Characters & Different languages


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  1. #1

    Characters & Different languages

    I am curious how do you guys think of characters and the use of different languages?


    The concept came to mind yesterday when preparing for work. I came in early and was listening to a series of songs I had recorded of a favoured singer of mine. Thing is, is my colleague forgot their keys and in buzzing them in they happened to hear part of one song. No biggie. Except the colleague asked me halfway through the day do I speak Japanese - as the singer is Japanese - to which I said a little.

    Such was a rather blatant lie as I am fluent in Japanese (& Mandarin) but that's beside the point.



    But as said it brought to mind something I have been playing around with in my head about my main character.


    1) Do you write the languages in English indicating X language spoken?

    "Hey wait up Jose," Eric shouted after his friend in Spanish.


    2) Would you italicize it to indicate that it is different?

    "Hey wait up Jose," Eric shouted after his friend in Spanish.


    3) Or if a language is spoken widely enough - e.g. French - and small enough a section just write it in said language?

    "Arrête ça, Sarah." Derek turned at the sound of Joanna shouting.




    And here's the reason why I mentioned my little bit of fibbing to my colleague about my knowledge of Japanese.

    Would you integrate different language throughout said story or only at certain parts, e.g. close friends / family.
    Last edited by GKGhost; October 15th, 2016 at 12:05 AM.

  2. #2
    I italicize it.

    I wrote an entire novel where two of the characters shared a language the others didn't, and had no complaints about confusion when the non-English language was used. Italics to indicate they're speaking in a different language, and note it in the first dialogue tag after the change.
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  3. #3
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    I just write the language.

    I also like to add how people understand said person is talking. Cuz remember, accents are a thing. I have a population of people who speak a made up language, but one has an accent that's so thick, her own people have a hard time understanding her.

  4. #4
    "Hey wait up Jose," Eric shouted after his friend in Spanish.
    My view: why do we care what language it was spoken in? He said "Hey wait up Jose," and Jose understood. You might as well tell the reader what color shirt he was wearing when he said it because it serves only to slow the narrative.

    We're giving the reader the essence of conversation, not the conversation, itself.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Greenstein View Post
    We're giving the reader the essence of conversation, not the conversation, itself.
    There are times when it needs to be clear to the reader that a conversation is only understood by certain characters. A few times, my characters will have side conversations in another language to exclude the other characters present. That's why it's often important to distinguish.
    If you ever need a second set of eyes on your work, PM me for a critique! I'm happy to help Hidden Content

  6. #6
    New Member per se's Avatar
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    I would keep it in English unless it's a very common word or phrase foreign-language phrase well-known to most English speakers. I would not italicize, but make an indication to the reader that the speaker was using a different language only where it is relevant. Or you could make a more blanket statement that one character always talks to another certain character in that language.

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