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"Comicking in a second language", 11th Jul 2018, 3:17 PM #1
The Doodler

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Shoutout to Tantz, Mild, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Microraptor, and I'm sure tons more.
I'm translating Second Crimean War, slowly but surely, and lots of respect to those of you who can write so well in a second language.

Getting the coloquial, regional and military slang right is tough, especially since I learned/am learning my target language from people from more than one country. (My personal second language slang is a weird international hash.)

For example, I think for Spanish Yana should sound rural Mexican while the Russian characters should sound almost Spanish, and ... I think my brain is going to melt and dribble out of my ears. But I love it.

What do you guys hate or love about writing in a language you didn't grow up with?
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11th Jul 2018, 7:11 PM #2
BeeMKay

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What I like... it's like entering a different universe... because you have to think differently, and draw on very different thought/cultural patterns.
What i don't like is that things that are perfectly cool in one language are just "meh, why is this so long" in the other. And sometimes, a word doesn't even exist! And some jokes just don't work at all.

Demon Division has a German and English version. You'd think that the German language version comes alive first, as my co-author and I both have German as our first language. But that is not the case. The entire story is written in English. The German language part happens later, and some parts are basically a little bit different in the translation compared to the English version.
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11th Jul 2018, 7:16 PM #3
Stilldown

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Add me. Worst thing is having no proofreader and really bad eyesight, even if not drunk.
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11th Jul 2018, 8:07 PM #4
RJDG14

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The Doodler:Shoutout to Tantz, Mild, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Microraptor, and I'm sure tons more.
I'm translating Second Crimean War, slowly but surely, and lots of respect to those of you who can write so well in a second language.

Getting the coloquial, regional and military slang right is tough, especially since I learned/am learning my target language from people from more than one country. (My personal second language slang is a weird international hash.)

For example, I think for Spanish Yana should sound rural Mexican while the Russian characters should sound almost Spanish, and ... I think my brain is going to melt and dribble out of my ears. But I love it.

What do you guys hate or love about writing in a language you didn't grow up with?


Well I love the fact that anyone can learn a second language, although since English is the most internationally spoken language, I think it's best that people who write comics in it can speak fluently.
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11th Jul 2018, 8:22 PM #5
The Doodler

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Still dang impressive! Not to mention that some of those languages like Finnish, Russian, and Greek are pretty far removed from English, and people who can write well in multiple dialects of English.
(Which is going to be tough in mine -- I think Castillano for a Russian accent fits really well culturally, but the rest...)
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12th Jul 2018, 8:01 AM #6
Damatris
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RJDG14:Well I love the fact that anyone can learn a second language, although since English is the most internationally spoken language, I think it's best that people who write comics in it can speak fluently.


I don't know if you've studied a second language but getting to a point you're considered fluent isn't easy. It takes time, work, and dedication. Not to mention that you'll have to actively keep it up. If you stop using it, you'll start forgetting the words, pronunciation and grammar since you're not being immersed in it constantly. And like The Doodler mentioned, there are many languages that share no roots with English so you can't lean on any pre-existing similarities. Like, Finnish has very few languages it's connected to and most of them are dying ones or otherwise spoken by low population count. This isn't pointed at you, but it irks me when English speaking people think everyone else should learn English but they don't have to know any other languages. Or when they snicker at foreign accents.

But back to the topic.

One of my biggest problems is making dialogue sound natural. I've been taught to use rather academic English which lends itself well for essays, professional settings and other instances where good grammar and ability to communicate clearly and neutrally is more important than playful, more emotional way of speaking. I do read a lot of novels in English (plus comics etc, but novels are pretty much the best for this) which has helped me a lot to get a better hang off creative writing. Which wasn't a big part of my curriculum during the 9 years of learning English at school(s). ...Actually, I remember having only one course (which was like 3 months?) dedicated to creative writing in high school and couple occasions of creative writing being assigned as homework in middle school. Everything else has been self-taught in that part.

While I am really glad that I was taught grammar very thoroughly and obtained large vocabulary including "fancy" words which enables me to read scientific papers etc in English, it has also left be a bit afraid of breaking the rules. Every time I do it, I can hear my high school teacher's disapproving voice and see the red pen marks. :'D Even if I know 100% it's a real, colloquial way of saying something, I get the conflict. I'm starting to break out of the too formal way of writing dialogue but... it's surprisingly hard. Although, I have gotten more lax at it in general and don't usually check my posts before posting... oops. I'm also very grateful to Google for letting me check if some proverb/saying is actually a real one or if I just imagined having heard it. I'm actually also worried that I probably start sounding a bit cold or too harsh while writing a forum posts where I'm not just joking around. It's so easy to slip back to the taught way of communicating when I try to be as clear as possible and internet already leeches some of the tone away anyway... *sigh*

Also, dialects. I'd have no idea how to write a texan accent (y'all, howdy?) for example without it being so wrong and cringy that everyone would rather run away crying than continue reading. I'm quite sure that I also smash UK & USA spelling and idioms together without a care since I basically never know which is from which. I just hear them, it's not like there's a citation about the location it's mostly used. I do know some for sure but in general? :') So I try to differentiate my character's speech pattern in other ways than dialects. Some use more relaxed language, some more fancy words etc. but it's definitely a work in process. And I often end up condensing the lines to shorter and shorter ways to say the thing, without losing the tone and intent. I just tend to start with far too long sentence structures that need to be cut down.

Hunting for synonyms is fun too. No word means the exact same thing and trying to find the one that has the flavor I want... Good thing there're those websites that actually show a huge lists of synonyms and antonyms. I just have to see the word to go "aHA! That's the one I was trying to remember!".

Btw, it always feels silly when I forget a word in Finnish but can remember it in English or some other language. :'D Come on brain, try to remember it in your native language, ok?
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12th Jul 2018, 9:04 AM #7
tim-in-a-box

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English /is/ my second language, but I think I know my way around it pretty well
(I would like to comment that I somehow found it a bit harder translating some of the old pages to english than just writing a page in the english to begin with what's up with that)
I have translated certain pages of my comic to spanish and german but just for teh lulz and practice tho, I wouldn't dare legit writing a comic in these lanuages quite yet :'D
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12th Jul 2018, 12:21 PM #8
Mild

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What I love about English is how neutral it is when it comes to gender. In Russian everything is about gender: words change depending on who speaks (woman or man) (in English it's just "I did something", in Russian there will be two versions of this sentence), of whom we speak (no, you can't just say "he/she/it/they did something", it will be all different), every single object has gender as well (book is "she", knife is "he", meat is "it", etc.), surnames of men and women from the same family are different, words for most professions exist in male version only... It's a mess.

I write my comic in English first and then translate it into Russian. With a story set in a matriarchal world it's extra hard. Some words I need do not have female versions at all ("chief" or "healer", for example), some do but they sound weird.

What pleasantly surprises me all the time is how helpful and patient my readers are. Nobody has ever offended me or told me to stop making my comic in English until I'm fluent and perfect. I'm so lucky to have such great readers!
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12th Jul 2018, 12:45 PM #9
SpiraPhantom

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Technically, English is my second language - I and my co-author are Russian ourselves. Originally, "Arth and Tech" was written in Russian and then I translated strips into English so I could upload them to international resources like ComicFury and DeviantArt. However, when my Russian version got no attention at all, I decided that "this effort was no longer profitable" and quit it - nowadays I write in English from the beginning, though my co-author thinks there is still hope for Russian version.

I've been studying English since I was six and my first sources of language were non-translated videogames - those gave me vocabulary and colloquial style to work with. Of course, as I learned academic English as well, I found it easy with that "gender-neutrality" and a finite number of variations of verbs. I am pretty fluent in English by now - that's one of the reasons I write my comic in English.
Games and movies also gave me some stereotypes to work with when writing a foreign character. Not to mention that I'm also partially familiar with various language like German, French and Japanese, so I can fix some wrong bits when using Google Translate.
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12th Jul 2018, 1:11 PM #10
TheVoidchildProject

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I'm not a native English speaker. But my comic is in English and I'm aiming specifically for British English. I was brought up on american, but lived two years in England where I picked up a lot of the specifics of British, dialects but also mannerisms. That was really helpful.

Of course, the further I get from my time there, the more effort I have to put into doing research. And I more often have to check myself not to insert slang, phrases or dialects just to get it in there for flavor. It's very easy, in my mind, to turn flavor into stereotypes.

Then there's also the specific spelling of words, some of which are worded the same, that I've had to make conscious choices about after that whole thing dawned on me...

There are times when I've read stuff (both from native and second language English speakers) where the Spelling and/or language gets in the way of my enjoying their work. I have mustered up the guts to PM some authors and point this out when its happened. Especially when I take a shine to the comic. It might be a sensitive subject for some though.

But I generally feel like, for myself and others, that it's okay for the language not to be perfect as long as its believable. I might be pretty nitpicky with it myself so I'm Always appreciative when someone points out grammar, misspelling or even confusing wording. =)

Damatris:Hunting for synonyms is fun too. No word means the exact same thing and trying to find the one that has the flavor I want... Good thing there're those websites that actually show a huge lists of synonyms and antonyms. I just have to see the word to go "aHA! That's the one I was trying to remember!".


God bless thesaurus.com XD
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12th Jul 2018, 1:56 PM #11
Microraptor
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I am usually write the whole dialogue out in German before translating it into English. Except sometimes snippets of dialogue pop into my head in English first, so I have to translate them backwards first...

While I consider my own English vocabulary to be rather good, I nevertheless always end up looking stuff up in online dictionaries like dict.leo.org and dict.cc, ranging from single words to whole idioms.

Sometimes I even repurpose Wikipedia as dictionary, e.g. if I am after technical jargon. Or when multiple possible translations for something exist, I work under the assumption the title of that something's Wikipedia entry may be the most widely understood term for it in the Anglosphere...

Insecurity over the correct usage of more colloquial phrases sometimes prevents me from using them. Puns are used very rarely by me, due to them often being hard to impossible to translate.
And accents... So far, I have only used phonetically spelled out accents when a character is supposed a don a fake accent... Heck, I am not even sure if I could uphold writing a halfway decent accent in my own language...
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12th Jul 2018, 2:23 PM #12
The Doodler

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One thing that gets me is I get the impression English has somewhat more approximate synonyms per word than Spanish, which throws me off because I'm so used to having like fifty words with slightly different connotations for the same concept. I'm sure a lot of this is my weak vocabulary rather than actual linguistic differences, though -- gotta work on that! I do know that English often has (in practice) a formal and informal version of lots of words -- thanks to the Norman Conquest, French/Spanish sometimes sound weirdly and hilariously formal (at least until I got used to them) and on the flipside, German sounds more casual than it is.

@Mild: I remember reading somewhere that if you put the female ending on "general" or "judge" it means "general's/judge's wife" -- that must be a pain to translate. While Spanish generally has more male/female markers than English, I was able to use those rare times when it's the opposite (for example his and hers are the same word) to hide a character's sex when she's also hiding it.
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Forum > Webcomic & Art discussion > Comicking in a second language
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