on The Creative Penn:
We live in a highly mobile, globalized world. As a result of this current reality, it is only natural for us novelists to want to create characters from different places, some of whom may have grown up speaking languages other than Standard American English (SAE).
It is also natural that we might want to set our stories in places other than the United States.
Given our webbed world, we can also now expect the audiences for our stories to be global. So, be aware that some part of your audience is likely to be linguistically sophisticated.
They know what it’s like to be bi- or even multilingual and can spot a supposedly bilingual character who doesn’t ring true. The same holds for creating characters who speak a variety of English other than SAE.
You’re writing a novel, not a grammar book or a travelogue. You don’t want to give your readers language lessons. But you do want your non-native SAE characters to sound authentic. And you do want to bring your foreign settings to life. A well-chosen word or two from the local language can help. In all cases, a light touch will do. Here are some tips from a linguist’s point of view: