Christmas week and a free week here at 4F, 1H, yet anything it’s been anything but ‘free’ here.
I needed to dash off an idea and decided to use one that has been bothering me for some time: writers who assume that you speak another language.
Many ‘classic’ novels, (often written in, and translated from, another language), will often have French phrases thrown in. Apparently, the phrases or terms were commonplace among the literate masses of the time and place the original was published, but only a few times have I ever seen the words/phrases also translated, (and those usually done in footnotes).
Also, a few have Latin, or even Greek, words or maxims placed within descriptions or conversations, without a clue as to their meaning. We poor under-educated modern folk are left hanging, or running for a dictionary…a BIG dictionary. This is where Kindle comes in handy, I can tell you.
I have to say that for an American of modern times, I am fairly well-read. I picked up a few common words and phrases in several languages along the way, (see https://fourfoxesonehound.wordpress.com/2014/07/25/4559)
Yet, when some otherwise ‘translated’ novel will have an unusual word or a complete axiom in another language, and I have been stymied.
There I have been, blithely reading along in some other-wise well-translated Russian novel, and suddenly screeeeeeeech! The flow of the story comes to a halt because I have no idea what the people are saying due to their sudden shift to French. Or the same in a translated French story that suddenly throws a curve ball of Latin into the scene.
More than once I have been reading an American story and have gotten lost because a major line in a scene just fell into Yiddish.
Now, granted, the house I grew up in reminds some of Star Wars, where many of the characters spoke in their own languages, (even if they were just beeps, boops and whistles), and others would understand and speak back to them in English. My mother would, at times, speak Italian and I would answer in English, so that sounded strange to those outside the family who over-heard us, but I knew what she was saying, or at least, what she meant. But I’d never write such a scene into a story, not without a translation.
However, I have been known to wish friends who I knew would understand, “Qapla!”, which is Klingon for “Success”, and is the best a Klingon can do to come close to “Godspeed!” or even “Good luck”.
I wouldn’t say, write or comment it to someone who I was not sure would understand.
But now that I have given the meaning to you,
I will say