According to Hoyt: Bad Language

Today for Feature Friday, I’ll be posting articles about language and linguistics. (The book I raved about earlier definitely relates to this.) Here’s an article by Sarah Hoyt about the Sci-Fi Trope of “Universal Translation.” I have a story somewhere in my stack where there is a Universal Translator that offers real time synthetic speech between all of the Earth people and the aliens they deal with… it works about as well as BabelFish did in the late 90s. She makes better points than I do, though. Definitely check her article out.

Bad Language

7 thoughts on “According to Hoyt: Bad Language”

  1. A little tl;dr, but do agree that not enough time is taken to have alternate languages in worlds. Even fantasy basically cops out to the TARDIS effect half the time. There is good reason for it though. Creating a new language that feels real at all is hard work. I’ve tried it. Since most languages are full of borrowing and years of evolving and changing words. More could be said about people trying to understand each other through a language barrier, but actually having the language created is something most writers either can’t or won’t do.

  2. In the book series A Song of Ice and Fire they have a handful of words in other languages, but just a handful. They do have a lot of characters that don’t speak each other’s language, though still not as many as would be historically accurate. That’s all I ask for. A writer doesn’t have to invent ten languages for the people of three countries, but he or she can show the effects of those people dealing with those languages. (The TARDIS effect is okay, though, because of all that wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff.)

  3. I would agree that ASoIaF is a good example, if it weren’t for the fact that Dany has no fucking problem understanding people in the East. I suppose one could chalk it up to Illryo(sp) educating her, but it always bothered me. Especially since there is page time given to her learning/understanding Dothraki.

    1. Dany has no problem because High Valyrian was the language she was raised speaking. There’s a section in I believe Sword of Storms where she talks through an interpreter but still understands everything being said. There are still problems with how everyone in Westeros speaks essentially the same dialect, but at least they have characters unable to communicate because of language differences.

  4. Yeah…but…so many different dialects of that it should have been harder for her. Thouh I must admit I am somewhat stuck on a better example. Maybe Jordan, but not really. He has a lot of cool names, but no real issue EVER when it comes to language barrier. Most that is mentioned is Mat speaking Old Tounge and no one understanding.

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