05 May 2012

Fictional Foreign Languages

Foreign Languages Add Realism to Fictional Characters

Giving one of your characters a foreign language can help immensely when crafting unique characters, even if the language isn't real. Language gives you a level of control that few other traits supply. Further, because we run into this phenomenon in real life, it makes fictional characters and settings seem more real.

Invented Foreign Languages

Be careful when crafting a language that doesn’t actually exist. The first problem is you might wind up using words from a real language. Do an Internet search with your made up words to be sure you are not saying something you did not intend. Secondly, don’t overuse them. Too much text written in a non-existent language may detract rather than add to your story. If you are actually going to write fictional foreign sentences, keep them short. You might also want to limit your use of hyphens and apostrophes. It might make the language seem foreign but if you look at actual foreign languages, they don’t look like that. Hyphens and apostrophes might make the reader pronounce it the way you’d like but it won’t look as real to the eye. What’s more, many readers won’t take the time to pronounce it once they realize it is a fictional language.

Fictional Foreign Language Techniques

A sentence spoken in a foreign language will identify the speaker as foreign. A handful of such sentences are all that you will need. You might create the effect you want with just one sentence. Another technique is to give the character a single word or phrase, which they repeat throughout the story. The reader only has to learn the phrase once and thereafter identifies the character as a foreign language speaker no matter how much ordinary dialogue the character uses. Foreign language can also add mystique and mystery. An ancient text written in a dead language can be a lot of fun.

The uses for foreign language in fiction are as wide as your imagination. Use them well and your characters will take on greater depth.

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