How do you write about language?

Guest

How do you write about language?

Post by Guest »

Specifically, if your book involves multiple characters speaking different languages.

Since I’m writing in English, of course I have to make it so that the readers can understand

But how do you convey for example A and B are having a conversation in Greek, and C can't understand what they are saying, so C speaks to them in English. Meanwhile, B and C then have a conversation in Turkish.

These are real world things that happen but are so hard to write in narrative form.

If it's a really short line or two, I might write it in the original language and then provide translation. but if it's an extensive conversation I want to write that in English.
Marcel

Re: How do you write about language?

Post by Marcel »

Google translate solves everything. I have a chapter in my book where the characters travel to Nigeria and google translate helped it all go smoothly
Carmen

Re: How do you write about language?

Post by Carmen »

About 90% of what I write contains my Spanish dialect interspersed with the English of the narrative. I offer a short, loose in-text translation for non-Spanish speakers. My books also have glossaries in back.
Bruce

Re: How do you write about language?

Post by Bruce »

C said, "Does anyone know where we're going?"

A turned to B and said in Turkish, "Are we really going to take her with us?"

B replied in the same language. "I don't think we have a choice. She's the one with the money."

B turned to me and said in English, "We go north until we hit the ocean, then east until the dragon eats us."
David

Re: How do you write about language?

Post by David »

I mix it up. My current WIP is set in Brazil. Sometimes, I say the characters are speaking Portuguese but I present the conversation in English. Sometimes, I'll throw in a morsel of Portuguese (with bracketed translation if the listener understands, no translation if they don't understand).
Caroline

Re: How do you write about language?

Post by Caroline »

Here is what I do. If the viewpoint character is fluent in the other language, I render it as English and simply state that it's "really" in Quebecois or Spanish or whatever. If the viewpoint character does not know the other language, or if I'm writing in third omniscient so there is no viewpoint character, I will use the other language for just a line or two (with or without translation, as appropriate), but for longer passages I'll simply say that there is a conversation in some language other than English and then, if appropriate, summarize it.
Shaneh

Re: How do you write about language?

Post by Shaneh »

In my book the protagonist is captured and sold to the French. For a few chapters (until the protagonist learns french) all of the dialog is written in french. If the reader wishes to translate they can, but the POINT is that people are discussing important things and the protagonist can't understand, so I don't necessarily want the reader to be anymore informed than the protagonist is.
Anne

Re: How do you write about language?

Post by Anne »

Just write it in italic, and provide the reader with some information as to which language they are speaking. Like
"(dialogues)" The gentlemen continued in their native tongue.
Jim

Re: How do you write about language?

Post by Jim »

John listened as Mohamed and Jobe as they spoke, he did not understand the language but got the gist from the body langue and posturing.
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