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Tedda S
 added a post  to  , harrybingham

Hi Harry

I have a question that I’m hoping you can help with. There are a couple of instances in my novel where I want to use foreign language. I’m not expecting the reader to be fluent enough to understand but still need to get the message across. 

I’ve two small extracts below. 

I dip my head against the slant of rain that cuts the air like translucent needles, slogging headlong to the din of whining ropes. No other reckless souls on deck. It’s just us. 

I reach the railings, close enough for her to feel me. 

‘It’s so damn wild,’ I shout.

Her face is dismissive and set like slate.

‘I guess you don’t mind the weather, huh?’

‘Je suis marié, tu sais.’

I raise my eyebrows and shrug, feigning ignorance. ‘Sorry. Mon français…’

‘I said I’m married.’


For me the above works. My protagonist pretends not to understand and so allows her to tell him what she said, so we get the French translation. But I’m finding the next one problematic:

No accent. No beard. No lank blonde ponytail but heavy-gelled short black hair. No glasses either. His eyes are brown not blue. Contacts? Maybe. Right height but he’s lost weight. 

‘Can I help you inside with these?’ I ask.

‘No, no, they’re not heavy, thank you.’

He unloads quickly, stashing them inside the door. I get another thank you and he means to shut me out for good.

‘You have a good day now, Mr. Rathbone.’

‘Yes, you too.’

I start to leave but turn back. ‘Wir sehen uns morgen wieder.’ I say, like a native. See you again tomorrow.


His frown evaporates replaced by a spark of fear, and I smile. 


Do I need the ‘See you again tomorrow’ after the German? I feel I need the translation from German to English but does it work this way? 

 Any advice would be gratefully received

Many thanks



  • I'm no expert but I do read a LOT - and both of these work for me. In the first one, the character does the translation as part of the interaction and is a perfectly legitimate conversation. 

    In the second one I personally would have no clue what was said although would pick up on the fact that the protagonist having spoken German to Mr Rathbone caused him concern. It would probably bug me a little not to know what he had said, for example was it 'hello there' (wherein the fact of speaking German causes the fear), or was it 'i'm going to murder you and your family' (wherein what is said could cause the fear, not the fact of speaking German). Of course this could be explained in the wider context and would depend what came before and after but personally, I think leave the translation in. 

    But as I say, its just my opinion and I'm not an expert! 😀 

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    • Thanks for replying, Lainey, much appreciated. I had the German translation 'See you again tomorrow’ in italics (didn't come out here) which I think adds a little more to it. Glad you agree with leaving the translation in, that was my gut feeling, Like you said, you get the context.

      Thanks again

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