I need help with writing book please

Matilda

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Sep 13, 2006
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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
 

Chirimoya

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Dec 9, 2002
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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 "?ay!" 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.
 
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LaTeacher

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also the ch and sh sounds, and most short for long vowel sounds. especially the short e and i.
 
Aug 21, 2007
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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
 

Matilda

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Sep 13, 2006
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Thanks for the advice. I have read Oscar Wao but in Spanish! Will try and find an English copy.

Matilda
 

london777

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Dec 22, 2005
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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?
 

Africaida

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Jun 19, 2009
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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.
 

Matilda

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Sep 13, 2006
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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
 

Chirimoya

Moderator - East Coast Forum
Dec 9, 2002
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Don't change the spellings of the words to convey accents. If it's a question of writing dialogue in English that attempts to depict something being said in a completely different language, construct the sentences using the speech patterns of Spanish/Kreyol speakers. Easier said than done, I know, but try and remember or imagine how the speakers said it in their language and transcribe it literally in English.
 

jrichards327

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May 17, 2008
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Excuse my lurking, but I have taught high school English classes for 32 years and written some things myself. I find the easiest way to create local dialect is to record someone either speaking the words that you want and copying them phonetically or asking questions that would lead to the dialogue that you want. Just a suggestion that I have used before.
 

jrhartley

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Sep 10, 2008
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you would have to study what words they use in place of the ones we might use - such as using make instead of do or asking how many years you have


I think I made up my own question to answer, forget I spoke lol
 

Softail

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Nov 15, 2011
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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.
This reminds me of the Dos Equis' most interesting man in the world, who is said to be able to speak French, in Russian. A truly remarkable man...Maybe a few hours spent watching all his ads on YouTube would help.