Questions tagged [language]

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

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89 votes
9 answers
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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 ...
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35 votes
10 answers
11k views

My story is written in English, but is set in my home country. What language should I use for the dialogue?

I'm an amateur writer from the Philippines. I am writing a novelette for an international writing contest. My story is written in English, but is set here, in my country, with my POV character being ...
Jan Derick Malelang's user avatar
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 ...
KeizerHarm's user avatar
32 votes
11 answers
16k 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 ...
SFWriter's user avatar
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29 votes
8 answers
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Is it ok to use "aluminium" in an otherwise American English text?

I am not an American English native (I'm actually a German native speaker) but, when I write, I use the American style of words predominantly. However, I always use aluminium instead of aluminum, ...
Trish's user avatar
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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 ...
Dan Ganiev's user avatar
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28 votes
10 answers
4k views

Using colloquialisms the reader may not be familiar with

I'm from Ireland, most of my stories take place in Ireland, and many of my characters will speak with Irish accents and/or dialects to varying degrees. For the most part I think this is OK, and can ...
sudowoodo's user avatar
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26 votes
10 answers
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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 ...
Ralph Gallagher's user avatar
25 votes
9 answers
4k views

A torrent of foreign terms

I am writing a short story, about a particular field with multiple specific terms, none of which are in English. (Specifically, I'm writing about bullfighting, but the question could apply to other ...
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24 votes
10 answers
17k views

What can I do to make my writing fit the 1950s?

I'm working on a project (for a game) that needs to have a strongly 1950s feel. I, however, was born in the 1980s, so my writing has plenty of things that would sound out of place in the 1950s. For ...
Joe's user avatar
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23 votes
2 answers
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How should I quote American English speakers in a British English essay?

I am working on a formal essay where I have to quote a few American English speakers, but my essay is written in British English. Should I change terms like color to colour?
gen's user avatar
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22 votes
5 answers
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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 ...
iamtowrite's user avatar
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20 votes
9 answers
6k views

Can non-English-speaking characters use wordplay specific to English?

Would it be jarring if in an original (non-translated) story, the characters, who don't speak English in-universe, use "untranslatable" wordplay/puns that are specific to English? By "untranslatable" ...
Friendly Neighborhood Demon's user avatar
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 ...
Summer's user avatar
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20 votes
7 answers
20k 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?...
HNL's user avatar
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19 votes
8 answers
6k views

How do you explain that the people talking English in a comic book are talking in a language other than English?

How do you explain that the people talking English in a comic book are talking in another language that isn't English? Let's say that in panels 1, 2, and 4 the characters don't talk in English, but ...
Sayaman's user avatar
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19 votes
7 answers
3k views

Pretty flowers with clunky Latin names

I am writing a fantasy novel set in the Middle East. For multiple reasons related to both plot and atmosphere, I'm using flowers and flowering trees a lot in both descriptions and dialogue. Trouble is,...
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19 votes
6 answers
9k 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. ...
Yuuza's user avatar
  • 4,599
19 votes
3 answers
2k views

How do authors incorporate languages they don't speak?

In many, many English-language novels I've come across characters who speak other languages, most often French for whatever reason. In many cases, such as with Ulysses and Lolita, this is a simple ...
temporary_user_name's user avatar
18 votes
9 answers
4k views

Avoiding Slang whilst Writing

I sometime express my personality too much in my more creative fiction. When I get going, I include slang words and phrases that sound fascinating and are comprehensible to me, but may not be ...
robertcday's user avatar
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18 votes
7 answers
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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 (...
Double U's user avatar
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18 votes
7 answers
3k views

Are there any general rules or guidelines for using neologism or newly coined word (Cutease)?

Recently, I came across a beautiful word 'Cutease', defined on Urban dictionary as: Cute, sassy, saucy and cheeky. ends up being a tease. I found this word on one of the social networks and I loved ...
CaWo's user avatar
  • 181
18 votes
7 answers
8k views

How to address family members solely by relationship in dialogue?

Most English speakers probably just care about You, Mom, Dad, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Grandparents, Great-Grandparents and Ancestors, Children, Grandchildren, etc. That's great... as long as you are ...
Double U's user avatar
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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 ...
Robyn's user avatar
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17 votes
9 answers
6k views

Does misspelling words for the sake of bad English improve the immersion or distract the reader?

I am trying to write a character that speaks English poorly. I do not want to grossly misspell words for sounds or use bad grammar. I find those techniques to sound juvenile and the bad grammar is ...
Andrey's user avatar
  • 3,729
17 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 ...
Jose Luis's user avatar
  • 547
16 votes
8 answers
7k 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 ...
Ice-9's user avatar
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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 ...
Drask's user avatar
  • 163
15 votes
6 answers
960 views

Is it better to avoid names with a difficult pronunciation in Middle Grade fiction?

Many languages are written using Latin letters, but often these seemingly familiar letters aren't pronounced in the way that we are used to. For example, an English speaker might read the name ...
user avatar
15 votes
3 answers
2k views

Historical Fiction: using you and thou

Generally speaking, English once used 'you' as the second person plural (equivalent to 'vous' and 'vós') and 'thou' as the second person singular (equivalent to 'tu'). When talking to a person in a ...
SC for reinstatement of Monica's user avatar
15 votes
5 answers
6k 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 ...
Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum's user avatar
14 votes
7 answers
3k views

Will using real-world cultural vocabulary in a fantasy setting disengage readers?

If I have certain minor rituals/garments/culture tidbits in a fantasy setting that mirror those of Earth, and I describe them using the real-world vocabulary, will that disengage readers from the ...
clockwork's user avatar
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13 votes
9 answers
621 views

Should I translate my own writings into a second language I also know well?

Nabokov was very discouraged when he translated his Lolita into Russian. And he spent half a year on it. So should I try the translation myself?
Dan Ganiev's user avatar
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13 votes
8 answers
1k views

How to handle foreign military ranks?

Suppose you have a character who has a rank in a foreign military - say, Feldwebel Hans. That's the equivalent of a Sergeant. On one hand, having people call him "Herr Feldwebel" gives some flavor ...
ggambetta's user avatar
  • 1,697
13 votes
9 answers
768 views

My characters sound too eloquent. How can I strike a balance?

Here's a critique I've received more than once: "your character talks like a character from a book. He's too eloquent, nobody really talks like that, unless they grew up in a library." Now, to some ...
Galastel supports GoFundMonica's user avatar
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 ...
Karan Desai's user avatar
  • 1,987
13 votes
3 answers
7k views

Writing 19th century upperclass English dialog

I was recently rereading bits of Pride and Prejudice and the dialog is absolutely brilliant. How can I learn to write dialog that sounds like it is from this general era? For example are there any ...
Casebash's user avatar
  • 233
13 votes
4 answers
694 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 ...
Galastel supports GoFundMonica's user avatar
12 votes
6 answers
5k views

How to handle translation of a language in a comic, while preserving a sense that the language is significant?

I am producing a comic in which a fictional language is frequently spoken. This language (and which characters are able to speak it) is significant to the plot, so it's important that the reader ...
TheTermiteSociety's user avatar
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 ...
Cyn's user avatar
  • 32.4k
12 votes
4 answers
2k views

Managing alien languages in Sci-Fi creatively

I’m writing a story where alien races are in constant communication with humans, but I don’t want it to be awkward or have to use language tags like “...he said in x language.” Maybe I could have a ...
GDHPrinter's user avatar
12 votes
9 answers
761 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 ...
Smoj's user avatar
  • 243
12 votes
8 answers
2k views

Colours of ultraviolet

I need to write something from the perspective of a character who sees colours differently from humans, and in particular can see multiple shades of ultraviolet. This isn't unique, their entire ...
Marcus Downing's user avatar
12 votes
6 answers
1k views

English words in a non-english sci-fi novel

In the modern world, english is a well-estabilished technical and scientific language. Some terms have become so commonly used that they are accepted in my native tongue (words like "computer", "PC", "...
Liquid's user avatar
  • 15.8k
12 votes
1 answer
455 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 ...
temporary_user_name's user avatar
11 votes
4 answers
6k views

Is calling a character a "lunatic" or "crazy" ableist when it is in reference to their erratic behavior?

I am considering writing a line of dialogue in which character A calls character B (not to their face) "a lunatic". In the context of my story, it is clear that character A has a simplistic ...
Caroline A's user avatar
11 votes
7 answers
4k views

Writing dialogues for characters whose first language is not English

I am seriously wondering how to go about writing dialogues for characters whose native language isn't English and who aren't very fluent in English. It's very hard, because people have different ...
Sayaman's user avatar
  • 14.9k
11 votes
5 answers
888 views

How does one add puns in another language?

Back in college, I took a regular English course that was required for all majors. The teacher just happened to be a grad student in British Literature, so we read a lot of British literature. All the ...
Double U's user avatar
  • 2,512
11 votes
7 answers
2k views

Using slang as a narrator - pros and cons

Is it advisable to use slang and euphemisms as a narrator, in addition to the main characters who use it? Are there arguments for and against it? For example, if I were to write about street thugs ...
Axarydax's user avatar
  • 1,422
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 ...
Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum's user avatar

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