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  1. #1
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    Default I need help with writing book please

    The book is now at editing stage at last, but I am a bit stuck. I need to put in more dialogue which is fine, but obviously many of the people in the book are Dominican and Haitian and the book is being written in English.

    So I need to put their conversation in English. For example when someone from Barbados or Jamaica speaks it is usually written like: "Dat be good mon" or a French person "Eet eez vairy nice"

    How do Dominicans and Haitians speak English? I know how my husband speaks English, but he speaks very little and I doubt he is typical. "What hatping to you?" is one of his favourites for "Que pasa". I know I can put an 'e'in front of some words beginning with 's' , so say espaghetti for example but what else?

    If you were writing dialogue so that the person reading in English would know it was a Dominican speaking what would it look like?

    Thanks

    Matilda

  2. #2
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    In my opinion, the most effective way of conveying foreign accented speech is through cadence and word order. Amy Tan and other Chinese American writers do a really good job of this - you can 'hear' the Chinese accent through the way the sentences are constructed, using the characteristic speech patterns of Chinese immigrants speaking English. Literal translations of idioms add to the effect.

    Some Latino writers do this too but often overuse "Ħay!" and other typical exclamations, as well as a lot of contrived Spanglish "My abuelita came to my casa to visit my familia" etc.

    Having said that, there are some features of Latin American Spanish accented English that you could use, including the one you mention, the classic Spanish speaker's placing of an 'e' before consonant clusters beginning with s.

    BTW I saw an example of overcompensation for this the other day - a billboard with the word SCAPE where I'm sure they meant ESCAPE.

    Another would be the 'o' sound for the 'uh' sound in words like love, brother and mother (although how would that be expressed in writing?) and the 'ng' ending for words ending in 'm' (like the name 'Williang'), the 'x' for 'ts' sounds (pixa for pizza), the confusion between 'i' and 'ee' (ship / sheep) and 'j' and 'y' sounds.
    Last edited by Chirimoya; 02-21-2012 at 02:21 PM.

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  4. #3
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    also the ch and sh sounds, and most short for long vowel sounds. especially the short e and i.

  5. #4
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    Take a page from Oscar Wao...

  6. #5
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    As a former English teacher, I learned in school that an author must be extremely careful when writing dialogue using foreign accents. If it is done well, the reader also gains a glimpse into a person's character and culture. However, if it is over done or not done correctly, the reader becomes frustrated or lost. Also, the story line must be really good and in support of this type of dialogue. It is a tricky thing to do.....much more difficult than simply writing a story or book.

    My advice would be to jump in and write it, then give each section to several people who are willing to be brutally honest with you for feedback. Be willing to revise, revise, revise, and have confidence that in the end, the result will be worth it.

    Best of luck! You are venturing on a difficult path. I wish you the best.

    Lindsey

  7. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by suarezn View Post
    Take a page from Oscar Wao...
    Good advice - if you haven't read Oscar Wao or Drown, do so now.

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  9. #7
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    Thanks for the advice. I have read Oscar Wao but in Spanish! Will try and find an English copy.

    Matilda

  10. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matilda View Post
    If you were writing dialogue so that the person reading in English would know it was a Dominican speaking what would it look like?
    Good luck with the book, Matilda, and let us all know when available.

    I am not enthusiastic about the path you are taking. It reminds me of the cinema where (for example) in an American movie Germans will speak imperfect English to each other in a real or supposed German accent ... or Russians, or Arabs ... etc). This nonsense is very often encountered. It is patronizing at best, and at worse can be quite racially insulting. A much better solution is for them to speak their own language and have subtitles.

    Have you considered having the Dominicans speak (Dominican) Spanish and the Haitians speak Kreyol or French (as appropriate) and give English translations of as much of it as the reader needs to follow the story? Whether those translations would follow immediately (perhaps in italics), or appear as footnotes would depend upon how many of them, how long, and the page layout generally. Surely better than your proposed "Pink Panther" approach?

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  12. #9
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    I would be curious to see how Haitians speaking in English would be done. It is similar to the French, but not quite.

  13. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by london777 View Post
    Good luck with the book, Matilda, and let us all know when available.

    I am not enthusiastic about the path you are taking. It reminds me of the cinema where (for example) in an American movie Germans will speak imperfect English to each other in a real or supposed German accent ... or Russians, or Arabs ... etc). This nonsense is very often encountered. It is patronizing at best, and at worse can be quite racially insulting. A much better solution is for them to speak their own language and have subtitles.

    Have you considered having the Dominicans speak (Dominican) Spanish and the Haitians speak Kreyol or French (as appropriate) and give English translations of as much of it as the reader needs to follow the story? Whether those translations would follow immediately (perhaps in italics), or appear as footnotes would depend upon how many of them, how long, and the page layout generally. Surely better than your proposed "Pink Panther" approach?
    I am not sure what to do to be honest. The book is written but the editor says it needs more dialogue rather than me just saying what happened - much like my blog. I don't want it to be as you say patronizing, but it needs to be easy to read. I also don't want an Oscar Wao with more footnotes than text. I will just have to work it out somehow - but it is not easy without being insulting as you rightly say. Who said writing was easy?

    Matilda

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