Questions tagged [language]

Incorporating foreign languages, slang, dialect, and so on into a work.

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27 votes
10 answers
51k views

What's the best way to show a foreign language in a manuscript?

What's the best way to show a character speaking a foreign language in a fiction manuscript? Should the foreign words be italicized and include a translation? Should it just be included in the ...
19 votes
6 answers
8k views

How to deal with a story that 95% of it takes place in a different language country and the protagonist speaks in it?

The protagonist is from a certain country, and in some point of the story he moves to another one that speaks another language. The protagonist learns their language and talks with them in it. ...
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16 votes
8 answers
6k views

How do I make an ESL character sound realistic?

I have to write an assignment in which there's an English character talking with a English as a Second Language (ESL) character. It is turning out really, really badly. I have a general idea of what ...
  • 953
32 votes
10 answers
10k views

How to write dialogue for someone who is intelligent but barely speaks the language?

I have a character who is a refugee from another country. She comes to the protagonist, and they have a couple of scenes together, viewed from the protagonist. I read about how important it is to ...
18 votes
6 answers
2k views

How can I effectively invent a language?

I want to make a particular language that adapts to the story. And the language has to have x and y and e characteristics for example. Is there a protocol to follow on the process of making a ...
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11 votes
2 answers
9k views

Writing slurred speech

One of my characters gets drunk and accidentally kills another. He has a couple of lines where he needs to sound obnoxiously, falling-down drunk. Is there a good way to accomplish this? What sounds ...
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11 votes
5 answers
2k views

How does one present spoken dialogue as a secondary language to signed speech?

I was starting to leave a comment on this excellent question when I realized I had come up with a second question which was equally intriguing. If you're writing a story where 95% of the ...
32 votes
11 answers
15k views

Using fake swear words without them seeming out of place to the reader

This is not a question about slang, but about swearing and word creation. I have a character who uses swear words, and this is part of his voice. I do not use real swear words. I want the sense of ...
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15 votes
10 answers
3k views

I'm writing a prologue from the POV of a non-English-speaking character. How should I write the dialogue?

Picturing this in movie form would be easy. I would have the character speak their native language in the scene and place subtitles. But I do not have this luxury in writing. It would be weird to ...
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7 votes
4 answers
357 views

What language to write in for a beginner wanting to write fiction?

So far, all of the fiction I've written in my life has been short stories given as writing tasks in school. However, I've always enjoyed reading/watching/experiencing fiction and for the last few ...
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4 votes
3 answers
679 views

How to master literary American English as a second language?

I want to learn to write fiction books (historical and science fiction) in American English. My native tongue is Russian and I speak fluently German, since I grew up in Austria. My English is good ...
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1 vote
4 answers
289 views

Improving my English

I'm keen to write stories from my imagination. However, my grammar is not up to the mark. I use very simple words, not complicated words like the ones used in novels. I read many great books, such as ...
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11 votes
2 answers
462 views

Colloquial speech in pre-modern setting

Following this question, I'm struggling with writing the speech of pre-modern (in my case - 5th century) noble-born children among themselves. Characters who are well-educated would not be making ...
20 votes
7 answers
16k views

How does one include sign language in a dialogue?

If one character is using sign language and lip reading while the other is speaking normally, how do you represent the lines of the former? Quotations with "he signed" attribution or italics?...
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2 votes
2 answers
244 views

What free tools are there to help me improve my English?

I am in the process of writing a research paper in Computer Science. Are there any free tools/browser plugins/web sites/latex plugins that would help me improve my English? I am looking for some nice ...
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88 votes
9 answers
16k views

Using real words from a foreign culture feels like 'Calling a rabbit a "smeerp"'

I'm working on a novel, that's set in pre-Islamic Persia, in the same general way that The Lord of the Rings is set in Britain. (Meaning, it's set in a world all its own, but there's this source of ...
29 votes
13 answers
6k views

Could I reach the level of good writing style as non-native language speaker?

I currently write in Russian, but I think of switching to English to gain more audience and to play with both languages and linguistics. So could I ever reach the level of native English writers and ...
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10 votes
4 answers
2k views

What's the difference between purple prose and vividly descriptive writing?

Elements of Style describes purple prose as "hard to digest, generally unwholesome, and sometimes nauseating." In short, it's ornate, contrived and breaks the narrative. There's plenty of advice on ...
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12 votes
7 answers
3k views

What language shall they sing in?

I'm writing a middle-grade novel in English. I have time-traveling kids from 1995 America who go to Ancient Egypt to join the Exodus. None of the kids speak anything but English (aside from a few ...
6 votes
5 answers
1k views

Can I use an existing fictional language?

When creating a world where there are either aliens or fantasy races, you know that they should speak their own language. But the truth is that for story purposes, such races will speak their language ...
12 votes
1 answer
431 views

How are multilingual scenes handled when the story's main language is translated into that of its minor one?

Say you have an English book in which there is a particular dialogue where one of a handful of participating characters is speaking French. In this dialogue the fact that he's speaking French is a ...
11 votes
4 answers
1k views

How can I ensure my POV character's writing isn't too sophisticated?

I am writing a piece which features two POV characters. A conceit of the story is that the POVs are writing their chapters, so each one reflects not just their personality, but how my characters ...
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5 votes
2 answers
248 views

Formatting multiple languages while avoiding italics for native speakers in their POV

Looking at this question, I was trying to figure out how to format a small family of novels and short stories that use a number of languages. My original approach went with the above question's style. ...
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22 votes
5 answers
3k views

How to write cleanly even if my character uses expletive language?

I'm writing a story that I'd like younger readers to pick up. I and they know and understand that some situations are far better expressed with one f-word than a thousand milder ones. I'm keeping my ...
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20 votes
8 answers
3k views

How realistic should dialogue and character voices be?

I've heard a lot of conflicting suggestions in the past regarding dialogue, so I'm hoping I can get a solid answer here. Some people have told me that the best way to go about dialogue is to make it ...
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18 votes
7 answers
2k views

Indicating multiple different modes of speech (fantasy language or telepathy)

All the viewpoint characters in my story are orcs and speak Orcish as their native tongue, but some are bilingual: they use English to talk to humans. Additionally, the main character has a magic ...
  • 1,341
11 votes
5 answers
8k views

Choosing between your Mother Tongue and another language

OK, I know I was warned, but what can I do? I had this question for a very long time. I have decided where to write (platform like computer or notepad), I am in the middle of deciding my way of ...
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18 votes
7 answers
6k views

How to describe a mythological creature that English has no vocabulary for?

The term is 妖精, which can be translated into English as "fairy", "elf", "goblin". As noted, the Japanese literature uses 妖精 to describe the European fairy. The English translation of 白骨精 in 西游记 (...
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15 votes
5 answers
5k views

Methods for creating slang

I am interested in creating slang or a vernacular for a particular group in my story. I want it to be distinctive and a definite marker for in-group/out-group, but not incomprehensible. I'm not ...
9 votes
4 answers
405 views

How do I write dialogue as heard by a POV character who isn't fluent in the language?

So I'm writing a story during the course of which my main, first-person-POV character learns another language, one used heavily in her surrounding. This generally works, but I regularly get stuck on ...
  • 1,355
5 votes
4 answers
3k views

Using Latin words in fantasy

I have seen at least a few cases of Latin being used in both fantasy and scifi, and I wonder how it is perceived and how much is tolerated. Being primarily a gamer, the first examples that come to ...
  • 649
4 votes
6 answers
837 views

Credibility of using English in non-English-speaking worlds

In the Magic Tree House series, two ordinary English-speaking kids travel to different faraway lands through a portal. Every character they meet, whether it's ancient Greece or ancient China, speaks ...
  • 464
4 votes
2 answers
506 views

Which language to use when writing a multinational story

I'm Brazilian and I'm writing a book in portuguese. However the story takes place first in Europe, i.e. Italy, Portugal, and London. Of course this requires of me some research about the culture of ...
13 votes
2 answers
8k views

How to show, not tell, a character has an accent in the narrative?

India has a diverse range of languages and accents. Moreover, people from different parts of the country have different accents of speaking the same language as well. For example, a person from ...
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13 votes
4 answers
653 views

British / American language mishmash

English is not my mother tongue. I am completely fluent in English though, and I write my fiction in English. Here's the problem: I live in neither the UK nor the US (nor any other English-speaking ...
9 votes
7 answers
2k views

Writing and proofreading a book in English as a non-native speaker

I started writing a book. I wanted to write fiction books for a long time, but never really got around doing it. I decided to write in English rather than in my own language for many reasons, one of ...
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7 votes
2 answers
347 views

Do popular books use simpler language?

This might seem like an obvious question, but I'm curious if there's been any research into whether popularity correlates with linguistic simplicity. Furthermore, do popular novels use linguistic ...
6 votes
6 answers
5k views

Believable (but easy) archaic English

Do you know any "shortcuts" to translating passages of my story into believably sounding archaic English? I mean, without taking a full school course? A crash course? An automatic service? A phrase ...
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4 votes
3 answers
374 views

Scenes with different languages spoken after translation

So... imagine you have a story in your native language written down, with protagonists that speak this language and no problem at all, except a bunch of scenes where your protagonist meets someone who ...
0 votes
4 answers
2k views

Use of real-world languages in a fantasy world

Can you use real-world languages in a fantasy world? For example, in the fantasy world Nuvo there are witches who speak “Russian”. Since this fantasy world has no relation to the real world, or to ...
12 votes
9 answers
744 views

Swearing in a book, within a context. Too offensive?

I am currently writing a science fiction novel. The characters are almost uniformly pirates and/or miners in the asteroid belt. Having worked in the mining industry, and grown up around mining towns ...
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9 votes
3 answers
530 views

What are the pros/cons of writing in English in a non-English country?

I live in a country that doesn't have English as its main language. I have two choices in writing, either write in my mother language or write in English. Why should or shouldn't I write in English? ...
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5 votes
4 answers
521 views

How to write Arabic in dialogue for an English piece?

I have a character who is a Syrian refugee to Canada. His first language is Arabic, but he's lived in Canada long enough that he's learned English and uses this as his primary spoken language. On ...
5 votes
5 answers
531 views

How do you handle slang with questionable spelling?

Imagine the following common conversation: Q: What are you up to? A. The usual Now imagine it spoken by certain kids these days: Q: What are you up to? A: The yooooshj. My question pertains to the ...
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4 votes
4 answers
229 views

How can I introduce languages that will be spoken in the long term?

My story is a little bit weird because it starts in a Spanish speaking country and then moves to Japan where everybody speaks japanese and I don't know how to introduce this new language that will be ...
4 votes
3 answers
218 views

How to interpret a language from a non-speaker's perspective?

I want to create a believable conversation between a character who speaks Mandarin and English and a character who speaks English but does not speak Mandarin. Basically, the Mandarin speaker is ...
  • 2,522
4 votes
2 answers
327 views

Resource on archaic English

I know there are similar questions around (like this and this) but they don't really have an answer that works for me. Are there any specific resources that would give me an idea about writing in ...
4 votes
1 answer
171 views

How do I compensate for lack of knowledge about foreign accents and takling styles?

In my novel, Matt goes to the club in Moscow and starts walking towards a Russian mafia. I have written the following line; Christoff was sitting in the club balcony with his acquaintances. As ...
4 votes
1 answer
144 views

Would an equals sign as secondary language exact quotes be misinterpreted in literary fiction?

I have chosen to show an accented English that is only comprehensible to speakers of the secondary language. The topic of translated sign language has been beat up and I accept that there is no ...
  • 1,084
3 votes
2 answers
210 views

What language should I write my programming blog post in? [closed]

My background I'm a native French speaker and a software engineer, I studied in French and grew up speaking French. My Question is: which language should I use for my technical blog posts? On one hand,...