Cora Bresciano reports:
"When our fiction is set in another country or our characters speak other languages, we have the opportunity to use foreign words and phrases to enhance our writing, to establish a real sense of place, to create an atmosphere that is distinctly not American. But how much do we include? How much do we translate?...We want our readers to know that a foreign language is being spoken; we want to impart the flavor and rhythms of the foreign tongue. But we need to be understood, as well. We don't want readers to lose anything or to become irritated with a story because they're stumped by our use of foreign words...Write some key words and phrases in the foreign language, but offer the English translation...Write some words and phrases in the foreign language, and don't translate them. Some simple foreign words are well-known to many English speakers. Hello, goodbye, thank you -- most of us remember these from our high school language classes. Consider sprinkling them through your chapters just as they are...Translate literally some unusual foreign expressions. This strategy needs to be handled carefully, though, to avoid sounding comical when you don't mean to...Infuse the cadence and the syntax of the foreign language into the dialogue that you write in English. Even when creating long stretches of dialogue that need to be written completely in English, you can keep the feel of the foreign language by incorporating some of its differences into the English...Enhance the dialogue with descriptions of non-verbal communication...Enhance the dialogue with descriptions of non-verbal communication. Being half[-]Italian, I'm well[-]acquainted with the Italian need to use hand gestures to communicate. Other cultures have similar propensities -- gestures, facial expressions, ways of moving the body that express what words cannot and that mark their exhibitors as being of a particular nationality. Include these non-verbal cues when you write dialogue in order to paint a clearer -- and more colorful -- picture of the foreign scene...Write long passages in the foreign tongue; translate nothing. Okay, this is not a method I condone as a writer. Or appreciate as a reader. But it's precisely what Umberto Eco does. The author of The Name of the Rose regularly includes in his books passages written in Latin, Hebrew, and Greek -- and offers no translations. Of course, he is Umberto Eco, world-famous author and scholar, and he can pretty much do what he wants in print -- but I always find myself frustrated by his indifference to those of us who don't speak all the languages he does...Hopefully our use of foreign words, phrases, and references to dear little cabbages will provide our readers with enjoyment, if not peace -- and at the very least, won't cause them confusion or frustration when they curl up in a corner with our books."
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