Not a strickly crime issue, but question about a character is recent immigrant and speaks in broken English.  Should the dialoque reflect the real way they speak or should it be in proper English?

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Tricky question.  The reader can take only so much broken English, so you'll have to keep it short and sweet.  But certainly not proper English.

Thanks for the input and advise

A balance has to be struck. As IJ said, as you've described him, he can't speak proper English. Make it too improper and you risk the reader mot understanding what he's saying. (Not that you NEVER want to do that; it may come in handy, if another character is confused by this guy's speech.) Have him get a few American colloquialisms almost right, or do some research into his native vernacular and have him use the English translations of those. Maybe he slips on certain words. (Example: a Russian who sometimes says "Da" when he means "yeah.")

Different nationalities often have their own conventions that make them stick out when speaking English. Germans may use a different word order. (Throw Mama from the train a kiss.) Several languages tend to leave out articles, or don;t use contractions. The big thing may be not to make any of his sentences too complicated, as such a person would be unlikely to do so himself, especially if he's translating in his head.

Such a character can be a lot of fun to write. Enjoy.

Getting the idea to keep it real light but hope readers/critics will not think they are grammar errors!

That's #7 in Elmore Leonard's rules.  "Use sparingly," he says.

I have an Irish sidekick character.  I mention at the beginning of each novel that he has a brogue.  Very occasionally, I'll have him toss in an Irish term in his dialogue.  If I tried to write his speech phonetically, I would drive myself and my readers crazy.  Readers are smart enough to imagine the accent themselves with just a small hint, I think.  Anyway no reader has ever complained about that.

One trick is to give the character a name that reminds the reader of what his speech must sound like.  My Irish sidekick is named Michael "Shamrock" Kelly!  

Other than that, I would use an average speech pattern--not too proper, not too street. 

Should have known that as just finished Pronto!   Thanks!

Read Iain Rowan's One of Us for what I thought was a near-perfect portrayal of illegal immigrant Anna. Rowan has just the right voice, the lack of idioms and contractions and he doesn't let it slip for the entire novel. I was so impressed with the dialogue in this book.

Thanks  I do think it is doable but some readers feel it bogs them down...

I have the same issue in my novel because some of the characters are Jamaican, one is Russian and so on. I decided that to try and write in patois throughout would be no good, first because it would be difficult for the reader, and second, difficult to get it right.  

As some others have suggested, therefore, I have gone with adding the odd word or phrase, 'messin' wit me head' for example, just to give a flavour of their speech. It's a fine line between getting it right and making a hash of it!

This one is terribly tricky -- you don't want to descend into caricature. From my own experience in countries where I don't speak the language, I'll use two- and three-word sentences, and also certain words in my own language to try to make a connection.

A Spanish-speaking character, for instance, might have trouble with the word "tomorrow," but most English readers known "manana," so this might be a good way to get the point across.

Thank you Stephen


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