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TheAntar
09-22-2008, 06:09 PM
I am using a linguist as a character in a story, and he uses various languages throughout. Since he's the viewpoint character, I intend to speak entirely in english and simply denote the foreign exchanges as such.

Who can help me with the denotations?

So far, I'm doing things like:

"Where is the cave?" Jason asked, in Turkish. The driver shook his head.

But then I wanted to add another bit of dialogue, in English (to an english speaker) before anybody else speaks. so basically:

"Where is the cave?" Jason asked, in Turkish. The driver shook his head. "I hope you know."

Problem: "I hope you know" is in english. So what do I do here. New paragraph? Italicize the non-english stuff? There won't be THAT much, only when he addresses a foreigner and his main companion is from the US.

Edmontonian
09-22-2008, 07:12 PM
Hey TheAntar,

How about saying something like "since Jason knew Turkish and locals are more honest to people who speak their language, he switched (or always spoke) to Turkish." Then, he said to his partner(s) in their language (you may want to indicate earlier whether their partner(s) speak Turkish or what languages they speak). Sometimes names are pretty clear about the possibility of languages someone can speak, but not always.

Thanks,

ED

maestrowork
09-22-2008, 07:38 PM
Just say the driver replied in English.

You should start a new paragraph for each speaker anyway.


"Where is the cave," Jason asked in Turkish.

The driver shook his head. "I hope you know," he said in English.

FennelGiraffe
09-22-2008, 09:31 PM
Just say the driver replied in English.

You should start a new paragraph for each speaker anyway.


"Where is the cave," Jason asked in Turkish.

The driver shook his head. "I hope you know," he said in English.

I may be reading the question wrong, but I think Jason is supposed to be saying both parts.

"Where is the cave?" Jason asked in Turkish. The driver shook his head. Jason turned to Max and said, "I hope you know."

One option would be to mention the language when it's other than English, so that when it isn't mentioned, English is implied. If you couple that with part of Edmontonion's suggestion by establishing which language he habitually speaks to which other character--in this example always speaking English to Max--my suggestion above should make it clear he's speaking English for the second part.

ideagirl
09-22-2008, 10:46 PM
I am using a linguist as a character in a story, and he uses various languages throughout. Since he's the viewpoint character, I intend to speak entirely in english and simply denote the foreign exchanges as such.
Who can help me with the denotations?

Ann Patchett can. Read Bel Canto. It's an amazing book, and one of the main characters is a translator/interpreter who's from Japan and speaks like half a dozen languages. Also, most of the characters in the book speak different languages from each other, so the whole book is a useful reference for how to handle situations that happen in multiple languages.

maestrowork
09-23-2008, 12:10 AM
I may be reading the question wrong, but I think Jason is supposed to be saying both parts.

"Where is the cave?" Jason asked in Turkish. The driver shook his head. Jason turned to Max and said, "I hope you know."

I didn't get the impression that there was another guy in the cab. That's why the original didn't make sense (why would Jason speak Turkish AND English to the cab driver?) But now I reread the OP I realized there was supposed to be another English-speaking person there. Then, I'd say, Fennel, you're right. Your example made it clear. Even better, make it ever clearer (it's all about clarity in fiction):

"Where is the cave?" Jason asked the driver in Turkish, who then shook his head. He turned to Max and said, "I hope you know."


Since the default is English and we know Max speaks English, it's clear that Jason is speaking English to Max. The one-off is the dialogue with the driver.

eyeblink
09-23-2008, 02:01 AM
In Christopher Priest's novel The Separation, he used the device of enclosing German-language dialogue in square brackets - "[like this]". English dialogue did without the square brackets.

josephwise
09-23-2008, 02:57 AM
I like the way Cormac McCarthy does it. If it's dialogue, he keeps it in the foreign language, and he doesn't translate it for the reader in any way.

However, if stated outside of dialouge, he states it in English.

Example (I don't know Turkish, so I'm going to make up the Turkish part. My apologies.):

Jason tapped the driver's head-rest with his thumb. "Vesse al conceverro parageffe?"

The driver shook his head. "Abesscel."

"He doesn't know," said Jason. "I hope you do."

"The cave is behind a winery," said Max. "An old stone wall out front. I don't know what it's called. Does he know the winery?"

Jason asked the driver about the winery and the driver said that he had grown up near it, but he knew of no cave.

"It's there," said Max. "Amy said once that it's impossible to see from town. Very well hidden."

"Dessol al vinta," said Jason, and after a mile the driver turned north.

maestrowork
09-23-2008, 04:47 AM
Yes, I do that, too, but you run the risk of stopping the readers anyway, plus now you have to ease the explanation into it. But when it works, it works wonderfully.

TheAntar
09-23-2008, 04:50 AM
I suppose the 'typing it in the language' is appropriate. Personally I've thrown away novels that did too much of that because I found it extremely annoying.

So like a son determined not to adopt his father's most annoying mannerism, I really don't want to do that to my (cough) readers.

Edit: Plus, my character may not always be with a native english speaker, so relying on relaying the info to another character may hinder a scene down the road.

bsolah
09-23-2008, 05:22 AM
These responses are interesting but what if there isn't a translator and we have two characters who both speak different languages and are trying to communicate, or more accurately one is speaking 12th Century Ukranian and the other 21st Century Ukranian?

TheAntar
09-23-2008, 12:36 PM
The most analogous thing I have for you is 12th century english.

You could, in fact, communicate with someone who spoke 12th century english. You would both have a lot of words, syntaxes, slang, etc that were very different. Accents and emphasis would vary greatly.

If you were talking to a 12th century englishman, and you kept your words slow, small and simple I doubt you'd have too much trouble. I can't imagine (though I don't know anything about the Ukrainian language) there being an insurmountable language barrier.

I think you should just establish a little communication barrier early on, but have the 21st century (assuming he's your POV character) overcome it. Sprinkle in the odd,

We heard a gunshot. Joe spoke, but I couldn't make out the words.
"Slow down," I said.

Something (obviously not that exactly, lol) sprinkled in 1-2 times after the 'difficult' beginning just to remind the reader that there is a bit of a language deal.

Is the distinction important to your story? Could you just say "It was a bit tricky but they understood each other" and be done with it?

bsolah
09-24-2008, 03:07 AM
Thanks, that's a good analogy. The language barrier isn't important to the story. It would just be totally unrealistic for them to communicate with no troubles at all.

Bartholomew
09-24-2008, 03:33 AM
I'm probably in the minority, but I love bilingualism in a novel. Especially when I can read both languages.

My dream novel has two PoV characters--one entirely in English, the other entirely in Korean or Chinese. I'd even settle for Spanish.

-B, linguophile.