World, Writing, Wealth discussion

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All Things Writing & Publishing > How would your book sound in Mandarin, Spanish or Swahili?

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message 1: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 15666 comments According to Wikipedia those who speak English as their first language are less than 5 % of the globe's population - around 360 mil. True, a lot speak it as second, but it's not that often that people read in their second tongue.

I heard about some author barely selling at his home turf, but becoming a mega-star in Japan.

Have you ever thought of branching out into other tongues? Would your themes be attractive to foreign readers?


message 2: by Kat (last edited Jul 21, 2016 03:06AM) (new)

Kat I read primarily in English, which is my third language. I also write in English.

However, I do not recommend writing in any language other than your mother tongue unless you're absolutely 100% fluent. Not only in your everyday vocabulary but also in regards to phrases, sayings, colloquialisms, grammar, punctuation, etc. and are aware of dialects, regional differences, the tone and flow of the language and so on.

In another group I'm in, a writer keeps asking about words and phrases for her work in progress, and her command of English is clearly not sufficient to be writing a novel in it. I'm having a hard time not to tell her to learn better English first. It's so bad it makes me cringe, but not being a native speaker myself, I'm not really the right person to criticize her.

I heard the Japan thing too, but with obscure metal bands :)

My brother demands that I translate what I write back into German, so he can read it. Not sure if I will, though.


message 3: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 15666 comments Yeah, translating doesn't sound as exciting as writing...


message 4: by Kat (new)

Kat Yes. Also, I emigrated 12 months after I finished schooling and have spent almost my entire adult life in English-speaking countries.

I can express myself far better in English than I can in German, which I only spoke on a daily basis during my childhood and youth. It's my mother tongue, but I sometimes have to look up words in the dictionary.

In my book I use words like 'mage' and 'wizard' and 'warlock', which all mean different types of magic users. I struggled to come up with equally 'good' words for each in German that felt right for each type.

I might translate it some day, when I'm finished with the blasted thing and find myself in need of punishment.

But to get back to the original question - I would of course love to see what I made translated to other languages.


message 5: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2276 comments Kat wrote: "However, I do not recommend writing in any language other than your mother tongue unless you're absolutely 100% fluent. ..."

I see reviews on a lot of non-American books which are 1-starred to death because the translation is not up to par with the readers' expectations. However I seem to enjoy some of the foreign-born works for a variety of reasons. Do you think part of the problem readers have is not that the author is not entirely fluent in the language, but because they almost try to pass it off as an English work when they should promote it as a "translation."


message 6: by Kat (new)

Kat I think it depends on the type of book and the audience.

I just recently read a short autobiography written in English by a Slovene woman. The reader knows she is from Slovenia right from the start, and knows she wrote it herself, so when she uses simple language in some sentences that a native speaker could have phrased more elegantly, you know why it was written this way. There are no mistakes in the book, and the choice of words and phrases suit the story, so it was definitely not 'bad' or 'wrong'.

But the majority of readers are used to trad published works that have been professionally edited, and foreign works that have been professionally translated, so they're used to a native's tone of voice and are therefore unforgiving if they come across a book that doesn't meet their high standards, even if the story is brilliant.


message 7: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2276 comments Which is a shame.

It seems people want to read "Indie authors" in general, but they want something that is every bit as polished as what traditional publishers push. Fact is, indies are supposed to be a little rough around the edge as long as it's not unforgivably so.

And just as the internet has allowed us to connect with people from parts of the world we would otherwise have never experienced, indie publishing allows us to experience the story telling of unique and exotic locations. I guess it's sort of like people want to experience world cuisine, yet our version of Chinese food is actually Americanized to give us a flavor "more palatable" to Americans.


message 8: by M.L. (new)

M.L. I love reading translated works. Lately, I've read a number of works by Chinese authors and the perspective is fantastic. It's enriching. These are trade books with great translations.


message 9: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11447 comments I have had to review scientific paper by Chinese, and quite simply, the writing is difficult. Mind you, far better than anything I could do. So my view is, if a really good translator wanted to convert my books into another language, great, but I have no intention of even trying. My wife and I once translated a patent I had written into French, and while the French Patent Office accepted it without any question, the effort was simply terrible. (My wife was conversational in French.)


message 10: by Kat (last edited Jul 21, 2016 11:09PM) (new)

Kat Haha, I also have a little story of French translation!

When I got promoted to a Belgian office, I took all my letter templates with me from London, in order to continue using them in Belgium. I figured I just had to translate them, right?

So I wrote my first business letter, and asked my new coworker to look it over for spellig. He was HORRIFIED and cried out "Have you sent this? You mustn't send this!!"

What do you know, it turns out the correct translation for a short phrase like "Best regards" at the bottom of the letter is not "Salutations", but (depending on what you want to convey): "Je vous prie d'accepter, cher Monsieur, mes salutations les meilleures".

Ooops :)


message 11: by Denise (new)

Denise Baer | 593 comments I think my first book might be more appealing to other cultures than my second. My second book has a lot of sarcasm that doesn't always translate well into other languages.

I've thought about having my husband translate my book into German, but that is a huge task to take on. Besides, I'm not a bestseller, so it isn't worth it for him to put in time that we could be spending together for a few sales.


message 12: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 15666 comments Speaking about translations....
We have this long forgotten thread, buried under a virtual pile of virtual, but now uncovered


message 13: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11447 comments I wouldn't even try. I tried to get my daughter-in-law to translate what I thought was a very simple phrase to communicate with her mother, and Tian couldn't - she said no Chinese would say that and there wasn't really any phrase that would do.


message 14: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 15666 comments Ian wrote: "she said no Chinese would say that..."

Wonder what the phrase was. You got me curious -:)


Elizabeth ♛Smart Girls Love Trashy Books♛  (pinkhairedwannabe) | 65 comments I'm not sure. If my books do well they will probably inevitably be translated into other languages, but I'm not sure how people of certain countries will take to a white person writing about their cultures.

I also mainly write books that have a ton of girlxgirl/lesbian themes in them, and I've been told by several people those would sell really well in Japan for whatever reason....

If I had to pick a language to translate my books i9nto though it'd be Japanese. I mostly do retellings of classic novels and fairy tales, and the Japanese love those, probably more so than us white people, so I think they'd sell relatively well in Japan.


message 16: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11447 comments Nik, it was only two words - "big dinner". Tian's mother had brought another Chinese woman, and Roger's family were invited so Tian's mother could meet them. Tian's mother did the cooking, and had a large variety of things to eat, so the main problem was "big". Many things to eat? A large amount of food? Lots of people there? It was a strange meal because the two Chinese spoke no English and I spoke no Chinese. Actually, there was a repeat last night, but with five Chinese women. One was quite a character and seemed to be talking non-stop and had the others in almost continual laughter.


message 17: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 15666 comments That's quite a rapid growth from 2 to 5. With this tendency kept, you might end up with a very very big untranslatable dinner -:)


message 18: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11447 comments Actually, Nik, my son is going to feel like rattling around in a big house with a rather large number of empty beds because they will all be off back to China in May


message 19: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 15666 comments Ian wrote: "Actually, Nik, my son is going to feel like rattling around in a big house with a rather large number of empty beds because they will all be off back to China in May"

It can be a little awkward in the company, where one can't understand a conversation. Anyhow, hope you enjoy guests and company in the meantime


message 20: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11447 comments Oh yes, the evening was enjoyable, and the cuisine was something I had not had before. Nothing at all like the average "Chinese restaurant". Interestingly, none of the meals had any rice, so maybe they were not average Chinese


message 21: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2276 comments Ian wrote: "Oh yes, the evening was enjoyable, and the cuisine was something I had not had before. Nothing at all like the average "Chinese restaurant". Interestingly, none of the meals had any rice, so maybe ..."

My brother has a negative view of "authentic Chinese" food. No doubt the stuff served in restaurants has been "Americanized" to appeal to our tastes, but he points out that the Chinese cook with whatever they have available. He loves to tell the story of a friend who married a Chinese woman, and she uses ground up Pringles as a breading...


message 22: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11447 comments My guess is that since China is such a big place, there are many different styles of cooking, at least among those who can afford variety. I recall once in Armidale, Australia, a small group of us went into a Chinese restaurant, and one looked at the menu and immediately called the waiter, who happened to be Chinese, there was a quick discussion in Chinese, and he got up and went out the back. He came back about twenty minutes later and told us he had ordered for us and shown the Chef how to cook it! The entire menu was subsequently thrown out and changed and it served some really delightful food. Apparently is mother ran a cooking program for Radio Singapore. I have never seen that sort of Chinese food in any other restaurant.


message 23: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 15666 comments I remember my Brazilian Portuguese teacher telling me that Paulo Coelho, although very big globally, wasn't all that popular at home in Brasil. Low sales in English, maybe worth trying a Vietnamese or something different?


message 24: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2276 comments Vietnamese restaurants seem to be the new thing around here. If I want to order a Pho, there are no shortages of places to get one...


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