53 votes

How do I translate into a gendered language where the gender would be a spoiler?

The question is not whether the translator knows the true gender, the question is whether the character doing the speaking knows the gender of the person behind the door. If they don't, using the ...
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45 votes

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

In your example, 白骨精, I'd say the 精 is not so much 'fairy' as it is in 妖精, but rather 'spirit' (like in 精霊), similar to how in English we can use the word 'spirit' to describe a lot of different types ...
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  • 955
33 votes

How do I translate into a gendered language where the gender would be a spoiler?

Go with אתה. While not natively Israeli, I am currently living in Israel. And from what I know, speaking the language and seeing what goes on here, when you don't know the gender, it's generally ...
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  • 1,159
27 votes

How do I translate into a gendered language where the gender would be a spoiler?

Instead of "How are you?", would it be possible to translate it to "Is everything OK?", "Is anything wrong?", "Is everything alright in there?" instead? Or is that what you meant by "we have no ...
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  • 271
24 votes

The use of footnotes to translate foreign words in a novel

When in doubt, do what the masters did. Some examples: Raoden breathed a sigh of relief. "Whoever you are, I'm glad to see you. I was beginning to think everyone in here was either dying or insane....
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21 votes

How to address family members solely by relationship in dialogue?

You don't try to be accurate, you anglicize it. If you are writing in English about a Korean family, the reader expects you to translate dialogue into understandable English that is not awkward. If ...
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  • 91k
20 votes
Accepted

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

This has been handled a few ways in comics: Have the text in word balloons be a translation of the original, with a footnote indicating "translated from other-language-name". You can graphically ...
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19 votes

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

The differences between 'fairy', 'elf' 'goblin' and 'demon' are not negligible. The fact that a dictionary offers you all of them, or that all have been used in different setting in the past, does not ...
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17 votes

Can one be a co-translator of a book, if he does not know the language that the book is translated into?

Your student worker sounds like a valuable assistant. But he is not a translator. Even if he were doing actual translation work, a co-translator indicates someone doing work at the same level that ...
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16 votes

How do I translate into a gendered language where the gender would be a spoiler?

The best translation is often not word-for-word, you need to get across the overall sense of what is being said. This may not always be feasible for instant translators, but you can do better when you'...
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  • 361
15 votes
Accepted

What language shall they sing in?

These are songs, and we learn songs differently from spoken language. Have you ever found yourself singing along to a favorite song in a language you don't even speak, but you've listened to the ...
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15 votes

How to use foreign words and provide translations in a novel?

This would really pull the reader into the environment. Would it, though? I'm unconvinced - if anything I can see it having the opposite effect. Having chunks of dialog that the reader (presumably) ...
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  • 6,497
14 votes
Accepted

How to address family members solely by relationship in dialogue?

I have experience of a similar situation - not Chinese or Korean, but Indian. I married into a family that has Indian ancestry but now live in the Caribbean and in addition I have a large number of ...
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  • 7,683
13 votes

How to address family members solely by relationship in dialogue?

As someone has said in another answer, accuracy is less important in fiction than story itself. What matters is to convey sufficient meaning to move your story forward, and to do so in a way that will ...
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  • 637
13 votes
Accepted

How does one add puns in another language?

I have recently had to deal with a similar issue in my own writing: modern Hebrew names too have meanings. Common names might mean 'horizon','spring', etc. Actress Gal Gadot's first name means 'wave', ...
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12 votes
Accepted

Constructed Language - how to spell words that will be mispronounced in English

A few ideas: You could have a character who doesn't speak that language ask how the name is pronounced, or mispronounce it and receive a correction. Obviously it would look contrived for this to keep ...
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  • 2,911
11 votes

How can I get permission to translate and republish a book?

The book's copyright page will identify who owns the copyright to the material. This will typically be the author, or the publisher, or both. Contact the copyright owner and negotiate to obtain the ...
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11 votes

Historical Fiction: using you and thou

...usage has caused modern speakers (I believe) to see 'thou' as more formal than 'you'. I do not think so. It is not more formal, if anything, it is archaic, or literary, or both, but you definitely ...
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  • 3,050
11 votes
Accepted

Naming non-English folklore creatures

I really like the -ar plural, and I think you should keep it regardless. You don't always have to obey the rules of English if your original word isn't. English is rife with loan words from other ...
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11 votes

The use of footnotes to translate foreign words in a novel

Footnotes are sometimes a good solution and sometimes a bad one; it depends greatly on the tone you want to set. In fact, I'd say the question you want to answer is why your characters should speak ...
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10 votes
Accepted

Using a foreign language that uses a different written alphabet

Rules? No, not beyond any that your publisher or editor might have. But one factor to consider is that, assuming you're not publishing in a specialized or foreign market, your readers probably won't ...
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10 votes

How does a novel writer explain the meaning of foreign words without giving the English translation?

In fiction, I much prefer foreign words not to be in italics. Being foreign already makes them stand out, adding italics makes it even more distracting. I also like to use well-known foreign words, ...
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9 votes

How do I translate into a gendered language where the gender would be a spoiler?

While my knowledge of hebrew is exactly zero, my native language is also gendered and also uses the male as the "fallback" option. 10+ years ago, using the male would have been the normal and ...
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  • 4,400
9 votes

How does one add puns in another language?

Go long! Write about the custom, and the reader will get it. In a recent Writing Challenge here on SE, I had a short Human and Extraterrestrial exchange: Human: Where are you from? ET: Earth. Sorry ...
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  • 91k
9 votes

The use of footnotes to translate foreign words in a novel

It All Depends on the POV. I would use ZERO footnotes in a fictional novel. I think it may have been done, but I think it breaks the reader's reverie and immersion in the story. It is bad form. The ...
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  • 91k
9 votes

English words in a non-english sci-fi novel

I think it is important to write what your intended readers will easily understand. If you are a native speaker and inclined toward English-sounding words; they are probably inclined to understand ...
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  • 91k
9 votes
Accepted

How to use foreign words and provide translations in a novel?

Don't provide translations like that. For single words (or short phrases,) make sure that the reader can understand the foreign words from context. If the character has to have a (short) ...
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  • 1,590
8 votes
Accepted

Can a foreign language novel have English character names?

In English, proper names are generally not translated, because usually the meaning is not important --what is important is that it is the name of the character. Many common English names have no ...
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