1. Writes15

    Writes15 New Member

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    Writing other languages?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Writes15, Dec 1, 2016.

    Hi there, I'm back again with another question for you guys. I'm hoping you can give me some advice on this subject.

    In an upcoming novel, my characters are from all over.
    Main Character is from Mexico
    Another one of the Main's is from Ireland
    As well as a few more from many different places.
    They're in London (that may change, I'm only thought dumping currently) so they all speak English for most of the time. But what I'm wondering is when the book does dive into a few sentences or so of their other language or when they go home to Mexico or Ireland, how would you write this?
    I really don't want to minimise my target audience with this so I was thinking write it in English and suggest in narrative that they're speaking their native language. But I'm so unsure. Any advice?
     
  2. thirdwind

    thirdwind Member Contest Administrator Supporter Reviewer Contributor

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    I would use the tag "he said in [insert language here]." It's a simple and effective way of getting around this problem. That's just one suggestion, and I'm sure there are others.
     
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  3. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    In Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses, a lot of the story takes place on a ranch in Mexico. He actually used Spanish in the dialogue, and it worked really well. I really enjoyed that part of it. At the time, I could only understand a little of it, but I had no problem looking it up.

    Now some qualifiers: There wasn't a whole lot of dialogue in Spanish. A lot of the meaning could be gleaned through context. McCarthy was somewhat experimental. And he's McCarthy. He can get away with certain things.

    Understand what you're getting into if you choose to use other languages. You will automatically alienate certain readers. You should have a very firm grasp of the language/s you choose you use. I don't know your background, but Google translate does not equal fluency. And as with any languages, there are certain things you'll miss without being extremely fluent/a native speaker.
     
  4. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    I would find another book that's known to have various languages and find out what they did. The Lord of the Rings comes to mind. How does Tolkien deal with characters speaking Elfish?

    Personally, I would write it differently depending on what I want to imply.
    Cheech spoke in spanish. "Hey is anyone in there?"
    "Who's that?" Tommy responded.
    To me, that implies that Cheech spoke spanish and Tommy responded in english because I mentioned it's spanish in the same line that he spoke.

    Cheech looked around and spoke spanish.
    "Yo, it's me Dave, open the door." Cheech whispered.
    "Dave?"
    "Yeah, it's Dave."
    "Dave's not here, man."
    To me, that would imply that the entire conversation took place in spanish.

    Or, if it's just a quick couple of words, you can usually just leave it and assume the reader either knows it or can figure out the context easily.
    "No, I'm Dave, open up, I got the stuff on me."
    "Dave's not here."
    "Eres un idiota!"
     
  5. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    I was reading on the bus today and noticed a few foreign lines in my book. I'm not sure if Dostoevsky himself wrote it this way or if the translator did, but in it they simply wrote what was said in the foreign language in italics and added a footer tag to it. Then in the footer of the page was the translation and the language it was in.
     
  6. Senko

    Senko Member

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    How about including a quoted translation?
    Actually I donĀ“t remember many authors that use to do that. I must confess that some times I would be grateful to have them printed.
    But, on the other hand, you can lose the flow of the Reading.
     
  7. jjwiggin

    jjwiggin Member

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    Does it matter?
    Allan Moore can be a good reference. He writes stories in several languages and he does NOT translate. If it is in Chinese - he would write it in Chinese - not romanized, like real Chinese calligraphy.
     
  8. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Context, context, context. Whether it's a real-world language, a fantasy language, a science fiction language, whatever. You have to give me something that let's me deduce the meaning. I recently did a crit for someone obsessed with Anglo-Saxon history who insisted on calling things by the names that would have been used by ancient Anglo-Saxons. Ok, fine, but if there's no context for me to know what that word there with the letter thorn and the letter wynn means, then it's an empty file. It means nothing. It could be a shoe, a weapon, food, I have no clue. Context.
     

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