Other Languages than English, in an English Work--Question--

-K2-

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Contrary to my usual nonsense--regarding my invented languages--this question pertains to using a foreign language in an English manuscript. Replacing those brief spoken words with the English Translation would not be appropriate.

First off, I know (or think it's correct) to not use characters other than the Latin Alphabet. So no Chinese hanzi, Japanese katakana and so on. In most instances that isn't a problem. There are romanized versions out there which try to convey through various means pronunciation.
As an example, White tiger:
Thai is เสือขาว = S̄eụ̄x k̄hāw : Google Translate
Cantonese is 白虎 = baak(6) fu(2) : Cantonese Dictionary | CantoneseClass101.com

So, we have an issue with special characters still which help determine proper pronunciation, inflections, and so on. The special characters alone might be an issue (that's a question?). Past that, I don't expect anyone to look up romanized pronunciations, which leaves me with my primary question.

Which is preferred (or perhaps insisted upon by publishers), that I use romanized versions with pronunciation cues: S̄eụ̄x k̄hāw / baak(6) fu(2)... or use non-cued versions: Seux khaw / baak fu... or a best (guess) English pronunciation equivalent: See-a kow / Baa-fu ?

Thanks for your suggestions!

K2
 

CTRandall

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It depends on why you are using the foreign language and what effect you are trying to acheive. Assuming you're only interested in how to approach this in fiction, here are a couple of examples:

1. A character finds Chinese logograms carved into a cliff face. The character doesn't understand their linguistic meaning but memorizes the shapes as best as she can for later recall. Here, using the original characters makes perfect sense.

2. A character is learning to speak a new language and is taking great pains to get it right. Initial attempts might be rough pronunciations--as in your "See-a kow" and "Baa-fu"--but unique accents and marks might start to show up as the character gains proficiency.

There are a billion possible reasons why any of these representations could be the right approach. You need to consider which will deliver your desired effect.
 

Star-child

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If you are writing in English, there are well established Romanisations for foreign words, like the Hanyu Pinyin used for Chinese that gives us Beijing (vice Peking) without any pronunciation marks. There should be a standard system for every common language. Adding more marks just distracts from the reading.

Using actual foreign language text is not uncommon and fine - especially if you want to make it clear that the other characters aren't going to have any idea what is being said. This is actually somewhat common in graphic novels, but I see nothing wrong with using it otherwise if it fits the quirky way the story is being told. (I've seen this even used with alien language using an invented alphabet.)
 

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The situation is casual conversation where one characters origin/history and language is not English. In the example above, the character has long had the name which is also a matter of reputation and recognition. So, just as the primary English speaker, Bob 'the Hammer' Smith wouldn't introduce himself fully in Spain as Bob 'el martillo' Smith, the character mentioned also would not rattle off their name in English--initially.

On a side note, there are native speakers of numerous languages I need to work with in the novel. English is their second language, which some are not proficient in speaking. So, they'll code-switch (mix two or more language's words in a sentence), usually the more difficult words.

Naturally, since this work will be read by English speakers, using unfamiliar alphabets and pronunciation cues (as shown in the two examples above), don't help much. Though it makes little sense from a digital printing aspect, I've read that publishers cannot/will-not work with obscure symbols/characters (which both romanized versions above I suspect still fall into).

So, it is then a matter of what is the norm regarding such words (writing them correctly romanized OR phonically), or do I chuck it and use the romanized pronunciation cues anyway (IOW, do it right)?

Converting it all to perfect English is unacceptable.

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The Judge

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Personally I'd use the non-cued versions -- ie baak fu -- because your readers are presumably going to be manly English speakers who won't know how to read the pronunciation cues anyway, and which might just confuse (particularly where the cues aren't diacritic marks like a circumflex or cedilla which our eyes can easily gloss over even if we don't know what they mean -- I found the "(6)" and "(2)" utterly bewildering). If I'm wrong, and you think the majority of your readers will actually be fluent in the language(s), you could even try using the original notation if you wanted.

I really wouldn't worry at this stage what publishers might or might not want for a stylistic things like this, unless you are front-loading the book with a great deal of this in the first chapters. If an agent or publisher likes the story/plot/character/prose/general idea enough to take the book on, they're unlikely to be deterred by a few bits of foreign language however represented in later chapters. (Though, as I say, they might be put off if it makes the dialogue and narrative largely incomprehensible from page one.) At that stage, though, you might be asked to make whatever changes are necessary to adapt to house style, and if need be you can then argue the case for whichever you prefer.
 

farntfar

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It depends on why you are using the foreign language and what effect you are trying to acheive. Assuming you're only interested in how to approach this in fiction, here are a couple of examples:
A well known example of this is surely the Lord of the Rings and specifically the inscription on the ring.

At the beginning, in The Shadow of the Past, Frodo see the inscription on the ring in Elvish characters as:
1585739861537.png


But in The Council of Elrond, Gandalf reads this aloud in Mordorish as
Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul

before translating it as we all know as:
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the Darkness bind them.
 

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Thanks @CTRandall ; @Star-child ; @The Judge & @farntfar ; All your input is noted and considered.

@The Judge ; as to the (6) & (2), to quote a page, "Basically, Jyutping is the transliteration of Cantonese sounds for Cantonese learners, which is related to the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) system." Basically, it determines the phonetic sound and inflection (up, down, neutral, etc.). I used them above to demonstrate my point and for accuracy.

That said, I have perhaps 4-5 very short lines (3-4 words) of dialogue in Cantonese, a few in French, Qubecois, Thai, Spanish, and so on--ALL said during code-switched phrases--so the gist of what is said is not lost, but it's natural. AND makes it so I can infer different nations of origin and recent emigration without droning on about race/nationality. Unfortunately, they all have their own system of phonetic cues.

So, why bring it up instead of just using straight/non-marked text? Well, many English speakers will question-and-correct a French or Spanish word without them. So if I use them there, I should be respectful and use them with other languages. But, though it would be nice if an English reader could pronounce the word (hence the proposal to write the word with English approximations, somewhat phonetically), it doesn't matter if the reader can understand or pronounce the word.

That takes me back to what is acceptable to publishers (noted), I think I'll NOT use Eng.Approx. because 'to me' it reads hacked and half-..., which leaves without the marks or with. I'm leaning toward 'with' so if a reader really wants to translate the word (though there will be no need), they're able to, it won't offend speakers of that language, and bluntly, it's simply correct.

Thanks everyone for the input.

K2
 
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