researching dialects

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Crystal
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researching dialects

Post by Crystal » December 25th, 2009, 3:29 pm

I have a character who is a Russian speaking English. I am having a hard time writing his dialogue.

Is there a website I can go to that may give me an idea in how to make this work.

"You are a very pretty girl. What a shame to ruin such beauty" Written like this it doesn't have that Russian aura about it.

Thanks in advance.
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Scott
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Re: researching dialects

Post by Scott » December 26th, 2009, 1:17 pm

You're a braver soul than I if you're going to try and do much more than simplify the English and describe his accent or speaking difficulty, either through internal dialog or through an observing character. Writing accents can be clever, though, if you pick a particular word or two and call attention to it with italics. That's something I've done, anyway.

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shadow
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Re: researching dialects

Post by shadow » December 26th, 2009, 6:52 pm

I don't know in what way you could change your words to the accent. I mean I speak russian and I don't have an accent when I talk english because I talked english fluently ever since gr 1 lol. You could do something like "she said her words with.." You see what I mean. Luck!
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Jaime
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Re: researching dialects

Post by Jaime » December 26th, 2009, 10:02 pm

Crystal, you might want to pick up a book from the Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldon. Her books are from an English woman's point of view (Claire), but Jamie, her husband, is Scottish. She has written the words he speaks, just as they sound. For example: "Weel, that's verra interesting, aye?"
Claire also mentions if his accent thickens when he speaks to a certain person, or if he deliberately rolls his R's.

While it's probably easier to do with a Scottish accent, simply mentioning it's a Russian accent will allow the reader to imagine what he sounds like. Keep in mind that we have to give the reader the benefit of the doubt - if they're reading your book, then we can assume they like your genre, and will have an imagination that can fill in details such as these :)

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OtherLisa
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Re: researching dialects

Post by OtherLisa » December 26th, 2009, 10:31 pm

My advice: I don't personally like too much phonetic spelling to indicate an accent (this is just my preference). I try to build off of how the other language is structured, because a lot of the time, it's word order and grammar that give away a non-native speaker as much as not being able to get the consonants and vowels right. It's a little tough if you aren't familiar with the language though.

There's a book I used waayyyy back when I was in high school drama though, that's about foreign accents for the stage. That was actually a really cool book that went into how to go about using different accents in realistic and believable ways. I don't remember what that particular work was called, but the link below has a few on Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/Accents-Manual-Ac ... 533&sr=8-4

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Re: researching dialects

Post by J.Jessamyn » December 29th, 2009, 1:09 pm

I think you have several options here.

You could do the phonetic spellings like suggested above. Find some recordings, YouTube videos, etc. of someone speaking with a Russian accent and listen to how they change the pronunciations of the words, then just write it the way it sounds. You could lay it on thick, or just change a few words here and there to "remind" the reader of the accent. [personal note: I don't like it when it's too thick only because I have to almost read the passage out loud to figure out what they're saying.] I'd just use your judgment.

Second option: don't do the phonetic thing at all. Just throw in descriptions of how they sound every now and then (I think someone suggested this, as well). You lose some of the effect because the reader has to almost add the step of imagining how the words actually sound, but they also know what they are trying to say and what's going on.

Third option, my personal suggestion: (and you can mix this with either of the other things I mentioned) Think about how a foreigner speaks - as in grammar and word choice. They tend not to use big words. Their sentence structures are often odd - they almost reverse the entire phrase. Sometimes the way they speak is of a more formal nature (less slang, no contractions, etc.). Think of how you learned to speak English the way you did in school and they way you actually use it; you tend to speak it less perfectly than you should, and it's the same with people learning English as a second language. They learn it in the "perfect" sense and don't have primary usage of it to corrupt their grammar. Also, words are either omitted or added.

I'll illustrate that last one. Let's take the word "the." You see several foreigners either overusing the word or not using it at all. In the Spanish language, for example, they use their equivalent of "the" ("el" and "la") before almost every single noun because that is what is grammatically correct in their language. In English, however, it's not necessary. But since they're used to thinking in the mode where "the" is necessary, they automatically use it. So if you were writing a story with a Spanish person, you may throw in a few extra "the"s in there to show their accent. I hope that makes sense...

But those are a few things that you can do. I definitely suggest finding some recordings of a Russian speaking English and listen for these little nuances and take note of them.

Hope this helps... :-/
~J. Jessamyn~

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polymath
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Re: researching dialects

Post by polymath » December 29th, 2009, 2:35 pm

My work involves verbatim written transcripts of spoken word. Russians speaking English tend to blur sentence syntax organization, jumble subject-predicate number agreement, mix up or omit indefinite and definite articles, speak haltingly, interject personal parenthetical asides that inflate their self-importance, misuse or misconjugate verbs, misuse personal and impersonal pronouns, it, that, this, these, those, there, etc., interject erudite terms in awkward usages, omit possessive apostrophes and S's, frequent use of tautological appositive clauses, impulsively use Russian words and interjections, like nyet for no, сýпер for super! and quite a few other nonstandard spoken English affectations.

To a stores, she go on the Friday morning before I go toward work. Considerately later on a neighbor she go to, that--that--it my man coworker supervisors our writing implement prototype fabrication department, didn't see she there the neighbor ats, I heard later, for weekend once at all ever. Exaggerated for effect.

List of Russian interjections;

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Category: ... erjections
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Crystal
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Re: researching dialects

Post by Crystal » December 29th, 2009, 5:05 pm

thank you to everyone who replied.

Polymath that was very helpful. I figured there would be a lot of mixed up sentences and such, I just wasn't sure how to actually put it to work for me.

This character doesn't speak a lot but I do feel that when he does it is very important. Hope I get it right.
Working my very first attempt at a mystery novel. 1st draft

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