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Using a different language?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Seira, Apr 8, 2017.

  1. Seira

    Seira Minstrel

    I have a race in my book that speaks a different language from the others. They don’t meet any other races in the book so how do I show they are not speaking English? My main character isn’t going to say anything like ‘they spoke in an unknown language’ because she knows the language. I’ll obviously be writing the dialogue in English but how do I tell the readers it’s not the language they are speaking? Do I maybe comment on the fact that my MC is learning the Human Language? Or should I create some words for certain things. Like they have something like a Bible that is called the Order. Do I call it The Order or would it be better to use the word I made up which is The Ortar?

    Sometimes in the past when I read people adding in the Odd word of a random language it's thrown me a bit and confused me a bit. All the dialogue is in English then there's this random word thrown in there. So I was just wondering what was the best way to go about it, especially for someone who is not a language expert.

    Thanks for any help
  2. Seira

    Seira Minstrel

    Forgot to add but it's really hard naming characters as well. They wouldn't use any names associated with this earth because they know nothing about this earth.
  3. Butterfly

    Butterfly Auror

    Short answer, you don't and it isn't as big a problem as it seems. Think of it this way. The book you are writing is one big translation into English from whatever language your characters are really speaking in their own world, so unless something seems strange or out of place to them, it doesn't really need drawing attention to.

    I've seen things like this, where the made up word is italicised in the text. In others books there is the addition of a glossary in the back a reader can refer to, it they wish. Also, those obscure words can be explained subtly when they first appear, or shown, such as your Ortar. This you can show as being like a bible, in the placement of it within your scenes, such as on a plinth or altar, or being treasured and handled carefully by its reader.

    For your naming of characters there are several methods you could use to generate words. One of my favourites is to press down a load of keys on the keyboard and let the letters randomise on the screen. There is usually something in there that i can add to my ever growing list of obscure words.

    There are also name generators out there, if you do a search for them.

    or you can split words and glue them together to create new names., like, Ewna, Geth... build a list and you can always pull something from it when you need it.
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2017
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  4. K.S. Crooks

    K.S. Crooks Inkling

    If you mention in the beginning that the other beings have their own language, you only need to acknowledge again if there's someone present who doesn't understand. Then you can have someone translate or show that it was done by the actions or dialogue that follows. For names you could try taking the main trait of a character and looking up the word in a different language to use as the name.
    Seira likes this.
  5. Malik

    Malik Auror

    Here's a scene I'm working right now from Book II, in which the MC, from Earth, runs into someone he knows from Earth while he's on another planet doing fantasy hero stuff. They switch back and forth between the local language and English.

    “Renaldo,” said Jarrod in English. “Funny seeing you here.”
    “Nice place,” said Renaldo. “You’re looking well. And it’s ‘Lord Blacktree.’”
    “‘Blacktree,’” said Jarrod. “Like ‘Hillwhite,’ only dumber.”
    “We’ll see.”
    “Let me get this straight,” said Jarrod, waving his hands to stop the conversation and addressing Carlan in the Gateskeep language. “You idiots go all the way back to Earth to find yourselves a champion, and you come back with this guy? What did you do, lose a bet?”
    “They made me a pretty sweet deal,” said Renaldo in English. “All I have to do is kill you.”
    “Yeah,” said Jarrod, fingers drumming on the handle of his rapier. “I’m sure that’s gonna happen.”
    “You’re not allowed a Lord Protector in these circumstances,” said Jarrod, addressing Carlan in his own language. “If you kill me now, they’ll hang you both.”
    “If we kill all of you, we walk out,” said Renaldo, in the same. His accent was guttural, slurred. He hadn’t been here long.
  6. Malik

    Malik Auror

    Rereading this section this morning, and I'm still not real happy with the flow of it, but you get the idea.
    Seira likes this.
  7. Shreddies

    Shreddies Troubadour

    For the language issue you could try using a different type of quotation mark and mention the person is using a different language when it's first used.

    「Such as traditional Chinese quotation marks.」 《Or maybe Chinese title marks?》

    This way, after a little groundwork, you can immediately show when someone is speaking in another language. I've tried using the title marks to show when someone is hearing a certain voice in their head and it seems to be working quite well.
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2017
    Seira likes this.

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