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ColoradoGuy
03-10-2007, 10:13 PM
Conrad wrote in English, Beckett wrote in French. I have bits of a couple of languages besides English, but I have a question for those of you who are truly multi-lingual: do you encounter particularly unusual difficulties writing your non-native language? I'm thinking about the mental part: do you think about the process of writing and characterizations differently, depending upon the language you are using?

kirstin_mccormack
03-13-2007, 04:06 AM
I find that writing in my second language forces me to create sentences that are more simple and direct than I normally write in English. It also helps me avoid cliches, as I am forced to think of ways to explain ideas that I don't necessarily have the correct vocabulary for.

*Edited because I apparently don't spell very well, even in my first language. :(

ColoradoGuy
03-13-2007, 05:46 AM
Did you ever try translating it back into English, and then comparing the result to the English you would have written in the first place?

kirstin_mccormack
04-21-2007, 06:32 AM
I've never tried it... why do you mention it? Just as an interesting exercise?

ColoradoGuy
04-21-2007, 11:28 PM
I've never tried it... why do you mention it? Just as an interesting exercise?
It might show you the unconscious cliches you had whacked out through the back-and-forth process, perhaps making your writings in your native language more direct (if that's what you want).

Melisande
04-27-2007, 01:23 AM
I find that it makes me more aware about how I express myself, when I write, or even speak, in a different language.

I try not to even think in any other language than the one I'm using at the moment, but often I have to resort to my native language to get my thoughts right. I try not to translate them, though, but when I believe that I have gotten the thoughts right, I will try to think how I would word it in the foreign language.

The hardest thing, IMO, is to master the "flow" of a foreign language; to make it sound natural and effortless.

And yes, sometimes it can be hard with the characterization, because of the whole "coming-from-a-different-culture" problem.

Penguin Queen
04-27-2007, 02:22 AM
<...> do you encounter particularly unusual difficulties writing your non-native language? I'm thinking about the mental part: do you think about the process of writing and characterizations differently, depending upon the language you are using?

I totally agree with Melisande re the flow of a language. Thats the most difficult. That, and dialogue, for me (in English), to get it to sound really natural. But I find dialogue quite tricky anyway.

I find it easier to write fiction in English (acquired language), because English is so much more flexible and bendable, as it were, than German (native language). I can do stuff in English I wouldnt know how to do in German.
And oddly, I'm completely useless at translating myself.

I write in both, journalism in German, both non-ficiton & fiction in English. I used to write fiction in German too, but that was before Id found my English fiction voice, and I had never considered writing fiction in German again until I had an idea for a mystery a couple of years ago. That I can see myself wirting in German.
But literary stuff like I write in English ... well, I cant see it at the momen,t but who knows?

I tell you a funny thing though, when I plot something, even though I have conceived of the story in English & it's set in an Englsh-speaking environment, the synopsis/scribbles will still be half in German, half in English. With bits of Spanish creeping in since I lived in Argentina.
The brain is weird. :)

Penguin Queen
04-27-2007, 02:24 AM
Oh and another thing -- sometimes I'm complimented on the unusual turns of phrase I use in German. These usually turn out to be idiomatic English phrases or expressions I have used and translated into German without realising. Oops.

yappo
05-03-2007, 04:30 AM
My main problem would be that I'm not linguistically streetwise in English. That is one reason I stick to fantasy. The mere thought of writing anything contemporary in a language associated with cultures different from mine is laughable.

Sten

Lindo
05-28-2007, 07:07 AM
I am by no means bilingual (whatever that means...I'm still trying to figure out what "fluent" means) but I write articles in foreign papers and cultural reviews. (Quite a bit of it about American pop culture, which is considered pretty hip over a lot of the seas) but also political commentary. It's a pain in the ass. Especially accent marks. I just hate them. Thank GOD for spellcheckers, which can go through and get most of them.

There are several different ways of going about different tasks here. One is just to write the same way I write in English, then translate it, including the best shot I can get on the slang, etc. This works best doing something about popular American music. ( Es interesante que los apodos "Rock and Roll", "Boogie" y "Jazz" fueron todos sinonimos por tener relaciones sexuales. )

Another mode is to attempt to use the diction, etc. of the readers of the piece. Intellectuals is easy (once you start talking college stuff, all the Romance languages are just slipping over into Latin anyway) but hipsters is another matter. ( No es mas chido decir, No manches, wey? que "Me Vale"? ) Not for beginners. I get a boost from editors on this sort of stuff.

A third level would be writing as though you were actually a resident or native of the place you are writing in, for and about. A very tough one. One of my slickest tricks was a series of articles I sold to an American paper in which I posed as a foreigner and wrote in English, but in such a way that people familiar with the country I was pretending to be a native of would beleive that it had been written by a native. Very interesting exercise.

My favorite story of this, by the way is Jerzy Kosinsky, who wrote only in English. When he arrived in New York and started work on Steps and The Painted Word, both of which would win major literary awards, including the National Book Award for fiction, he would call up telephone operators and read passages to them, asking them if they sounded right.

aruna
06-01-2007, 09:55 AM
Oh and another thing -- sometimes I'm complimented on the unusual turns of phrase I use in German. These usually turn out to be idiomatic English phrases or expressions I have used and translated into German without realising. Oops.

Oh I do that all the time - but the other way around! There are lots of German expressions and metaphors which translate really nicely into English - and then people think you are brilliant!

talkwrite
06-01-2007, 09:22 PM
...but I have a question for those of you who are truly multi-lingual: do you encounter particularly unusual difficulties writing your non-native language? I'm thinking about the mental part: do you think about the process of writing and characterizations differently, depending upon the language you are using?

When I write an original piece (non translation) my writing and characterization is wholly encompassed by that specific culture with it's unique value systems. So it is the same process as writing for monolinguals. A literary translation needs to be as true to the author's message as possible. The language has to flow for the reader in any language or the book won't sell. We are trained in this and keep up our skills just like authors take writing classes. Great Thread!

DamaNegra
06-03-2007, 01:06 AM
do you encounter particularly unusual difficulties writing your non-native language? I'm thinking about the mental part: do you think about the process of writing and characterizations differently, depending upon the language you are using?

Not really. I find that some stories are better told in English, some are better told in Spanish. It depends on the story, and the best part is that the story's made especially for the language, so I really don't have any problems. I've even tried doing some stories in French and my only problem has been vocabluary.

My trick is to think in different languages at random times. That helps exercise your mind's graps on the language a little. And watching movies in that language, especially movies you've watched a million times and already know the dialogues, so you can set the subtitles to the other language as well. That way you can get a grasp on what they're trying to say.


Did you ever try translating it back into English, and then comparing the result to the English you would have written in the first place?

No. Translating is the worst thing you can do, because the train of thought of every language is different. I've found that, by learning new languages, I've become in a way smarter because I get to know thoughts that just don't exist in my country because the language can't express them. That's a very interesting thought in itself, isn't it?


One is just to write the same way I write in English, then translate it, including the best shot I can get on the slang, etc. This works best doing something about popular American music. ( Es interesante que los apodos "Rock and Roll", "Boogie" y "Jazz" fueron todos sinonimos por tener relaciones sexuales. )

But, as I explained before, this is one of the worst things you can do, because the translation will sound forced and wooden, and if you try to make it fluent it won't really resemble the original text.


Another mode is to attempt to use the diction, etc. of the readers of the piece. Intellectuals is easy (once you start talking college stuff, all the Romance languages are just slipping over into Latin anyway) but hipsters is another matter. ( No es mas chido decir, No manches, wey? que "Me Vale"? ) Not for beginners. I get a boost from editors on this sort of stuff.

I didn't really understand this approach. And no, Romance languages seem simliar and even have a lot of stuff that's almost the same, but in reality they're very different. Take it from one who's been playing around with Portuguese and French apart from her natural Spanish. Actually, French resembles English more than it resembles Spanish. Portuguese is just weird :D.


A third level would be writing as though you were actually a resident or native of the place you are writing in, for and about. A very tough one. One of my slickest tricks was a series of articles I sold to an American paper in which I posed as a foreigner and wrote in English, but in such a way that people familiar with the country I was pretending to be a native of would beleive that it had been written by a native. Very interesting exercise.

Yup, it's funny as hell to talk like a gringo trying to speak Spanish, and I can manage it. This is probably the best approach and the only I'd recommend.

talkwrite
06-03-2007, 10:20 PM
I have turned down or not bid on some written works because the concepts in the original text (what we translators call the "source") are so unknown in the "target" language and culture that I would be forced to make it a straight line translation- very uncreative and restricted.
I also once refused to offer a sight translation ( immediate reading of a source language text out loud in the target language) of a poem. The piece was a lovely sonnet written in very eloquent language, about the loss and despair felt by woman mother who had been killed in an accident. I was in court and it had been entered into evidence by the plaintiff's attorney in hopes that it would impact the jury. The mother had been killed in a auto accident caused by malfunction of the auto. The judge instructed me to sight translate it (something I am trained to do) But this was so well written it defied immediate translation with out the help of dictionaries. I nervously had to refuse the instruction and explain the inherent difficulties of fairly providing the same impact of the original poem without the time to translate it using my dictionaries and other tools. The prosecution withdrew the evidence and the judge later commended me for protecting the integrity of the evidence- Then he told me privately he was a published poet himself. I still wrestle with the irony of such a lovely poem surviving the wilds of our court system.