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murmel
05-04-2008, 12:28 AM
In both of my WIPs I sprinkle in a few words of Gaelic or German or French, depending on nationality of the character speaking. Now, because I'm not a grammar and punctuation star, I hired an editor months ago to help me proofread (a stupid idea, but that's another battlefield), and he didn't like this at all.
Other readers enjoy the occasional foreign word, like the occasional in-period swear word perhaps, and some even don't want the translation given all the time.
In the WIP WWII in Germany I used expressions like Trümmerfrauen and Verdunklungsgebot, and the action suggests very easily what those words mean. Again, one reader loves it and the next one surmises I must be an ESL writer because no Englishman can possibly know those words. No?

What's your take on adding different language bits for more authenticity? A do or don't?

maestrowork
05-04-2008, 12:32 AM
Foreign words are fine. Authors use them all the time. Just make sure I don't have a long section of them without any explanation. But use sparingly it adds flavor. I have foreign words and phrases sprinkled all over my manuscript. Who cares if some people don't like it. Just because the book is written in English doesn't mean every word has to be English. Capiche?

JamieFord
05-04-2008, 01:11 AM
Handle with care. If only half of your readers are annoyed by their usage, that's still a lot.


I tend to have Asian characters and use foreign words quite a bit. Here's a rough example of different ways to handle 'em:


1) She wore a purple furisode. (Okay, I've injected a Japanese term, it's italicized so the reader knows it's foreign and not a misspelled English word).

2) She wore a purple furisode––a light kimono, with gold thread. (Okay, this time I've added a description so that the reader will know what I'm talking about).

3) She wore a purple furisode kimono––indicating her status as a single woman. (This time the foreign word has cultural relevance).


I almost always explain the word like #2, the first time the word is used anyway. But, I try for #3––to use the word so that it adds something real, as far as description, and isn't just plopped in for flavor.

Does that help at all?

choppersmom
05-04-2008, 01:44 AM
I've never had a problem with foreign words in the books I've read, it gives them an interesting flavor, IMO. But there was one book I recall, where the author latched on to ONE French word, and just used it and used it and used it until I couldn't stand the sight of it. "Mignon." The guy kept calling the girl "mignon" on every stinking page, it seemed. (It translates to something like "cutie.") Mignon mignon mignon. Stop! Call her chere (dear), call her ma bichette (my little doe), call her ma puce (my flea) if you must, but change it up once in a while!

blacbird
05-04-2008, 01:52 AM
Mon petit pamplemousse.

caux

WittyandorIronic
05-04-2008, 01:57 AM
I agree with all the advice above. Sparingly and with enough scene context or an actual description, and you are good to go.
Since I am in the middle of reading a book with clear examples of how NOT to do this I thought I would share. I am reading a non-fiction book about Regency England written in a very entertaining manner. It uses a lot of quotes from letters, journals, and newspapers to give period impressions of different aspects of society. At least 4 times (I am a little over half way done....I read non-fiction so dang slowly) she has used a quote from someone foreign and not translated. It wouldn't be that big of a deal except they are entire sentences, sometimes two! It looks a bit like:
"Society's obsession with turtle soup was best summed up by French chef Jacque Whatever. When asked if he considered turtles a delicacy, he responded, 'Aadskhf adsfkjadk asdkl asdklfh kasdf! Ajdkh adshf kljkhad adsklhf aklhfa.' And Jacque definitely echoed the prevailing opinion of the times!"
WTF. Seriously? I am NOT going to babelfish.com and typing in an entire sentence. I am reading non-fiction for research, not to do more research. Drives me nuts.

murmel
05-04-2008, 02:20 AM
WaoI - LOL.

I use JamieFord's 1,2,3 and so far nine out of ten loved the bits.

"Madainn mhath, Good Morning," she said.
the next time, it'll be "Madainn mhath," he said.

or "Isd, quiet," he said.
all the other it's "Isd." I think the reader is intelligent enough to figure it out after a while, especially with a glossary in the back of the book. n' est-ce pas?

Thank you for the discussion. :)

Jersey Chick
05-04-2008, 03:00 AM
For my Samhain book, I used Spanish phrases scattered throughout - fortunately, one of my editors is fluent in Spanish - she caught all of my goofs (of which there were many!) But, I (hope) they will be relatively easy for a reader to understand, given the scenes.

I hope. :D

JamieFord
05-04-2008, 03:03 AM
Glad it helped. Another great example is The Kite Runner, where he smoothly clarifies a word once and by the end of the book you're up to speed on all kinds of Afghani words and descriptors.

choppersmom
05-04-2008, 04:20 AM
Mon petit pamplemousse.

caux

http://shieldsdategarden.com/images/grapefruit.jpg

Perle_Rare
05-04-2008, 05:34 AM
In both of my WIPs I sprinkle in a few words of Gaelic or German or French, depending on nationality of the character speaking.

Just make sure you get those words or sentences absolutely correct. I've read way too many books where the French is mangled beyond recognition. Missing accents or wrong accents; wrong gender; wrong choice or words or screwed up sentence structure, and the list goes on. Drives me nuts!
:Soapbox:

You can also suggest nationality through choice of English words and sentence structure. There's many things I say in English that make it obvious I'm French. How often do you open the light (turn on the light) or offer your guests raisins while handing them fresh grapes? I also claim I'm going to the library when I plan to go to the bookstore. To do this, however, you'd have to be fluent in both languages or have had a fair amount of exposure to people for whom English isn't their first language.

blacbird
05-04-2008, 09:28 AM
You can also suggest nationality through choice of English words and sentence structure. There's many things I say in English that make it obvious I'm French. How often do you open the light (turn on the light) or offer your guests raisins while handing them fresh grapes? I also claim I'm going to the library when I plan to go to the bookstore.

Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck both were particularly good at this technique, often with fine humor, with Spanish.

caw

choppersmom
05-04-2008, 06:25 PM
or offer your guests raisins while handing them fresh grapes?

I'd tell them, well, not right away, you have wait a while for the raisins.

Daehota
05-04-2008, 07:35 PM
I don't see a problem with using non-English words occasionally. In my current wip there is a sprinkling of Spanish as the MC is half Cuban. When he talks to his mother there are Spanish words in the conversation. They should be pretty easily understood by the reader, I think, by their context.

I wouldn't overdo it, though. It can get tedious.

Gary Clarke
05-05-2008, 03:26 AM
"Madainn mhath, Good Morning," she said.
the next time, it'll be "Madainn mhath," he said.

Murmel ... is that meant to be Irish? Oh, hang on, maybe it's Scots is it? If so, crack on and ignore me!

A. J. Luxton
05-05-2008, 06:25 AM
Using French and other linguistically related languages in an English manuscript is not so hard on many readers. Despite lacking any training in French beyond "bonjour, bonsoir, oui, non" I was able to piece out that the guitar instructional book "pour les Nuls" a Frenchman in a hostel was carrying was "for the idiots", and to his amusement read off correct rough English translations of the chapter index. I didn't know the words, but about two thirds of them were roots for similar English words. So a little context will sort it out. I usually have to look up the French quotes in T.S. Eliot poems because they don't have as much context stuck on them.

Now, use of Asian languages requires a lot more context and perhaps an outright explanation.

...I've been working in China as a teacher for seven months, and ever since I've gotten here I've wanted to write a parodical short-short mocking exoticism: name my characters things like "Mei You"1 and "Jiao Zi"2 and assign them dialogue like Wo shi ben dan Meiguoren. Cesuo zai nar?3

I've refrained from doing so solely because only a select audience of people would get it, and probably some other select audience of people would think I was mocking the Chinese. :D

1We haven't got any
2Dumplings
3I am a stupid American. Where's the toilet?

murmel
05-06-2008, 12:18 AM
"Madainn mhath, Good Morning," she said.
the next time, it'll be "Madainn mhath," he said.

Murmel ... is that meant to be Irish? Oh, hang on, maybe it's Scots is it? If so, crack on and ignore me!

Actually I don't know whether the Irish words were the same... I speak Gàidhlig (Scottish Gaelic). Scots is very English intermingled with older Germanic words and grammar. You'd recognise Scots and you can read it.


Just make sure you get those words or sentences absolutely correct. I've read way too many books where the French is mangled beyond recognition. Missing accents or wrong accents; wrong gender; wrong choice or words or screwed up sentence structure, and the list goes on. Drives me nuts!

You can also suggest nationality through choice of English words and sentence structure. There's many things I say in English that make it obvious I'm French. How often do you open the light (turn on the light) or offer your guests raisins while handing them fresh grapes? I also claim I'm going to the library when I plan to go to the bookstore. To do this, however, you'd have to be fluent in both languages or have had a fair amount of exposure to people for whom English isn't their first language.

I know exactly what you're saying. I know a fairly successful writer of historical romance books who lacks not only accuracy, but the Gàidhlig she's uses is horrible.

I'm fluent in Scottish Gaelic and in German; have still bits of French. Means I'm good enough to attempt to sprinkle in their specific voices. I wouldn't try this in any other language.

Gary Clarke
05-06-2008, 12:49 AM
The Irish/scots words must be very similar because the words you wrote looked like really badly spelled Irish, LOL!

murmel
05-06-2008, 01:43 AM
The Irish/scots words must be very similar because the words you wrote looked like really badly spelled Irish, LOL!

The Scottish Gaelic was called Scots a very long time ago and the Lowland language Inglis... Around 16th, when the English cut off the direct connection between Eìrinn and Alba, the Scots was called Scottish Gaelic and the term Scots got attached to the Lowland English.
Scottish Gaelic and Irish grew further apart in the 17th century and after Culloden the Scottish Gaelic withdrew in pockets and deteriorated into a family only language. Still Irish and Scottish Gaels can understand each other.

I can read Irish but I can't write it. An Irish friend and I used to exchange posts on a forum, she wrote in Irish and I replied in Gàidhlig. It worked!

Beyondian
05-06-2008, 02:17 AM
Perhaps luckily, I use obscure languages in my Historic Fiction (18th Century Argot, and Rromani Chib). I do quake in fear that I am using them wrong - or in the wrong context - or that my rough translation of Vidocqs 'The Thieves' is so bad that I'm getting all the Argot wrong...
I tend to use footnotes. Unless it's explained in the context. Sometimes I just leave it untranslated, but that's when the MC can't understand it either.
Are footnotes considered bad taste in fiction? I use a moderate smattering of foreign words, and putting them in itallics followed by the literal translation isn't going to work all the time.

Gary Clarke
05-06-2008, 02:19 AM
<murmel> An Irish friend and I used to exchange posts on a forum, she wrote in Irish and I replied in Gàidhlig. It worked!


I can well believe it! I deffo understood the words you were writing anyway, just the spelling looked odd. Though I can barely spell English let alone Irish, I'm pretty sure that the way we'd spell it is 'Maidin mhaith agut'

My own Irish is very poor, but I try to get some of it into most everything that I write. I used quite a lot of it in my last book actually. I'm lucky enough to have a friend who is gealteacht born and raised and she did a stunning job on making my very basic gaeilge flow.

I'm hoping that my editor lets me keep it in... Fingers crossed!!

murmel
05-06-2008, 02:29 AM
Feasgar math dhut. A bheil Gaeilge agad? Tha sin math. Tha a' Ghàidhlig agam. 'S dòcha gur urrainn dhuinn bruidhinn rinn?

Gary Clarke
05-06-2008, 02:36 AM
Oiche maith duit, a chara. Nil ach gaeilge beagin bocht orm :0) Nil a fhios agum, in aon chomhair, cad e a ta thu a ra nuair a deir thusa 'urrainn dhuinn bruidhinn rinn?'

JimmyB27
05-06-2008, 08:14 PM
I've never had a problem with foreign words in the books I've read, it gives them an interesting flavor, IMO. But there was one book I recall, where the author latched on to ONE French word, and just used it and used it and used it until I couldn't stand the sight of it. "Mignon." The guy kept calling the girl "mignon" on every stinking page, it seemed. (It translates to something like "cutie.") Mignon mignon mignon. Stop! Call her chere (dear), call her ma bichette (my little doe), call her ma puce (my flea) if you must, but change it up once in a while!
My flea?! Ahh, yes, for what is more romantic than a bloodsucking parasite?

Gary Clarke
05-06-2008, 09:08 PM
Jimmy >>My flea?! Ahh, yes, for what is more romantic than a bloodsucking parasite?


hey, there's no accounting for taste! One man's puce is another man's blood sucking parasite.

murmel
05-07-2008, 12:56 AM
Oiche maith duit, a chara. Nil ach gaeilge beagin bocht orm :0) Nil a fhios agum, in aon chomhair, cad e a ta thu a ra nuair a deir thusa 'urrainn dhuinn bruidhinn rinn?'
bhruidhinn mise sgudail... ack feumaidh mi ràdh: 's urrainn dhuinn bruidhinn ri cheile. A bheil sin nas fheàrr?

Chan eil fhiosam dè canaidh na 'mods' nuair a bhruidhinneas sinn 'sa Ghaidhlig 's Gaelge. Chì sinn, nach fhaic?

Bartholomew
05-07-2008, 09:44 AM
Mon petit pamplemousse.

caux

Your tiny grapefruit?

Gary Clarke
05-07-2008, 09:33 PM
*Scratches head and squints in polite confusion at Murmel* Is that so?

murmel
05-07-2008, 09:36 PM
Sure is! :D

Calla Lily
05-07-2008, 09:37 PM
:eek: So glad I only used 3 tiny bits of Gaelic and Italian in my mystery--a total of about 12 words, all figured out within the context of the scene.

Wow.

slcboston
05-07-2008, 09:42 PM
Jimmy >>My flea?! Ahh, yes, for what is more romantic than a bloodsucking parasite?


hey, there's no accounting for taste! One man's puce is another man's blood sucking parasite.

Imitates Billy Crystal as a green, one-eyed cretin: "Leave the puce!" :D

slcboston
05-07-2008, 09:45 PM
...I've been working in China as a teacher for seven months, and ever since I've gotten here I've wanted to write a parodical short-short mocking exoticism: name my characters things like "Mei You"1 and "Jiao Zi"2 and assign them dialogue like Wo shi ben dan Meiguoren. Cesuo zai nar?3

Wo shou Hanyu yi dian dian... (I speak a little Chinese) but, that said, I'm pretty sure from my time spent in Shanghai that no one actually uses "cesou" for "toilet." It wasn't exactly considered rude, but more a little cruder than you'd want to ask for in public. :)

But I've been out of the country for two years, so my recollection could be a little shaky.

Gary Clarke
05-08-2008, 12:29 AM
Mumel>>> sure is

Go mo leathsceal, a craoi, ach taim cailte :0)
Bfheidir go bheidh thusa ag caint liom, ( ana ana moill ). Ach nil mo 'spelling' nor mo gaelige chomh maith don comhra i do teanga hallain :0)

Sorry to dissapoint :0)

Round John Virgin
05-09-2008, 04:42 AM
I've used each of the techniques described by Jamie Ford (post #3) with Hawaiian words and phrases in a novel set in Honolulu. How can you avoid it--and why would you want to? It's such a musical language. If any of my--um--dozens of readers are put off by it, they haven't let on.

Mele Kalikimaka (early)!

Kalyke
05-09-2008, 06:07 AM
This is a similar problem w/ jargon I have. my wip has a sport as a backdrop, and frankly, there are terms that the average non fanatic would not know. I did not want to stop every time to write a definition. It would have screwed up my pacing. I left the unfamiliar terms and then, in various other places where the pace is slower get around to "defining" the word in the same way as the kimono example at the beginning.

As far as readers not understanding, some were shrill, demanding instant gratification, others were laid back, saying "I figured I'd figure it out in the end."

I guess you can't talk like a pirate, if you have your translator interfering all the time. People got to say, "ooh, that writer truly knows what it's like to hoist the pitard."