Novel writers occasionally like to use foreign language to convey the fact that their character is in or from another country. Unfortunately these writers often don’t research said foreign language in any depth before sending their work to the printers – or so it seems to me. Some you can tell have tried hard to get it right and only fail occasionally, usually getting the gender wrong but others clearly have never seen, heard or studied French in their life and it is very painful to read. The amount of bad French in books is staggering. I came across one of those gems yesterday and it put me off the book straight away.
The book I read yesterday had some weird and sometimes plain bonkers sentences such as these:
“Très bien! Je vais être droit il y a,” a woman yelled.
“Quel est votre pressé?”
Whatever that woman yelled in the author’s head, we shall never know (the direct translation is ‘Very well! I will be straight there is’. Mysterious, isn’t it?) I was more than a little pained when I read the second one which, as far as I can tell, translates as ‘What is your pressed?’. And I might have forgiven Paris’ Sacré Coeur Basilica being spelled ‘Sacré Couer’ once, but it was spelled wrong throughout the entire book. OK so it was a freebie Kindle book, not War and Peace but even so it is hard to take a book seriously when sentences make no sense whatsoever. Despite 5 years of studies and an A-Level, my German is non-existent and I wouldn’t dream of putting German in a book without checking with a native speaker. Not being a writer, I don’t know how these things are done but the amount of bad French in books shouts lazy writer and pretty much discredit the author (and editor) to me.
I am genuinely curious to know how writers deal with foreign language in books. And if anyone has funny experiences of dodgy foreign language in books, please do share!