Crime fiction blogger par excellence Margot Kinberg recently posted on a subject dear to my heart: how writers capture nuances of language and dialect in dialogue without either sounding condescending or alienating the reader.
Years ago I read a novel set in Bali called The Kris of Death (I still recall the title, haunted by it) wherein nearly all dialogue was written in the sort of pidgin English which non-native speakers may use and which native English speakers frequently use when speaking with them. It was excruciating!
Later, when I invented my Bangkok based Australian expat PI Jayne Keeney, I knew she would need to be a fluent Thai speaker in order to avoid the same pitfall. This enables me to signal to the reader that the conversation is taking place in Thai and write normally, albeit with a little Thai syntax. I reserve my (rare) use of pidgin English in order to shed light on a character or mine the potential comedy of a situation.
Anyway, here’s Margot’s take on the theme.
* Following Margot’s lead, this re-blogged post takes its title from the song ‘Downunder’ by the Australian band Men At Work.