#amwriting: getting lost in translation

Life in the Realm of Fantasy

The question about using foreign languages in dialogue recently arose again, so it seemed appropriate to revisit a situation from one of last year’s posts.

The quote that started it all was posted in a writers forum: “I have a main character in a fantasy novel who speaks no English. She speaks several other languages, though. Should I put the translations for her dialogue in italics or in parentheses?”

The answer to both options is a resounding no. We write in our native language for people who read in that language.

We can add a slightly foreign flair, but translations should not be necessary at all. We don’t put the reader through that kind of torture, wading through a language they don’t understand, and then giving them the translation in italics. (Or large chunks of whatever in parentheses.)

The writer whose question had begun this was writing a fantasy novel, and…

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4 thoughts on “#amwriting: getting lost in translation

  1. There are certainly exceptions to the rule but more often than not, it’s better for your work to write in your native language for those who read in that language. In case of fantasy, it walks a very fine line and say that if it can be done tastefully, do it. But if it is more laborious to read it than the pay off then it is better find another way around it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’d think that their dialog would simply be written. Words spoken in quotes, and additional info about speaker when necessary, as any other. If it is the largest portion of the book, one might consider putting some sort of informational section into the book at some point. Front matter, or Back. 😊

    Happy Writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have to smile. I just reread (via digital books) A Canticle for Leibowitz. A lot of it is in Latin, with English translation afterward. He makes almost every mistake that authors are warned against and yet his book is a classic.

    Makes a person think… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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