Need help fictional language speakers discover English

KilgoreRoot

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Hello all,
So I'm currently writing a story in which a humanoid race which speaks a fictional language (let's call it Fakeish) "discovers" English. Obviously, when I write dialogue for this fictional race, even though it should be understood they're speaking Fakeish, I'll be writing their dialogue in English. So I'm wondering if anyone has any ideas for how to distinguish between the English that should be considered to be an automatic interpretation of Fakeish into English for the Ease of the reader, and the actual modern English that this new race discovers.
What makes it even more complicated is that it's sort of part of the story that there are certain English phonemes that aren't used in Fakeish, so there would probably be dialogue where these characters mispronounce English words using their own phonological inventory.
Has anyone ever come up against something like this in their writing? How did you deal with it?
 

CTRandall

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It's not quite the same thing but I'm currently experimenting with a character who deliberately messes with English idioms and expressions. This ranges from relatively subtle ('He's in out of his depth') to the mildy inappropriate ('Once more into his britches!') to the slightly disturbing ('Never look a gift corpse in the teeth').

Something like that could be useful to you, making Fakeish ever so slightly wrong while keeping it understandable to the reader. Altering a couple of phonemes might be sufficient but a strict use of that would likely result in some very odd phonetics and possibly some un-understandable dialogue. And it sounds like a lot of work. Good pluck!
 

Abernovo

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If you want the masterclass in this, get a copy of the play Translations, by Brian Friel.

It's all written in English, but the characters are speaking either English of Irish in the scenario, and most do not understand each other. The whole play is set around people not understanding others, despite things being translated. With a prose story, you can explain the situation along with the speech.

My advice would be to not overthink it, especially in the first draft. Play with it, to see what works best. And, don't lay it on too thick for the mispronunciation. My secondary language pronunciation and word selection is a bit ropey sometimes, but it's mostly (I hope) intelligible.
 

Wayne Mack

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Perhaps the discovered English is a specific regional dialect plus some time period idioms. For some reason, this makes me think of the classic movie, "My Fair Lady."
 

AnyaKimlin

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You could either do what Will Self does and write something like his bastardised cockney. It does make the book a little more difficult to read.

Or just tag it as they said in the New English.

Or maybe discover something like Scots instead.
 

DLCroix

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The very fact that Tolkien created a language causes any of us who try to do the same to be accused of imitating it. "Look, he thinks he's Tolkien" etc. And besides, we are not linguists like he was.
I prefer to resort to information dumps. After all my narrator is telling how everyone on that planet went to hell; but since she is a narrator who was alive at some point, in fact she knows that now she is a ghost, but she also belonged to the side of the bad guys, that allows her to be politically incorrect and, of course, lighten the narration with black humor jokes and wrong opinions and assumptions. But at least in the prequel novels, she comments precisely on the issue of language, which led to it being included in the curriculum of, for example, medical students. In addition, other characters warn that it was a worrying detail, someone who is an expert in Linguistics always meant that those with whom she walked had a relationship with weapons and that sooner or later meant shooting that guns. One way of recognizing them was in fact that they were always commenting on the language aspects of the people of a certain country and the other that they were fans of chess. People turned pale when they saw two guys playing chess. That meant Earth, the huge outer fleet, and that there would soon be a terrible and violent event. In effect, there would be a checkmate, but they never knew to whom and therefore their fear.
Another detail is that, since they are settlers with Earth heritage, they allow me to support myself in other languages, such as idioms in French, Russian, German, etc. But they are specific comments. My impression is that just two dialogue phrases in a supposedly unknown language already bother people greatly. :censored:
 

KilgoreRoot

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If you want the masterclass in this, get a copy of the play Translations, by Brian Friel.

It's all written in English, but the characters are speaking either English of Irish in the scenario, and most do not understand each other. The whole play is set around people not understanding others, despite things being translated. With a prose story, you can explain the situation along with the speech.

My advice would be to not overthink it, especially in the first draft. Play with it, to see what works best. And, don't lay it on too thick for the mispronunciation. My secondary language pronunciation and word selection is a bit ropey sometimes, but it's mostly (I hope) intelligible.
Thanks Abernovo, I'll check this out, and thanks for the advice!
 

Mon0Zer0

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So I'm wondering if anyone has any ideas for how to distinguish between the English that should be considered to be an automatic interpretation of Fakeish into English for the Ease of the reader, and the actual modern English that this new race discovers.

The easiest way might be to simply use italics for when they're speaking in a language other characters won't understand. Maybe the first time explain to the reader in a surreptitious way so that they will understand the language is not english. This may depend on how much of the book is in one language or another, so as not to be too fatiguing.

The translator bowed before the emissary who let fly in a harsh dialect full of clicks and bleeps: "His highness bids the earthman welcome!"

The translator paused, internally counting to ten to show the requisite courtesy to their Blahblevin hosts. Just as he reached eight Mississippis, John Ha'penny spoke up: "Well, What did he say?"
 

The Judge

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I did something a little similar in that I had an alien who was fluent in English. While everyone around her spoke in my version of modern American, hers was cut-glass, ultra-correct Queen's English with some archaisms, and she never used contractions such as "I'd" but when she was talking in her own language to her family, her speech was markedly less precise and formal and she used contractions.

An alternative is when your aliens are speaking Fakeish together you render it into perfect English on the page, but when they are speaking English make them both less fluent and un-idiomatic, using slightly wrong words in the wrong context eg when speaking Fakeish they'd say "I'd love a cup of tea. Put the kettle on." but when speaking English it would be something like "I am greatly wanting a dish of tea. Place the kettle." It's intelligible, but clearly not how a native speaker would use the language.

Another way is to use quotation marks when they're speaking English but when they're talking their own language use something else to signify speech.

It won't help you in the writing, but I was impressed with a TV film I saw set in WWII in what must have been a neutral country. When the Germans were talking among themselves, the actors (all English as I recall) spoke in their usual accents, but when they were talking to other people and were therefore supposedly speaking in English not German, the actors used American accents as if they'd learned the language watching US films.
 

KilgoreRoot

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Thanks for all the ideas guys, unfortunately, for various reasons, the medieval/old English idea won't work, but I do really like the idea of using italics, and just being cautious about the way I introduce the concept. That being said, there's definitely something to be said for writing that trusts the reader, and even introduces a bit of mystery with mechanisms such as blocks written in italics, for instance the narration of the tapeworm in Irvine Welsh's "Filth"
 

Tawariell

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Hello all,
So I'm currently writing a story in which a humanoid race which speaks a fictional language (let's call it Fakeish) "discovers" English. Obviously, when I write dialogue for this fictional race, even though it should be understood they're speaking Fakeish, I'll be writing their dialogue in English. So I'm wondering if anyone has any ideas for how to distinguish between the English that should be considered to be an automatic interpretation of Fakeish into English for the Ease of the reader, and the actual modern English that this new race discovers.
What makes it even more complicated is that it's sort of part of the story that there are certain English phonemes that aren't used in Fakeish, so there would probably be dialogue where these characters mispronounce English words using their own phonological inventory.
Has anyone ever come up against something like this in their writing? How did you deal with it?
Sounds very much like English speakers trying to speak Thai, or visa-versa. They always come up with the funniest pronunciations that neither can understand, because their phonetics are so different.

Can you send me an example? Perhaps I can help you out.
 

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