though the novel isn't too old). But the book was written in an accent. At first I wondered if I could get past it, but I did and it was a great novel. So, it can work. But in this case it was consistent and done in a way where it was clear what accent it was just by reading it. I know you're not talking about writing your entire book in an accent, but if you are going to do it, you better get it right because something like this is something readers will have to look past to see what a good story you potentially have.

    Still, I am in favor of not actually using accents in general. Sure, go ahead and say someone has an accent, but that doesn't mean you have to show the words they have trouble pronouncing or write in broken English. Although, I do see broken English as a better alternative than strange dialog. This is something I have run into a few times in my own writing, but I've never chosen to write the accent according to sound. I didn't want the distraction and didn't feel like it added anything to the story in my cases. I would give some more thought about what you are trying to do here and if it's worth the trouble for both readers and yourself.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2019
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