Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Writing with International Flair

Do authors do anything with feedback? The answer is absolutely yes!
I've been receiving feedback for Mist on the Meadow (for which I am truly grateful!). A common comment has been a request to translate the German that was used and/or provide translation tools.

When an author drifts into foreign language, generally it is repeated in English immediately, or by the next character speaking. I tried to do that with MOTM, although I admit I did not translate the German folk song that is referenced. I also did not translate Uncle Balt's term of endearment for Marissa, Liebling.

I have always had a flair for languages, but I do not have a strong grasp of German. I do have German heritage, so there are some phrases and terms that I grew up with (I think it was the great-grands that came over). French is the language I would claim to maybe be able to speak as an alternate to English, and I studied Italian while I was writing Touched by the Sun (The Treasure of St. Paul). I also studied Spanish and have a passable grasp of that language. The thing about French and Italian and Spanish is that because they are all Latin derivatives, once you know one of those languages, the others aren't as difficult to comprehend/learn. I also studied Scottish Gaelic when I went to Scotland, not because I had a need for it, but because of my linguisitic interests. Let me tell you, that was the most difficult to grasp, and I only managed to master a handful of words.

As requested, I'm going to cover the German I used briefly now, and I promise that when I write the second in the Kundigerin series, I will include a guide. Here's the quick, easy, short version, and since I'm not good at transcribing the appropriate pronunciation symbols, where they haven't been provided, I will direct you to Google Translate to "speak" the pronunciation for you.

Liebling is similar to "sweetie, or darling, or honey." In German, when "i" and "e" are together, you pronounce the second one, so in this instance, you would pronounce it "lēb-ling." Meine is "my" and pronounced with the long "i" (since it is the second letter), or mī-na.

Kundigerin is the feminine form of Kundiger, which translates as an expert or "one who possesses specialized knowledge." In its plural form, Germans add "-en."

Eine, translates as "a" or "an."

The German folk song, “Du, du, liegst mir am Herzen” translates "you, are deep in my heart." (I'd be happy to translate the whole song for anyone who wants to know the lyrics).

Dumkoff, well it's pretty much how it sounds (i.e., dummy).

Gut Deutschish stock, this means she comes from good German breeding.

Sprechen nicht, this translates to "I don't speak any (German)." "Ch" is pronounced with a "k" sound.

Fröhliche Geburtstag. Happy Birthday!

Hüter des Geheimnisses. Translate: keeper of the secret. I'm going to send you to Google translate to figure out how this is pronounced!

Ofenschlupfer. There is a direct translation for this, but it is idiomatic, so this should be translated to be understood as apple bread pudding.

Gesundheit. Commonly used when someone sneezes. It translates as "health," or "bless you."

Das ist die Liechtensteiner Polka mein Schatz! Polka mein Schatz! From the Liechtensteiner Polka, the line says "this is the Liechtensteiner Polka, my darling."

mein Schatz - my darling/sweetie/honey.

So that is your German class for the day. There is a phrase that I grew up with that I got a lot of backlash on, so I didn't incorporate it. Evidently, it is more localized, so it isn't widely used/known, and my German checkers suggested I bounce it from the book. It was more for my personal enjoyment anyway (didn't add anything to the story).

All of this being said, does it annoy you to see foreign language used in a story? Would love to hear more opinions!


  1. It does not annoy me to see a foreign language in a story if it is done in such a way that you can still derive the meaning from the remainder of the sentence. I just finished that book and enjoyed it. I was able to guess what Kundigerin meant just by reading the remainder of the sentence and also paragraph. I enjoyed the book very much by the way.

  2. Thanks, Mario's mom! I did try to keep everything in context, although that isn't always apparent. I'm glad you enjoyed the read!

  3. As long as the terms are either translated or in context, I don't mind "foreign" words. In fact, I prefer them in context; I find it distracting when the author simply translates after the phrase in question. Pulls me out of the story. Show me, don't tell me.

  4. Agree, Terry. I do find it helpful, however, when an author includes a reference at the back in case I want more/clearer explanation, so I will have to remember to do that in the next book in the series.