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Asked • 08/01/19

How are multilingual scenes handled when the story's main language is translated into that of its minor one?

Say you have an English book in which there is a particular dialogue where one of a handful of participating characters is speaking French. In this dialogue the fact that he's speaking French is a central point of the scene, as none of the other characters can understand him, which is necessary for the scene to make any sense.What if this book were translated into French, thus homogenizing the scene's linguistics and vanishing the source of internal confusion, thereby creating authentic confusion on the reader's part?

Victor L.

You’re overthinking the issue here. Dialogue is used for several reasons, the most important, I believe, is to reinforce character. So, rather than focusing about how your work would be translated (which you would have no control of in any case) you should make sure that what you write is adding to the reader’s understanding of the scene. Grammatically, foreign dialogue (except for well known phrases) is Italicized, and their translation should be given in exposition if dramatic irony is the goal. However, if you are not a native speaker of the foreign language I would suggest using only exposition.
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08/02/19

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Victor L. answered • 08/02/19

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