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How to handle foreign language in stories?

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How do you think foreign language should be handled in stories, if the need arises for a specific character? Should a translation be given with the original? Should only English be used, with a cue that it's in another language?

I don't particularly have anything planned, but I do have something mainstream that I'm busy procrastinating on, which includes some French, so I thought I'd put the question to the forum.

Also, I've started reviewing my Spanish and French a little. It looks like I may not be quite as rusty as I was afraid I was, but I need to practice both, build vocab., and do real-life listening and speaking more. That's easy for Spanish, here, I just have to overcome the shyness I seem to have gotten into about it. French, though, is going to be harder.

Parlez-vous fran?ais, fluentement ou non-fluentement? J'appr?cierai le pratique. -- J'aimerai bien apprender l'idiome Cajun ou Cr?ole, aussi bien que la canadienne ou parisienne. Ce importe quoi.

Bleh, isn't there any easier keyboard input method for Windows? Something sensible, like the Mac or MS Word uses? The forum won't accept all the alt-key-number combinations, and I hate memorizing them, but I'll have to. Lousy Microsoft, if they were gonna "borrow" something, why didn't they "borrow" the Mac keyboard entry method? Alt-0241, my butt!

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In the various stories I've read that include foreign languages (for the record, I only know English), I haven't had a problem when the meaning of the foreign phrase can be derived from the context. Julian May's Millenium SF story is a good example. It has French scattered throughout the story, but it's always pretty clear what is being said from the context.

eg. A question was asked in French. Another character replies "Thanks" and takes a drink from a whisky flask. It was obvious that the question was asking if they wanted a drink.

It's when the phrase defines the context, or contains important information; that's when a translation should be provided.

My opinion only, of course.

Graeme

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How do you think foreign language should be handled in stories, if the need arises for a specific character? Should a translation be given with the original? Should only English be used, with a cue that it's in another language?

Generally, if it's small portions use the correct language. Your reader can figure it out from conext. If it's large portions you can type in English but italicize it and in the FIRST reference make some indication that the person is speaking in <language>.

There would be a specific exception if you have two people who are talking to each other and don't understand each other, the ideal thing is to do it in the individual respective languages.

None of this is official, but it's how many authors seem to handle it, and it is sensible enough.

Parlez-vous fran?ais, fluentement ou non-fluentement?

I most certainly am not flatulent. :D Je parle un petit peu de fran?ais; yo hablo poquito de espa?ol tambien.

-- wbms

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I'm glad this came up. I'm in the middle of a story where the initial sequence of events takes place in France and the characters are speaking French. This is all rendered in in English with a few reminders for the reader (hopefully not to clumsy - noting that someone had to reflect to find a French word for example, or a reference to accent or a grammatical error). At one point a character switiches language for confidentiality and says not a great many words in very colloquial English and I need to make that point clear because the development depends upon the fact that the first person narrator understands what is said - that is the attempt at confidentiality fails. It took a while to get this right (or as right as I have it yet) and I seriously thought of turning the whole thing round and having English as the default language and French as the second language. Wouldn't have worked so I had to struggle on.

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