15

The "subtitle problem" is an extremely common one in stories with multilingual characters, and there are a few different approaches. Here are three suggestions for how you can do it. In most cases, you would do something like, "What's the deal?" I asked, sliding easily into my native tongue. "Did the package come or not?" This ...


13

You should first think (even if you don't explicitly tell it to the reader) how such communication will happen. Some possibilities: Humans and aliens have the same language There is a universal translation device human<->alien Aliens have learnt all human languages and are able to communicate in any of them Communication actually happens through ...


8

Both works, but the first one is more consise so it is better. The general rule of thumb when using pronouns multiple times in a phrase is that the pronoun should refer to the same noun. That being said, there is an even better sentence: "This part of the book highlights her kindness and self-confidence." I hope this helps, please comment if you need ...


8

I think you're making things hard on yourself. Is the book intended for people who speak English? Then the dialog should be in English. Readers routinely understand and accept that this is supposed to be a translation of whatever language the character would really speak. Every now and then, I read a story where the author puts in a lot of text in a foreign ...


6

Set apart the text: If I felt the need to indicate an alien language was being spoken, and that everyone was speaking it or at least understood, I'd set the alien languages apart in the print. I'm not an English major or an editor, so it's how I would do it: Psychic: She opened her mind to him, thinking, "I know we can't be physically together, but ...


5

This has been touched on in other answers and comments, but I'd like to bring it out explicitly: You don't have to do anything. In fact, I'd argue you shouldn't do anything. It's a general understanding when reading English books that in any given scene, "English" is the stand-in for "language the POV character speaks and understands". ...


5

Depending on the language you could just... not. For example take Chewbacca in Star Wars. Wookies can't make the sounds for Basic, and he spends the entire multi-movie span yelling what sounds like animal noises. But Han and several others speak Wookie and you the audience can get the gist of what he's saying based on their responses and Chewies tone. ...


5

It can be very difficult for some writers to inject a little 'creativity' into their writing. I think what you're looking for is 'imagery'. We don't always need to say exactly what something is - we can say what it's like - what it feels like, reminds us of, and is comparable to. This can be much more evocative and powerful than bluntly stating a fact. Here ...


4

Having heard what you should do, allow me to mention something that you should not do: If the character is speaking in his or her native language, and you are translating it into English for the reader's sake, then do not try to write English with the accent of the original language. Instead, write English that has the same sound/gravitas to English-speaking ...


4

Rather than give a fish… Tie it into the culture, make it do double duty Everything in your story should do more than one job. The name you pick doesn’t have to be obvious to a contemporary human in our world. If you tie it into their culture, practices, and beliefs, it becomes more meaningful that you’re putting this plane “on screen” and having a scene ...


4

Writing isn't like filming a movie. In a movie it's trivial to show detail. Swing the camera over the set and you're done. A one-second clip can contain tens or hundreds of tiny details depending on how productive the set dressers felt that day. Writers can't use this trick. To describe a scene they need to spend costly words from their budget, and every ...


3

I think there are two parts to this: how the languages work in universe, and how you represent that out of universe. By "in universe", I mean what is the fictional explanation for how these characters are communicating. This is part of your world-building, and unless communication is the key theme of your story, you may work out much more about it ...


3

I'm working on a story at the minute that heavily features a conlang, and I find less is more. Yes, I have a dictionary and grammar rules and all that, but I find it's most useful as behind-the-scenes infrastructure rather than putting it front and center like this. Instead of throwing ostensibly made-up words at the audience without context, I find it's ...


3

Add Distance You will often be told "show, don't tell." This is not always good advice. If a scene is going to be boring and tedious, summarize; just tell the reader the important things and move on with the story. She told me something about doors, the fate of the universe, ultimate peril, and maybe the color purple? I wasn't sure what they had to do ...


3

I've read books that had short pieces of dialog where the narrator only understood a few words, and the writer expressed it with ellipses. Like: I could only make out a few words that she said. "You must ... door ... soon ... telephone ... purple." (I just made up that example. The real examples I've seen were less incoherent, but I don't remember the ...


3

I understand both of your approaches. Write your story in a way that the readers travel along with the main character. If he/she doesn't understand the language in the beginning, let the reader experience the same. As the plot moves, introduce the foreign words. The readers will automatically get the gist of the meaning for the foreign words. My suggestion ...


3

Maybe you can write a story narrated from first person perspective from someone like yourself, a non-native English speaker. That way any grammatical and/or spelling errors will only make the story more authentic.


3

Start writing short stories instead of a novel. While it is a different focus of skills, short story writing will let you develop your use of English very quickly. By working with online or local critique groups, you'll likely get great feedback on your use of the language. Writing groups, and mostly critiquing others work, will be tremendous help in ...


3

Several Options: So I assume you aren't a well-established author, and people don't have preconceptions about how you will write. Obviously, you'll want to use gender-neutral names (like Terry) or establish them as nick-names (Bobby as a girl, for example). Don't use pronouns. It will be a little weird, but in most situations, you keep gender out of it. Use ...


3

I suggest having the narrator, and the reader, know almost immediately that he is playing this game, even if the protagonist doesn't find out until later. Like on the first page in which he speaks. This would at least reduce the number of people who call you mean names on Twitter before they get up to reading the part where you reveal that you didn't intend ...


2

Rather than pick a random word, ask yourself questions about your people in the story. What is their religious background and has the object in the sky been integrated into their beliefs? what would be a natural description in their limited language? How would the people in charge see this phenomena - something that helps solidify their power, or a threat?...


2

Somewhat embarrassing to end up answering my own question with a frame challenge, but here we go: There was one scene in particular giving me trouble, where I wanted to show both the protagonist's slowly increasing language skills and the circle of friends she'd built up around her before shifting the conversation to something plot-relevant. But the more I ...


2

Okay so I was a bit curious about this. Wrote a little script for myself and ran it with some random books. I used epubs of books I bought and converted them to .txt via Calibre to access the text more easily in Python. I basically split them on spaces and stripped away special characters, keeping newlines in mind. The Way of Kings - Brandon Sanderson: 15206 ...


2

I would say to write all the foreign language in italics, and let the reader have their aha moment later when they figure out that the reason the prologue was in italics is that it was spoken in Alpha Centaurian. You may be overthinking this. If two characters share the same native tongue (and know that) of course they most likely will be using that one in ...


2

Many of the previous answers are about dialog or solutions that would only work for a few lines, rather than a whole chapter or prologue. The exceptions are: The "translated document" approach: Popular and works well unless you want your prologue to have immediacy, e.g., the POV character is involved in an action- or emotion-heavy experience that ...


2

It's not annoying, no. Like Ram Pillai said in the comments, a Russian should talk like a Russian. However, don't try to convey the accent phonetically. That will get annoying pretty quickly and may come across as hurtful or mocking to some readers. I suggest you look into common issues faced by Russian ESL students. This web site covers some common ...


2

You want something that sounds authentic, not is authentic. You are trying to create and impression, not a record or documentary. You need something readers can understand. 'Huckleberry Finn' uses a number of slang terms but it is easy enough to work out what they mean. They create the character and the place without getting in the way of meaning. Overdoing ...


2

It depends. I think that first, you need to decide your audience. You said you were writing a YA novel, and profanity is one of the things that makes YA. Even if your characters are older, if it’s kid-friendly it’s technically not YA. I’m writing a series where my characters are older teens, but my audience is still middle school age and it wouldn’t be YA. ...


1

How you incorporate conlangs into your work will vary depending on whose POV you're writing from. If you're writing from the POV of a speaker of the language, you have two options: Just write their dialogue in English like you would for any other character. Plenty of authors do this already. Write the dialogue out, but alter it to clue your reader in to it'...


1

There are many levels of having an accent. I know people who always speak with such a heavy accent that they are hard to understand. And I know people who have such a light accent that you need to know about the language they speak and be familiar with the local accent where they live to detect the accent at all. Most are somewhere in the middle, speaking ...


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