Language issues


Psychopomp
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I'm not sure if this is the right place for this, but here goes... I'm writing a character in one of my stories that has a thick Cajun accent, but I have no idea how to write a convincing sounding one. She doesn't have a lot of lines, but I want to make it look right, like someone from southern Louisiana really could say them.

These are the lines:

"Welcome to Louisiana, Mr. Shore," she said in a thick Cajun accent. "Did you have a good trip?"

“Looks like we're 'ere, monsieur,” she said, opening the door. “I know we have a hard day ahead of us, but maybe you’d like to have a little fun before you rest up, chare?”

Could anyone help with that? Thanks.

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“Looks like we're here, monsieur,” she said, opening the door. “I know we have a hard day ahead of us, but maybe you’d like to have a little fun before you rest up, chare?”

That's no accent. That's a dialect. And dialects are important. But unless you've got readers from Louisiana, nobody's really going to know for sure how right you got it.

But accents aren't important to write correctly. Suppose my character has an Austrian accent, just about the only accent I can write.

"Velcome to Louisiana, Mester Shore," she said in a thick Austrian accent. "Did you haff a guut trip?"

Now, unless I want to look like a gimp, I have to write all that character's lines in that way. Or I could say:

"Welcome to Louisiana, Mr. Shore," she said in a thick Austrian accent. "Did you have a good trip?"

Same sentance, no stupid phonetic spelling that makes me look like an idiot, and none of my readers will give a shit. In their heads, chances are they'll think the words in an Austrian accent and I'll have less work to do.

So, accents are unimportant, dialects are important, but saying occasionally "in her [accent] accent" as a reminder doesn't harm anybody or get accent-haters on your ass, and reminds people how they should hear it in their heads.

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I write mostly XMen and one of my favorite characters to play with is Gambit. So far, I've gotten few complaints or criticisms about my Cajun dialogue.

There are two voice sources I have in memory. The first is Justin Wilson who used to do a lot of cooking shows for PBS. The fella told wonderful stories while he cooked, looking and acting like the granddad you wished you had fixing dinner. The second was the old XMen animated series where Gambit often spoke of himself in third person -- I don't think that's a genuine part of the dialect, just a quirk the comic book writers gave the character, though I find myself using it anyway.

When I'm writing the dialogue, I play the words through my head, listening for the distinctive cadence that I recall from the voice sources. I've lived thirty two of my thirty five years in the South, so the dialect I write is based a great deal on the southern drawl I've grown up with spiced up with some bits of French here and there. One of my favorite resources for researching anything having to do with my pet Cajun is http://www.gambitguild.com/ . I think there's actually a thread in the forum intended to help folks with their French.

I think you've gone more classic French than Cajun with your dialogue, myself. I'll take a shot at putting it the way I'd have done it and ya'll are welcome to nitpick. It's always a learning process:

"Welcome to Louisiana, Mr. Shore," she said in a thick Cajun accent. "Did you have a good trip?"

"Welcome to Louisiana, Mr. Shore," she said, her words thick with the accent peculiar to the region. "How your trip go? Bon?"

The first line sounds like a relatively formal greeting taken without context, so I'd think the character would try a little harder to speak text-book English than usual. In the second, it sounds like the characters have had a little more time to get acquainted and it could be taken as flirtatious or at least friendly, and so less "correct" English.

“Looks like we're 'ere, monsieur,” she said, opening the door. “I know we have a hard day ahead of us, but maybe you’d like to have a little fun before you rest up, chare?”

"Look like we here, monsieur," she said, opening the door. "We got a hard day ahead of us, but dere no reason you can't have a little fun before you rest. What you say, cher?"

In general, I try to hit a certain rhythm, dropping a lot of plural endings and often substituting a "d" sound for "th". I also choose the words I use to showcase the dialect, avoiding the ones that are harder to make conform. Hope that helps some.

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  • 3 weeks later...

lol, well, I'm actually from south Louisiana, and am about as cajun as you can get. One of the main things about the way we speak is the speed. It's not that we have poor grammar. We tend to speak really fast, so words get jumbled. Example: "What are you doing?" turns into "Whatcha doin'?"

and we do use french every now and then, but it's not proper french. you won't here anybody using the term "monsieur" although, there is a heck of a lot of "yes ma'ams" and "no ma'ams". cajuns do pride themselves on being very polite. "chare" is actually spelled "cher" and that tends to be reserved for someone you know very well, sort of like a pet name. "mes cher." if you're really wanting to use french in there, the most common terms used would be "C'est bon" meaning it's good, usually used when describing food of some sorts. "Comment ca va?" which would be "how are you?" the proper response being "Ca va bien, et toi?" meaning "I'm good, and you?"

a lot of the words though, are just kinda thrown in there without realizing, like "Frissons" which is like if something gives you the chills, it gives you the frissons. or "Couyon" which is someone who is kinda like calling someone a dork or whatever. "Canneye" is when someone is kinda innocently bad, like a lot of times a little boy who is always managing to get into trouble would be called canneye. lol, and um, whether we know a person or not, it all comes out the same. people down here are extremely friendly and open, they don't worry about speaking 'correct' english with some they've just met. people down here are who they are, definitely a lot of pride, and they don't apologize for that. and i'm not picking on the above post or anything. just trying to help. but don't drop the plurals. this probably doesn't help at all, lol, but that's my cajun lesson for today.

lol, so i just asked a couple of my friends to say the lines, and the two lines would actually be:

"Welcome to Louisiana, Mr. Shore," she said in a thick cajun accent. "You had a good trip?" (could also be 'D'joo have a good trip?' but there's no proper way to spell did and you together, lol, or 'how d'jour trip go?' did almost always gets shortened to just a 'd' and a 'd' combined with a 'y' makes a j sound. again, it's hard to write how we say it.)

"Here ya go," she said, opening the door. "I know we've got a hard day ahead of us, but maybe you'd like to have a little fun before you get some sleep?"

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a lot of the words though, are just kinda thrown in there without realizing, like "Frissons" which is like if something gives you the chills, it gives you the frissons. or "Couyon" which is someone who is kinda like calling someone a dork or whatever. "Canneye" is when someone is kinda innocently bad, like a lot of times a little boy who is always managing to get into trouble would be called canneye. lol, and um, whether we know a person or not, it all comes out the same. people down here are extremely friendly and open, they don't worry about speaking 'correct' english with some they've just met. people down here are who they are, definitely a lot of pride, and they don't apologize for that. and i'm not picking on the above post or anything. just trying to help. but don't drop the plurals. this probably doesn't help at all, lol, but that's my cajun lesson for today.

No worries, I did invite folks to pick it apart, didn't I? Nice to hear from a genuine Cajun. You have no idea how much effort I have put into trying to research dialects and languages for my stories. Everyone I asked seemed to know less about it than I, myself, did. :samurai:

I've also had to tack on a few bits of proper French, German, and Russian for one story or another. For the German, I've actually got a few watch-dog readers that will correct me if I wander too far off the mark. Most of my compatriots tend to go too heavily into the text-book French when doing Cajun dialect, in my opinion. Oh! And thanks for clearing up the spelling of "cher." I've been going with what Marvel Comics used, since all my other sources seemed to conflict. Luckily it was right!

Thanks for offering your help. :(

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