Fiction and Foreign Languages
- October 16, 2017
- 4 Comments
You know what happens. You’re reading a story and a character who doesn’t know your language says something in it. And you cringe, because the word is correct but the nuance is wrong.
A character in my novel, Magical Ties, spoke one word in Portuguese. How hard could it be? It was just one word. The dictionary gave me multiple choices and I chose one. Then I emailed a friend who’s from Brazil.
She was very nice about it. “Um…that’s not the word you want.”
“Really?” I was happy I checked with her but unhappy I couldn’t even manage one freaking word on my own.
“Really.” Then she went into a detailed explanation of the options, teaching me the shades of meaning that a dictionary just couldn’t supply.
It was a narrow shave.
Ask someone who knows the language. If you don’t know anyone, see if your local library can suggest resources for finding someone.
Remember: Details matter.