Lost in Μετάφραση

Writing alternate languages within a story can be tricky for many reasons. One, I never assume the reader knows what is being said and two, I never assume that the reader will bother to look it up and translate it.

Therefore if I use alternate languages in dialogue that I myself am not fluent in, (And I do) I follow these simple rules I set up for myself.

– I have another character translate
– I have narration translate (This is awkward to write and read IMO because it still
leaves the characters not knowing what was said)
– I have the speaker translate after speaking their native tongue
– I never translate and have someone comment on the rudeness of the speaker OR I
leave it mysterious if it fits into the scene
– I make sure body language, expression and action translate for me (This one is fun
and challenging to do)
– If both or all characters in the scene speak… say Spanish I might narrate that they
are speaking Spanish, put the dialogue in English and change the font to italic.

There are points in my books where a character who doesn’t or won’t speak English. There is always a purpose for it story wise and for my purposes it’s necessary for character development.

There are plenty of online translation tools out there, but how accurate are they? For fun if you go to one of them type in a simple sentence. Translate to another language then another and another then back to English and sometimes what you get is hilarious or illegible… so sometimes yes and sometimes no for accuracy.

(This example has not been edited/proofed by anyone who speaks/reads/writes Italian)

Valery rolled her eyes at Anne’s juicy work gossip. “I think you should quit and find a better job. That place is toxic.”
“Ogni sciocco vuole dare consigli.” Tony said under his breath reaching for his coffee. 
“Seriously?” Valery glared at Anne’s boyfriend.
“He said Every fool wants to give advice.” Anne elbowed Tony. “Don’t be rude.”
“Since when do you speak Italian?” Valery looked across the small diner table at Anne.
“Since I’ve been teaching her. Want to learn?” Tony said with a sly grin. “Sei bella e arroganteo.”
Valery crossed her arms. “And what pray-tel does that mean?”
Tony just smiled and sipped his coffee. 
Anne shook her head and chuckled, “He thinks your beautiful and arrogant.”
Valery grinned. “Spot on Tony.”

I do have french, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Latin in my stories. For now I’ve used multiple translation services to make sure they say what I want them to. Before I finish editing will fully intend on having someone who reads, writes and speaks those languages proofread them for me.

My advice about foreign language in writing.
Be careful and seek assistance if using a language you are not fluent in, otherwise what you meant to say could be lost in Lost in Μετάφραση (Lost in translation) 

-Sheryl

Other posts about dialogue

Conver(Conversation)sation

Conversing is easy…not!

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Juicy

In the eye of the beholder

Eyes are an obvious method to convey emotion.  However they are limited in possibilities. I bat my lashes as much as the next writer and I know a good glare when I see one. Relying on the eyes is not enough it is only part of the story.

The human body parts works as one, it gives away more emotion and can speak louder than words. Emotion is expressed in gestures, movements, facial expression and even breathing.

Now is not the time to get artistic. I know better than to mix angry actions with kind or shy with boisterous expressions. Keep it real, or the reader might not be able to play along. That’s right play along. I know I’m not alone in this, when I’m reading a scene and the protagonist bites their lip I sometimes to the same. If they hold their breath I might be mimicking the same. But only if the scene has pulled me in by showing me the emotion to the fullest. As I read I want to be in the story what better way than to be able to facially take part? I will attempt to get through the next part of Sasha’s story without a single eye reference, direct or indirect.

Lunch was a disaster. Across from Scott, Sasha rearranged the food on her plate with her fork, as he once again monopolized the conversation. He had cornered her at the office and insisted, she gave in not wanting to make a scene. After forty minutes of Scott flirting and bragging she paid her share and got up to leave.
“Hold on.” Scott called as he caught up to her outside. “What’s the rush?”
“I have a lot of work to get done.” She picked up her pace.
“Ah come on Sasha.” He grabbed her arm forcing her to stop.
Yanking it free she held her breath and pursed her lips.
“What do I have to do?” Scott lowered his chin and stepped closer forcing her back against the wall of the restaurant. “Why are you so afraid of men?”
“Afraid? I’m not afraid of men Scott. I’m just…” She pinched the bridge of her nose and took a deep breath. Upon releasing it she dropped her hand.
“Someone broke your heart huh?” He brushed the back of his hand from her chin along her jaw to her ear. The corners of her mouth fell, she turned her face from his as he moved to kiss her. He snorted, gripped her chin and moved her face and pressed his lips to hers.
Her hands pushed on his chest, but he held her tight. Again it wasn’t horrible, a pleasant warmth filled her chest beneath his tightly gripped hands. His soft lips pressed hard as his fingers pulled her chin to open her mouth. His gentle tongue moved too fast.  The mix of forcefulness and gentleness was wrong and she pulled her head back and shoved him hard.
“Don’t.”
“Why not? Give me one good reason. Not some crap excuse Sasha. I’m a dammed good catch for.” He clamped his mouth shut, her head tilted slightly to the side.
“For what Scott?” She waited for him to say ‘someone like you’.
“I’m a good catch for you, and you for me.” He smiled. “Why don’t we go out for some drinks tonight. Maybe dance and have some fun.”
“Not tonight I need to work on a project. Maybe another night.”
“Right, so you can find a more believable excuse later? Do you know why Amber is so hostile lately? Why the gossip is mostly about you?”
She opened her mouth and nothing came out.
“She wants me, but I want you. You, who wont even kiss me back for more than five seconds. You parade around the office cold and detached, apart from everyone, doing your own thing and upstaging everyone. Show some passion Sasha, for someone or something other than work.”
“I kissed you back isn’t that enough of a start?”
“I’m to be grateful your frozen lips moved, even if nothing else did?”
She walked away fast shaking her head fighting back tears. Scott apologized repeatedly and tried to recant. She didn’t acknowledge his desperate backpedaling. All she could think was ‘why is he backpedaling at all?

That wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I know I rely on the eyes too much and am constantly working on alternate expressions. This is where closing my own eyes and envisioning the interaction is key. I wouldn’t cut out the eyes completely, but I’m more aware to rely on them less.

My advice about cutting out the eyes.
Give it a try, not literally of course, that would be gross and scary.

-Sheryl

A couple older posts:

Eyes that carry worlds

Ghosts that write stories

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