Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Should Books Have Other Languages in Them?

      If you read a fantasy book of any kind, at some point there will be some line in italics that you stare at for a moment, before realizing it's not in your native language. Maybe it's the language of a fantastical tribe, or rival people, another country in contemporary, or another being entirely.

     But should authors create languages for their fantasy worlds? Should books have snippets of fake languages or even real ones in them?

     The way I see it, there are both pros and cons to including other languages.




Pros:

Authentic World: Earth is home to over six thousand different languages. Six thousand. Wouldn't it make sense then, in a fantasy world, for there to be just as many spoke languages? Yes, it would. There might be a core language used in trade, business, etc. (like in many real world empires in the past, or even think of how English and Mandarin are two major languages). But there might also be smaller languages used by a certain tribe, used only in religion, and so on. By books including their own languages, it gives you the sense that the author has built up their world and given it some thought.

Quick snap of one of my own languages only briefly used in Draped in Deception
Source of Tension: If you've ever been travelling, communication is a big deal. From ordering at a restaurant, to asking directions, to wanting to chat, we all usually do this through verbal communication. So when you can't understand each other, you might not get what you want. Pointing at a menu can only get you so far. In books, not getting critical information across because of language barriers can be a huge problem characters have to conquer. 

Literally went onto Google Translate to figure out this one...
Of course, with the good always comes the bad.

Cons:

Confusion: Nothing annoys me more than a book having snippets of French or something, with no explanation given. There wasn't even a glossary in the back of the book so I could understand what the characters were saying, or the POV explaining what had been said. Instead, I was left in the dark with no knowledge if an insult was just said, or confessions of love were exchanged. If another language than what the book was printed in is going to be included, and there is no way of figuring out what it meant, it really throws you out of the flow of the story. It might as well not be in there. 


Added to Impress You: Not every fantasy author creates a billion languages as a side project for fun (which is completely fine!). If the author's shiny new language shows up every single page, with no contribution but bragging about how intelligent they are, this can totally kill not only the book's authenticity, but my respect for the author. Anything added to a story should help make the story the best it can be, not feed any egos.

     Of course, many books avoid the cons and use the perfect amount of other languages, but there is a fair amount that don't. In my opinion, if the lines in another language add to the story, and give the world authenticity (with some explanation of what it means!) I am all for it.
Do you think other languages should be added in books? Do you create new languages for your own stories? What books add languages and do it well? Let me know in the comments; I'd love to hear your thoughts!

8 comments:

  1. I also think languages can be used in bad and good ways. And if you include another language, whether it's made up or real, you should translate it or have a glossary.

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    1. Yes! Part of my inspiration to write this post was my annoyance when a language wasn't translated or with a glossary in a book I read recently. Thanks so much for commenting Rachel! :D

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  2. I think it makes them really intriguing, BUT when there's an explanation or glossary somewhere. The Grisha Trilogy uses a lot of russian, sometimes without explaining and it got really annoying tbh :(

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    1. I usually don't mind language included but, as you said, it has to be explained somewhere. I'm usually too bothered to drop my book and go to Google Translate just to figure out what one sentence is. Thanks for reading and commenting! :)

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  3. This is a very thoughtful post, and I thought you had some good points. I definitely agree that while other languages in books can add a lot to the story and the world building, if it's not done well or there is no way to figure out what was said, it can really pull a reader out of the story.

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    1. Thank you! Languages definitely can add a lot to the worldbuilding as long as the reader understands what is being said to maintain the story's flow. Thanks for dropping by! :D

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  4. I think fictional languages (in particular) are great but have to be balanced.

    I adore learning different languages (and have always been fascinated by fictional ones) so whenever I read novels that have French (or one of the other languages I speak) within them, for example, I instantly feel more connected to the story because I have this moment where I feel like shouting, 'I KNOW WHAT THEY'RE SAYING!'.

    With fictional languages though I always find myself more intrigued by that world and the characters - but if the language is used every single chapter I get frustrated because then I feel like I'm missing out and that I have no idea what's happening.

    Lovely post!

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    1. I suppose I find it more frustrating when there are other languages in books because I'm really bad at learning languages. XD I'm glad you enjoy it though. I am more open to fictional languages, if there is an explanation of what they're saying. Thanks so much for reading and commenting Kat! :D

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