Thursday, February 9, 2012

Writing About Characters That Speak Different Languages

Ever have a character in your story who doesn’t speak the language in which you are writing? Perhaps you only have one or two characters that speak a different language or maybe your entire cast of characters speak in a different tongue that the one in which you are writing? So how’s the best way to go about incorporating authenticity in your narrative while still maintaining the linguistic flavor of the character(s) you’re trying to portray?

I maybe be raised American, but I love to write stories about people all around the world. Nonetheless, whether I’m writing about the French, Italians, or Chinese my narrative will of course be in English. I often find myself doing a balancing act of incorporating borrowed words from a given language while still trying to make my character easily understood in the English language in which I write.

I’m curious whether any of your write similar stories and how you cope with characters who maybe not be speaking or thinking in English even if that’s the language in which the story is written. How do you find a proper balance between authenticity and clarity? What subtle details do you include to give the character the “feeling” of one linguistic identity while still making it understandable in English?