How to deal with foreign languages in a story - Page 2


Page 2 of 3 FirstFirst 123 LastLast
Results 11 to 20 of 28

Thread: How to deal with foreign languages in a story

  1. #11
    Mentor Megan Pearson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2018
    Location
    In your garden. Prefer lantana but star flowers and sea holly will do.
    Posts
    364
    Blog Entries
    4
    Might want to ask yourself how your favorite authors have handled foreign language in what you've read. Did it click with you? How so? Will their method mesh with your idea, and would it be effective if you borrowed their approach?

    My personal favorite for handling foreign languages is Cormac McCarthy. But then again, where I connected well with his overall approach, my husband has nothing but complaints about his creative license.

    You might try writing a page or two using one method of incorporation, then write the same thing using a second method. Then, go and ask a friend which is easier for him to read and what is he got out of it. Then, go ask another friend. The point here is, what makes sense to us on paper does not always translate well to our readers. The most effective way to use a second language is the way that will be the most easily grasped by your readers.

    ***

    (I, for one, am not a fan of the go-look-it-up approach. In fiction, I won't. Professionally, I spend hours reading highly specialized material with my internet dictionary open and a vocabulary list that I keep. Some of it is specialized jargon, but a lot of it is foreign and ancient. Why would I want to do that when I'm relaxing???)
    "A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for."
    ~ John A. Shedd


  2. #12
    From a publishing pov, publishers will handle foreign language differently. If they're going by the CMoS (US reference style guide (not all use this!), only unfamiliar foreign words are italicized, e.g., mi casa et su casa, not mi casa et su casa. Most will go by their preferred dictionary, so if the foreign word is found within MW unabridged, for instance, then it won't be placed in italics. But if it's not, it gets italics.

    I don't like being taken out of the story when I'm reading, so if there's foreign language, then I like a guider. I use Welsh, Italian, and Latin in mine, and I'll try and give it some context. E.g.,

    "Nos da."

    "If that's a Welsh sneeze, gazzundite. If it means goodnight, we're not done yet."

    Jess smiled. Yeah, it was goodnight, but he wasn't about to ease the language barrier anytime soon with the ass.

    One thing to keep in mind is typography! If you're going self-pub or through a publisher, all of the diacritics used in a foreign language might not able in certain publishing formats. Your publisher will point this out.
    "You don't wanna ride the bus like this,"

    Mike Posner.



  3. #13
    Here is a clip showing one way to add foreign language without losing the reader in the process.



    They're speaking Korean here.

  4. #14
    Using a third character to translate is an inexpensive way to do it. This is written from from a 3rd person perspective so the strategy may not work well with a 1st person POV.


  5. #15
    Beta Reader Princesisto's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
    Location
    Bangladesh for now.
    Posts
    145
    Blog Entries
    10
    Writing a novel and short story about a northern English girl (Mancunian with some Scottish and a few Lincolnshire words, which most critics seem to treat as a foreign language) who lives in Guatemala and speaks fluent child-Spanish, with other characters speaking Spanish, this issue is either dear to my heart or the bane of my existence. I am absolutely certain I have got stories rejected on this issue alone.

    At the same time, I must say that the idea that Scots, Lancastrians, Yellowbellies (from Lincolnshire) let alone Guatemalans, should speak the Queen's English or American English, to make life easier for lazy readers, is at least as offensive as sexist or racist language. I believe that people, even characters, because they represent people, deserve respect. We should respect dialects and preserve them because they could easily disappear in this globalising world. Then we will be much poorer folk.

    I am afraid that I cannot give any prescription because I cannot claim that I have handled this successfully enough to advise others. I shall just share some thoughts.

    Ideologically, I am closest to Grizzly. I have also received this advice from critics from time to time. Weighing in on that is a host of books (I can supplement with examples if requested) from Trainspotters to A Clockwork Orange, which have thrown readers into the sea and told them to learn to swim quickly and yet become best sellers.

    The problem is that ideology is for an ideal world. I am quite concerned that, if I insist on that ideal world, as a new writer, experimental in many other ways too, I shall never get published.

    I started with a novel manuscript about Belgians growing up in the Congo in the 1950s, called "Poisoned Dreams". I handled the language issue by letting the characters speak French but then put the translation in brackets. Example: Je ne sais pas etre belle ("I could never be beautiful."). The rejecting Editor said "We're not sure the bilingual writing works." and critics also panned it. They said it "broke the flow" of the dialogue and distracted the reader.

    Then I tried with no translation, for French (Belgian or Quebecois), Spanish or English dialects (northern English or Canadian). My most common comment: "I couldn't understand the foreign language." It caused them to think that the English dialects were also a foreign language!

    In my novel, New Little Princess, I have used an entertainment reporter, from Buckinghamshire (so he speaks the Queen's English naturally) as narrator. He can explain what the Princess says in northern English, e.g. "What do you mean by 'buzzin''?" asks Anthony. "You know, 'buzzin'', like over the moon," says the Princess. "You mean 'very happy'?" says Anthony "Aye, got it!" says the Princess. It works but it stretches out the dialogue. Readers might get bored, with so much ado about one word. Anthony is useless for Spanish and he is not always present, so that solution doesn't work all the time.

    My latest compromise, which you can see in my currently posted story, "My Holiday In Guatemala", is to try to put the translation right after the Spanish. Example: "If I’m not a hit in Lincoln Park, it will be 'Hasta nunca, Princesita!', see you never, little Princess, from Pina Colada." This is Shunn format, so the publisher will change underscores to italics if it is published.

    I have had some rejections already with that story, so I don't know if that solves the problem or continues it.

    That is all that I can say now about it but I am certainly drinking in your comments on this thread.

  6. #16
    Member Rojack79's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    Tucson Az
    Posts
    1,120
    Blog Entries
    2
    What do you do about body language? That's one thing i've seen very little of in most fiction I read. I'd love to come up with a language composed of nothing but body language for my story.
    This might not be my best work but that just means there's room to improve.

    I don't have a big ego. You just can't comprehend my greatness!

  7. #17
    Mentor Megan Pearson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2018
    Location
    In your garden. Prefer lantana but star flowers and sea holly will do.
    Posts
    364
    Blog Entries
    4
    Quote Originally Posted by Rojack79 View Post
    What do you do about body language?
    I saw a book once that dealt with nothing but gestures and body language.

    It made me realize just how limited I am in describing it with words.
    "A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for."
    ~ John A. Shedd


  8. #18
    I'm working on a section now where I am going to need help from some forum friends on how to speak English.
    Well...Scottish English, to be specific.
    I've been researching, but I don't think this character is quite authentic yet.
    But it's difficult, although we share a common language, how it is employed is radically different.



    It's practically like a foreign language to an American.
    Do we have any Scottish members who would mind looking over this section when I get done with it?
    My idea of Scottish is Shrek.

  9. #19
    This is one of the sites where I was researching Scottish insults.
    Check it out; there's an Easter egg on the page.
    https://www.buzzfeed.com/hilarywardle/chew-mah-banger

  10. #20
    Beta Reader Princesisto's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
    Location
    Bangladesh for now.
    Posts
    145
    Blog Entries
    10
    I am not Scottish but I have researched the dialect to write the Princess' mother, who is, and the Princess, who has picked up a lot of her Scottish words that her mother often uses. For example, above, for "bambit" do you mean "bampot" (insane person) that the Princess and her mother often use?

    If you cannot find any original Scots, I am willing to try my best.

    When I saw your post, I went to YouTube and looked at Shrek. His speech is not fully Scottish: it sounds like what it is, a Canadian trying to do a Scottish accent.

    Also, from what I know about Scots, they are not so hostile to the Irish as your character here. There are a lot of Irish in Scotland and Scots would probably regard being called "Irish" as amusing more than insulting. Of course, calling them English, with all the political debate about independence in recent years, might get a more serious response. And Scots Nationalists sometimes complain that the Irish bring too much of their culture to Scotland: but again, it's not hatred, such that they would regard being called Irish as an insult, really, just . . . nationalism, wanting to preserve their own culture in their own country.

    Most Scots would probably think Mitchell is a wee bit of a bampot, getting so angry about such a small thing.

    A Scot would more likely respond to Alex with some dour joke like, "No, we're the ones who do not get rich by helpin' foreign companies cheat on their overseas tax."
    Last edited by Princesisto; August 2nd, 2019 at 05:31 PM.

Page 2 of 3 FirstFirst 123 LastLast

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
This website uses cookies
We use cookies to store session information to facilitate remembering your login information, to allow you to save website preferences, to personalise content and ads, to provide social media features and to analyse our traffic. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners.