Do you guys think the language you are using affects how you write?:

Total posts: [37]
1 doodger12th Sep 2011 12:44:52 AM from Tokushima-city, Japan
So, I am a French-Canadian troper, and I learned english at a young-ish age (12-13), which makes my english nearly as good as my french... When I started writing 3 years ago, I found that I wrote either in french or in english... Since everybody asked me why, I started wondering about it. I never figured out why (maybe I just like english a lot :P), but I found that I wrote quite differently depending on what language I was using.

  • In french, I tend to favor short sentences in the present tense, a style used by many of my favorite french authors, like Albert Camus.
  • In english, I often use the past tense, with much longer descriptions and much more details.

So, yeah, maybe it's just a personal trait... But what about you guys? Do you think that authors are shaped by the language they use? Or do you think every language can be written the same way? I'm curious about your opinions :P...
2 Morven12th Sep 2011 12:46:33 AM from Seattle, WA, USA
If this wasn't the case, I think the job of a translator of fiction would be a lot easier than it is!
A brighter future for a darker age.
3 feotakahari12th Sep 2011 01:53:22 AM from Looking out at the city
Fuzzy Orange Doomsayer
Every story I've written or planned in the past few years has at least one character who could be referred to as "it" rather than "he" or "she," so I've used, averted, and played with "It" Is Dehumanizing quite a bit. (This has both upsides and downsides, and I think some of what I've written would have worked a lot better in languages that don't have gendered pronouns.)

edited 12th Sep '11 1:53:54 AM by feotakahari

That's Feo . . . He's a disgusting, mysoginistic, paedophilic asshat who moonlights as a shitty writer—Something Awful
I can't really write in my mother tongue, which has the most unfortunate effect in RL - none of those who know me in person (yes, right up to my parents, sister and other relatives) can read what I write.
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5 OhSoIntoCats12th Sep 2011 06:17:49 AM from The Sand Wastes , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
When it comes to grammar and wordplay, sure, but I think there's a lot more effect based on the culture/history the language is used in. I mean, each language has its own set of classics.
6 fillerdude12th Sep 2011 07:25:13 AM , Relationship Status: Maxing my social links
[up] Totally. The language you grew up in almost always also alludes to what kinds of story you hear growing up, and those can really affect how your mind makes stories.

edited 12th Sep '11 7:25:31 AM by fillerdude

7 MrAHR12th Sep 2011 07:25:34 AM from ಠ_ಠ , Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Ahr river

How, I do not know. Only speak one language fluently, after all.

But it also shows up when I make up words.

For instance, I had a character who wore purple. The turkish (my dad's ethnicity) word for purple is mor. Being a weaboo, I japanized it, so it became molo/molu. And then I took molo, and gave it a spanish (the foreign language I took) slant, and thus became mollo,(pronounced moyo).

If I was an omniglot, I fear such things would get a lot more complicated.
8 OhSoIntoCats12th Sep 2011 07:53:12 AM from The Sand Wastes , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
[up][up] well it's like how the OP says. His French writing was influenced by Camus, who was much more influential in French than he was in English. I also think that many of the authors in English we look up to are pretty flowery, at least compared to Camus. Also, English has a huge vocabulary, which might lend itself towards floweriness, along with an unusual hatred of reptition by English speakers.
9 Teraus12th Sep 2011 02:07:30 PM from The Origin of Dreams
Awesome Lightning Mantra
Things tend to sound less "serious" in my first language (Portuguese). It's annoying.
"You cannot judge a system if your judgement is determined by the system."
10 Wolf106612th Sep 2011 02:16:34 PM from New Zealand , Relationship Status: In my bunk
There's an interesting - and rather humorous - article on Cracked regarding how the language we use affects the way we view things that raises a few good points:


I do think that the language can definitely shape the finished work and I certainly fall under the English-speakers' "hat" of not liking to repeat words unless it's done for effect.
Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
11 Teraus12th Sep 2011 02:32:37 PM from The Origin of Dreams
Awesome Lightning Mantra
[up] Awesome.
"You cannot judge a system if your judgement is determined by the system."
12 OhSoIntoCats12th Sep 2011 02:39:10 PM from The Sand Wastes , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
English speakers totally hate repetition. It's like, if two "information holding" words are the same word, or are the same word in a different form, or use the same root, or even sound very similar but really have nothing in common at all, you can't use them in the same paragraph. In the (admittedly limited) experience I've had with other languages, this same thing doesn't seem to hold true.
13 Teraus12th Sep 2011 02:45:38 PM from The Origin of Dreams
Awesome Lightning Mantra
No, it's the same thing in Portuguese.
"You cannot judge a system if your judgement is determined by the system."
14 Wolf106612th Sep 2011 03:56:02 PM from New Zealand , Relationship Status: In my bunk
[up][up]To the point that if someone does use the same word repeatedly (when there are perfectly suitable synonyms and infinite possibilities for just avoiding the word altogether) in a work, it begins to grate. Badly.

I recall reading Interview With A Vampire and thinking "for Christ's Sake, if she says "preternatural" one more fucking time, I'm going to scream!"

That same word is used frequently in Gail Carriger's "Parasol Protectorate" stories but does not grate as much because a) it is the accepted in-universe term for what the principal character is, and b) she throws in "slang" alternatives such as "soulless" or "soul-sucker" and other less complimentary terms as well.

She also doesn't describe every. last. thing. that Miss Tarabotti does as "preternatural" - unlike Ms Rice who seemed to think that if she didn't describe every last aspect of vampires - their speed, strength, reflexes, ability to fart tunefully or whatever - as "preternatural" we wouldn't understand how special and precious they were.

I've used the word three times already (and avoided it twice) and it's grating on me.
Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
15 JHM12th Sep 2011 05:30:12 PM from Neither Here Nor There , Relationship Status: I know
Thunder, Perfect Mind
English is one of those languages that—while sometimes structurally bizarre because of it—has the absolutely lovely quality of assimilating words from other languages where it lacks a particular nuance to a given concept in its base vocabulary.

Really, who wouldn't want to exploit that quality? Even ignoring the potential for extreme verbal chiaroscuro is a kind of invocation of that marvellous quality!

edited 12th Sep '11 5:32:34 PM by JHM

16 66Scorpio13th Sep 2011 04:28:44 PM from Toronto, Canada
Banned, selectively
The basic answer is "absolutely" and you have the post on how language controls your mind to an entire thread of philosophy by Wittgenstein who basically said that thought is limited by language or that language defines the parameters of thought. The bigger question is what the specific effects are. English has a dozen or more verb tenses while Chinese basically has two; you need to use context to clarify what you mean. It gets even worse when speaking because there are so many homophones in Chinese. They use the same spoken word for he/she/it, although the written characters are different.

When translations are needed in certain circumstances, what an organization will do is write the message in L1, get translator A to convert it to L2, then get translator B to translate the result back into L1. Compare, edit, repeat. You continue the process until you can take get just about any translator to go back an forth between the languages without the message changing. The fact that one would have to go through all that trouble to make sure that the message is the same in both languages is a good illustration that different langauges have different ways of expressing basic ideas, so your choice of language will tend to change the specifics of what you say and how you say it.
Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you are probably right.
17 66Scorpio13th Sep 2011 04:31:04 PM from Toronto, Canada
Banned, selectively

I recall listening to a radio show where the guest was discussing the Innu language and one of his favourite words - which I can't recall now - meant "the frame of mind one has while watching something in a state of change". I don't know if there is a word for that concept in any other language!
Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you are probably right.
18 Night13th Sep 2011 04:38:18 PM from PSNS Intrepid , Relationship Status: Drift compatible
Bring it on! I'm right here!

It takes me hours to hunt down somebody for German translations, delaying the work. tongue

Much the same can be said about Spanish as trying to write in it and force thoughts to express themselves in a Spanish-correct way similarly consumes a significant amount of time. (I won't even pretend I can see the biases between Spanish and English since I learned the former in college.)

Former not latter. argh

edited 13th Sep '11 5:28:09 PM by Night

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19 nrjxll13th Sep 2011 06:27:47 PM , Relationship Status: Not war
20 chihuahua013th Sep 2011 06:31:03 PM from Standoff, USA , Relationship Status: I LOVE THIS DOCTOR!
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I wonder how translators approach works when they're rewriting a story for foreign distribution?

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@Cats: Yep. English's uncommonly huge vocabulary means that it can be far more flowery than other languages, and afford to repeat itself less often. English also has an uncommon grammatical fluidity, which many other languages lack—see, for example, the way Mojo-Jojo talks in The Powerpuff Girls. From a linguistic point of view I find Mojo fascinating, because his bizarre way of repeating things over and over with slightly different phrasing is one of the most effective things I've ever seen to illustrate how crazy fluid English grammar is, and indeed, Mojo-around-the-world has basically been greeted by translators throwing up their hands in disgust and inventing some other quirk.
"Proto-Indo-European makes the damnedest words related. It's great. It's the Kevin Bacon of etymology." ~Madrugada
22 JHM14th Sep 2011 11:53:45 AM from Neither Here Nor There , Relationship Status: I know
Thunder, Perfect Mind
@66 Scorpio: Thank you for bringing up Wittgenstein. I honestly wish I'd thought of doing that.

Because of this turn toward the philosophical, I feel compelled to bring up the "Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo" thing, but I'm not sure how many people will get it.

Plus, you know, imminent massive derailing and all that jazz.

edited 14th Sep '11 11:56:26 AM by JHM

23 chihuahua014th Sep 2011 02:16:00 PM from Standoff, USA , Relationship Status: I LOVE THIS DOCTOR!
Writer's Welcome Wagon
Oh, this topic reminds me of a recent post on a blog. It's about word origin, but it points out how using French-origin words versus Anglo-Saxon ones influence the text.

24 Fancolors14th Sep 2011 04:03:17 PM from Land of the Mamelucos
[up][up][up][up] There are many different ways of translating. I've known a Japanese translator who absolutely despised the use of honorifics in English texts and another one who once worked in a Brazilian Portuguese version of Murakami's 1Q84 who favored them. And personally, I once translated a few short stories that were originally in Portuguese into English as a mean of practice. At first, I was planning to post them online, but gave up soon after due to different cultural connotations of foods like farofa, rice and beans.

edited 14th Sep '11 4:03:31 PM by Fancolors

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25 Wolf106614th Sep 2011 07:03:05 PM from New Zealand , Relationship Status: In my bunk
@chihuahua. Interesting you should mention that as it's very relevant to a story I'm working on where I'm going to be aiming to avoid French-derived words as much as possible in, at the very least, the words spoken by the characters to give a more realistic "feel" to the work. The narrator would probably use Latin-derived words as he's rather learned and tends to be Sophisticated as Hell in his speech as well.

OK, Translation Convention has it that the book is written in English and whatever the characters say is rendered in English regardless of what language they are actually speaking, but deliberately aiming for the more earthy Saxon-derived words would - as the article says - convey a certain nuance (tongue) that a more polyglot approach to the language would lack.
Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...

Total posts: 37