I plan to collect and compile my parents' and grandparents' stories from northeastern Brazil into historical fiction in English. That region of the country is very different from what is typically thought of as "Brazil" abroad and has its unique accents, sounds, and vocabulary. Are there any tips on expressing regionalisms from a foreign tongue when writing in English? Any successful writers who have done that well that I could learn from?

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Leviathan Wakes is a science fiction book that has a creole language in it, Belter. Much of the book happens in a place where this language is spoken alongside English. Here are some techniques I noticed the authors used.

  1. The main character has a very light accent. He speaks mostly English. This helps a lot because you spend the most time with him.
  2. A lot of the people in the story speak both languages and can switch from one to the other. So they will speak to the main character in English, with a few borrowed words slipped in that the reader can intuit--most of the time.
  3. It's ok if the reader doesn't get every single word.
  4. Occasionally when talking to a person who speaks only the other language, there are a couple different techniques. First, there is an interpreter.
  5. And second, the POV (point-of-view) character will react to the person in certain ways that gives you enough information.

All of these techniques added up to a story that was pretty readable and understandable, while still having a strong sense of this other culture.

Probably the most important thing IMO is that there is some kind of "outsider" who is either the main POV character, or maybe someone who is with the main POV character, so that the main POV character constantly explains things to them in English.

Another totally different example is the Lord of the Rings, where there are several totally different languages, and they are just used sparingly, or sometimes conversations in another language are summarized instead of happening directly.

If you want an example of a "real" language, I also recently read a collection of short stories about Thailand that was written in English and used the technique of being very selective about which Thai words to interlope in the dialogues in a very satisfying way. Sightseeing, by Rattawut Lapcharoensap.

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