All About Languages

All About Languages

Within the Kallan Empire there are many languages and dialects. Some are already referred to in existing stories, others are going to be mentioned in future short stories or novels. How should I handle the many languages referred to was something I thought long and hard about.

Having learned (or tried to learn) other languages, and having friends who have done so as well, you gain a different view of language compared to what the average native English speaker has. Many native English speakers never try to learn another language. There is an assumption that we have (until we begin to learn a language) that everything translates quite literally into English, that there is a word that equates to the exact meaning of a particular word in English. As most who have learned other languages know, this isn’t the case.

Various books to learn languages.
Various books to learn languages.

As you will have seen in my blog about the written Kallan language (you can read it here), I want to make the background of my stories as realistic as possible, but that presents a challenge. To create a unique language – or multiple languages – isn’t something that can be done easily or in a short length of time. It is a major undertaking.

But I want to get the flavour of how the Kallans might speak, while not making it unreadable.

Here is where knowing other languages has helped. We have many figures of speech in English (sometimes called idioms). Examples are things like “it’s raining cats and dogs”, “I’m starving”, etc. These figures of speech are where we use words not literally, but to convey an idea that other English speakers will grasp. When we say we are ‘starving’ we don’t mean literally that we will starve, but that we are hungry. It’s the same with many other idioms too.

All languages have these expressions, that when translated literally don’t make sense. To a good interpreter or translator, they will get a balance between literally translating what someone says or writes and getting the flavour of the idea.

I try to take this line when referring to what my characters might say. For example, I use expressions and sayings in English, even though my characters are speaking in Kallan or other Kallan languages. I work on the principle that if they had said it in English, they would have used that phrase. Occasionally, I’ll want an expression to appear that will be very unique to the Kallans, so you might come across Kallan ‘idioms’ literally translated into English. Also, you’ll see (as you will find in my second novel Breakout), that sometimes the characters will talk with an accent you will find in some English speaking country. In the second novel, we have a Kallan character who is talking in Kallan, but using ways of saying things that fit with the Yorkshire accent. You’ll find other examples coming as well in future stories.

Why do all this?

I want my stories to be easy to read, to be easy to get a

feel for, while still allowing a realism in the story. I want the story to reflect the way that the Kallans think, as if they are real, out there watching us.

My hope is that by taking this approach, it will help you readers to get a real feel for the Kallan ways and have a fun and easy time reading my stories.

Let me know what you think to this approach in your comments below.

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