Author Topic: Foreign words  (Read 6164 times)

Offline protekme

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Foreign words
« on: December 14, 2012, 01:27:53 PM »
Hiya,

My story is set in Germany, and to make it feel closer to the culture, I have incorporated a few German words and expressions within conversations:

Mutti = mother
U-Bahn = subway
Hauptscharführer = First Sergeant
Kaffee und Kuchen = coffee and cake
Brötchen = bread rolls
There are a few more but not that many more

Do you think it is a good idea to use foreign words or should I stick to English?

Someone suggested giving the translation in a footnote????
Or should I use them and forget about the translation because they are not complicated to understand within the context.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.
-- People are usually more convinced by reasons they discovered themselves than by those found by others 
-- I have made this letter longer than usual only because I had no time to make it shorter
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Offline Dawn

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Re: Foreign words
« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2012, 01:39:50 PM »
I personally, think you have to be quite clever with your word choice. Too much and will be overkill, and confusing to the reader.
Also use the words selectively, indicating somehow what they mean but in the story, rather than with footnotes. jmo

For example

Brötchen but mention something about them - the hot butter on top ???

Kaffee und Kuchen - perhaps mention the cafe or the waitress

Readers are not daft and can usually work quite a lot out.
« Last Edit: December 14, 2012, 01:42:20 PM by Dawn »
Time to take it serious and get the job done

Offline wanderer

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Re: Foreign words
« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2012, 01:45:32 PM »
Anything that might confuse or distract the reader I avoid. JMO

Lin

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Re: Foreign words
« Reply #3 on: December 14, 2012, 02:47:05 PM »
Yes I agree with Wanderer in that respect, but I have used a couple of Norwegian words in my novel.  In a certain context they work well, but what you don't want to happen is to get confused and during the editing process make it difficult for yourself or your editor.  Too many words and then forgetting half way through the novel what you used for 'bread' in Chapter 4 and now you're in chapter 25. I think consistency is very important. They can easily get missed when editing.   I would use less than three foreign words throughout the book and stick with them, but only if you must.  Otherwise stay clear.  

Of course an address works well. Wienerstrasse 24  or JanvanSchorelstraat.  Or if you are quoting something your character sees like a sign -Fietspad - cycle path.  Then fine, mention it to get into the mood, but in the main body of the story I think it best to hold back.

Lin x

 
« Last Edit: December 14, 2012, 03:56:20 PM by Lin Treadgold »

Offline bri h

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Re: Foreign words
« Reply #4 on: December 14, 2012, 03:25:23 PM »
I can only tell you what I think as a reader of(a lot of) books that happen to have a foreign vocabulary in them, I tend to skip over them and just associate them with a certain character, So mebbee as Lin says, use them a couple of times and let the reader(s) draw their own conclusions. xbx
Fare thee well Skip. We're all 'Keening' now. xbx

Offline Don

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Re: Foreign words
« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2012, 04:12:10 PM »
I'd suggest you go read Philip Kerr's Berlin Noir.
I have a motto: when in doubt, go for the cheap laugh.

Offline 510bhan

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Re: Foreign words
« Reply #6 on: December 14, 2012, 04:13:25 PM »
Mutti = mother -- easy to pronounce and once shown with 'mother/mum' in context would be okay IMO
U-Bahn = subway -- anyone with knowledge of Europe would be fine with this -- autobahns/bahnhof etc
Hauptscharführer = First Sergeant -- too hard to pronounce and tricky to remember
Kaffee und Kuchen = coffee and cake -- so close to the translation it would be easy to understand given the context
Brötchen = bread rolls same as above

 ;) ;)

Offline protekme

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Re: Foreign words
« Reply #7 on: December 14, 2012, 06:30:18 PM »
Okay! Great!!! Very good suggestions from all . . . I hesitated for so long. It helped me a lot.

Military titles, I agree they are hard to remember and confusing: use English

When easy to understand and pronounce: keep it. Words like: Mutti, Frau, Frâulein and Herr, which comes up very often. They give a special flavor by getting the reader closer to the culture: keep them. After all, the actors are German and it is in Germany.

But, should those words be put in italic? I have seen them in regular prints in many other books, but I might prefer italic—it is a foreign word after all? Any preference anyone?

U-Bahn, I’m not sure: I might use subway because sometimes the word is used by the narrator.

Thank you so much for your inputs. 
-- People are usually more convinced by reasons they discovered themselves than by those found by others 
-- I have made this letter longer than usual only because I had no time to make it shorter
              Blaise Pascal

Offline bri h

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Re: Foreign words
« Reply #8 on: December 14, 2012, 06:54:12 PM »
Paste a section of your work, usin both and see which you and the guys like the best. If you want ideas how to post, go to the stickies for guidance, if you can't quite get it, go to Hillwalkers story in the Prose Section and look at how he's done his "Summertime Blues". Look at all the other guys stuff as well and you'll get the idea. I was really nervous the first time I posted something so dont sweat it, cos everyone was so helpful and offered loads of advice, you just have to ask for it. b
Fare thee well Skip. We're all 'Keening' now. xbx

Offline protekme

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Re: Foreign words
« Reply #9 on: December 14, 2012, 08:52:20 PM »
Thanks Brian, but that will not be necessary. I received enough feed back to know what path to take now. I explained in my last post.

I'm not sure yet about the Italic for the foreign words, but that's no big deal. I guess it's a matter of preference. Opinions might be split on that one.

I am not nervous about posting. I will cross that bridge when it's time. Thanks for caring.
-- People are usually more convinced by reasons they discovered themselves than by those found by others 
-- I have made this letter longer than usual only because I had no time to make it shorter
              Blaise Pascal

Offline bri h

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Re: Foreign words
« Reply #10 on: December 14, 2012, 08:56:36 PM »
No probs nic xbx
Fare thee well Skip. We're all 'Keening' now. xbx

Offline wanderer

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Re: Foreign words
« Reply #11 on: December 14, 2012, 08:59:18 PM »
All those words that make sense to the people in Europe are a bit unfamiliar to me in the US. Anyone speak Navajo?  ;) ;)

Offline protekme

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Re: Foreign words
« Reply #12 on: December 14, 2012, 09:27:30 PM »
All those words that make sense to the people in Europe are a bit unfamiliar to me in the US. Anyone speak Navajo?  ;) ;)


Okay! Point taken. Would you understand these: Frau Koch was invited to join Herr Schmidt for Kaffee (sorry coffee) since I have decided to write those in English.

How would you say Frau and Herr in Navajo? I suspect it to be very, very foreign to every one.
-- People are usually more convinced by reasons they discovered themselves than by those found by others 
-- I have made this letter longer than usual only because I had no time to make it shorter
              Blaise Pascal

Offline wanderer

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Re: Foreign words
« Reply #13 on: December 14, 2012, 09:43:40 PM »
Quote
Would you understand these: Frau Koch was invited to join Herr Schmidt for Kaffee (sorry coffee) since I have decided to write those in English.

They would just be some unfamiliar names? Like Mary Smith and John Johnson? Kaffee is a little more obscure, but could figure it out? No idea about the Navaho, since I don't speak it...just a humorous example. World war 2 code talkers.

Offline Annmarie

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Re: Foreign words
« Reply #14 on: December 15, 2012, 02:15:25 AM »
My story is in Germany too so I thought about this also.
Less is more. Don't bother giving the German when the English is clearer. Kaffee and Kuchen is so banal, why bother using German? The setting, character names and plot give the German flavor to the story.
Herr, Frau etc are common knowledge so use them. Also a special word relevent to the story might be okay. For instance, my protagonist calls all young women liebling --no italics.

More challenging is how dialogue sounds in English.  Trying to make characters sound "German" is usually awful.
So don't worry about German words.  You have much bigger fish to fry!


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