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melody's muse

I'm writing a character that has a heavy Irish brogue, and I'm not sure how to write for him! I can hear his voice in my head, but it's the writing out the actual dialogue part that's been difficult.

I've seen people write out accents before, and if well done, it can be really good. If not, it's extremely annoying. If I could, I'd like to make the readers feel like they can hear the character talking in their heads too, but I'd like to avoid it if it's just going to be annoying!

Any tips on how to actually write out the accent? Or should I not worry about it because my readers will most likely already know how this character sounds when he talks anyway?

1/7/2012 #1
cathrl

I wouldn't try to write out the accent, but maybe there are particular phrasings that he uses?

Off the top of my head, if I read a character who said, "For sure,..." I'd be "hearing" an Irish accent.

1/8/2012 #2
Rallag

When introducing the character, you should clearly describe him as having a strong irish accent, and at various points during the story you should remind the reader of this, it will hopefully allow them to visualize the character speaking in what they imagine to be as an irish accent. For example:

"Pass me another beer, Paddy!" Jimmy McKeegan requested, in his sing-song Irish accent.

But if you consider yourself to have a strong understanding of the Irish way of speaking, then you can utilize apostrophes and cultural quirks to make the characters' dialogue more authentic, and almost force the reader to say it in their head in an irish accent. For example:

In the old Paddy's bar, on the corner of Rover avenue....

"Pass me another whiskey Paddy me lad!"

"Don' you think you've had a bit too much fer tonight Jimmy?"

"A tru' Irishman could never have too much whiske' !"

That's just my advice, from experience in writing and speaking with an Irish dialect in mind. (Always gets a laugh at the party)

1/8/2012 #3
melody's muse

Thanks for the advice. :)

I have decided that I am not going to write out the accent, especially since I'm really not that familiar with Irish accents in the first place. But I will try to throw in a few expressions if I can or at least make references to his lilting, Irish voice or something like that, lol.

I do have a couple of questions though if anyone could answer.

1. What would an Irish person typically call their mother? Would it be "mum" like the British? Or something else?

2. Would an Irish person call a child a "lad" or a "lass"? Or is this Scottish?

1/11/2012 #4
Rallag

1.Yes, I do believe that the Irish refer to their mothers as mums, like we do, but I also think you can use ma which will sound more specifically Irish.

2.A lot of Gaelic expressions are similar, so it is very likely that the Irish would call a child "laddie" or lassie".

Listening to the accents of Irish people on something like youtube might also help.

1/13/2012 #5
melody's muse

@Rallag...thanks for your help!

1/13/2012 #6
TommyMc55

From an Irish person, living in Ireland;

1) Ma/Mam/Mammy (even adults use Mammy). Also, it is common for people use "Mother" in a faux formal way.

2) It would be more common to hear "young lad" "young fella" or for a girl "young one"

11/10/2012 #7
LMRaven

There are a few websites that you can find that are dedicated to Irish slang words if you want to make your story more authentic sounding. Just Google "Irish Slang". Though I would suggest not going overboard with usage as you may alienate some readers that have no idea what common Irish slang means.

I am glad you decided against writing in an Irish brogue. Not only is it difficult if you don't know it but it is hard to read. I can attest to that by trying to get through stories based in the Scottish Highlands and the dialogue as an American is unnatural sounding and doesn't flow well to me. On the other end of the spectrum, I have been reading a story where it takes place in Boston and the author writes partial dialogue in a Boston accent (and it is written badly when the author does it). Having lived in Boston when I went to college, I certainly understand "yahd" is supposed to be "yard" but it still looks odd when written down and causes the reader to be sucked out of the story trying to figure out what a word is supposed to be. Personally, I can't stand when dialogue is written in an accent or dialect. All that is necessary is certain slang usage indicative of the region and mentions of speaking in an accent/dialect.

11/11/2012 #8
bellaandtoby

1. What would an Irish person typically call their mother? Would it be "mum" like the British? Or something else?

Answer: An Irish person Calls their mother '' Ma''.

2. Would an Irish person call a child a "lad" or a "lass"? Or is this Scottish?

Answer: an irish person would call their child a '' Wain''.

hope this helped you out

8/24/2013 #9
Hoplite39

Lad and lassie is definitely Scottish and even North of English. Not convinced it is Irish. In saying that, even these terms are only used in specific areas Of the country.

I am not too enthusiastic about trying to mimic accents in dialogue. It can be very off-putting to read, at least for me.

I think the best way would be to identify some terms that the Irish typically say. So using the appropriate 'irish' term for common terms like mother, father, brother, sister, friend is the way to go.

Also you can try to find some specific expressions. Like "it is a great craic." from the internet. Better that than trying to change each word to "troy toh make it soynd Oirish" if you know what I mean. ;)

8/24/2013 #10
hiddenhibernian

What TommyMc55 said, you can't go wrong with that.

There are some videos on Youtube if you search for "What Irish people say" that have a lot of genuine Irish expressions. They're quite funny too, but I suppose only if you're used to Irish English.

Whatever you do use, you might want to make sure that it's right, or it would be very jarring for someone familiar with the real thing. I stopped reading a fic which was decent otherwise, just because the writer named her Irish character 'Colleen' (it's a common Irish-sounding name in the US, but not in Ireland)...

More to the general point of accents in writing: I came across a fic in the Sherlock fandom a while ago, which has dialogue written in a pretty convincing Dublin accent. It's hilarious if you're familiar with the real thing, but even then I had to silently read it out to myself to make it work. It was very short, and I don't think I would have made the effort for anything longer.

8/24/2013 #11
xLoveless19

Hmmm, I've never written dialogue for a character that had an accent, but I've read some pretty good ones! Like from the HTTYD fandom, people are pretty good at writing Gobber's accent (Unsure if his accent is Irish or Scottish in the movie even though they're vikings...sooo)

"Ye've run this course more times that I can count and ye'll be fine. Just keep ye're first mile under 6 minutes thirty seconds and blast up the last hill."

"Thar he is! He's got the official time right thar! 20:14.4!"

If you're looking for an even thicker accent, then try to think of what letters to tact on in words to give that effect. I read a fanfic where the author gave a character a very thick french accent and it came out like this.

"We speak Ehngleesh, 'o courgrse," he said, his face unchanged. "We argre hergre on the teep dzat you wergre seen convehrsing weedz la Gargouille."

Hope this helped you. Good luck hun! :)

8/24/2013 . Edited 8/24/2013 #12
Wildcard999

I think that first one is Scottish, Loveless. I've noticed that Scottish accents sound pretty gruff and Irish accents sound like singing. It's about the only way I can tell the difference since I don't hear either much.

Your last example is unreadable. I do not understand the the liberal use of g's and bookended r's.

8/24/2013 #13
xLoveless19

When I first read the fanfic that had the french like accent, I couldn't really understand it until I read it out loud the way it sounds and then I understood.

"We speak Ehngleesh, 'o courgrse," he said, his face unchanged. "We argre hergre on the teep dzat you wergre seen convehrsing weedz la Gargouille."

What they are saying is "We speak English of course. We are here on the tip that you were seen conversing with the Gargouille."

Most readers for the fanfic did complain about having trouble with understanding what was being said, but I assume they got the hang of it after awhile. I found it kind of amusing trying to read it out loud lol.

I assume what the author might of done was listen to people with a french accent, then spell out the words exactly how it sounded to them. They did it for other languages too, there was a total of 2 or 3 different languages in the fic, minus English of course.

8/24/2013 . Edited 8/24/2013 #14
zanganito

The thing I don't like about writing accents out "the way they sound" is that the writer is assuming that the readers are going to pronounce vowels and consonants the same way they do. Which isn't always the case.

@Loveless

I wouldn't read a fic like that, since it would be too confusing for me.

8/24/2013 . Edited 8/24/2013 #15
Wildcard999

That is not how French accents are usually written. With is usually wis or something. And that is zat.

8/24/2013 #16
zanganito

@ Wildcard - when speakers of a latin based language speak English, they tend to pronounce short i sounds as long e sounds.

Which I think is the reasoning behind "We speak Ehngleesh," but stuff like that is like nails on a chalkboard for me. :(

ETA: you're right, another thing is that they don't have a "th" sound, and it sometimes sounds like a "s" or "z" in French accents.

8/24/2013 . Edited 8/24/2013 #17
xLoveless19

Eh, the author was trying to go for a French accent, I'm not surprised that they made a few mistakes attempting to do that.

@ Captain Zangano

The fic itself is not confusing, it's just that when they introduced a person with a French accent that they attempted trying to write out how the accent would be. It did annoy me sometimes when I couldn't completely understand what they were saying, but it was every once in a great while, so I don't think it took anything away from the fic itself at all. It was well worth the read and easily one of my top favorite fics.

8/24/2013 . Edited 8/24/2013 #18
Sedaiv

I believe the word you're looking for is "Gaelic", if memory serves correct their accent is refereed to as Gaelic. However it would also be a good idea, google search some Irish terms/slang, it'll help push the character forward with their Irish Heritage.

8/25/2013 #19
cathrl

Gaelic is a separate language, not an accent. (Actually it's two related languages: Scots Gaelic and Irish Gaelic. I'm not sure how similar they are.)

It's nothing like English - it's completely unguessable unless you speak it.

8/25/2013 #20
Wildcard999

Wildcard - when speakers of a latin based language speak English, they tend to pronounce short i sounds as long e sounds.

Which I think is the reasoning behind "We speak Ehngleesh," but stuff like that is like nails on a chalkboard for me. :(

I know. It's the rgr and the dz that didn't make any sense to me. Although I did actually see a French accent written a few times and zis ees 'ow eet was written.

It's nothing like English - it's completely unguessable unless you speak it.

Oh yeah, totally. I memorized a few Enya songs. I haven't a clue what any of them translate to (except Storms in Africa which she sang in both languages) but I can tell you there's definitely nothing recognizable in there. If I remember right, the two languages evolved completely independently of each other and have no common ancestry, right?

8/25/2013 #21
mjay.rumbelle.3

Thanks for this, I am writing a novel set in 16th century Ireland and I was extremely wary of writing out the accents. But now I'm feeling perfectly fine about just allowing the reader to use their imagination. This was a huge help, and again thank you.

2/1/2014 #22
TurquoiseDragonfly

So much better that way! Putting in the wrong accent is only going to put people off, and as a Brit I'd say half the guesses at an Irish accent in this thread sound Scottish!

There's a new (slightly odd) version of The Three Musketeers on the BBC at the moment and someone somewhere made the very sensible decision to let all the actors use their very English accents instead of trying to do some fake French thing.

2/1/2014 #23
Lorendiac

The other day I was reading an e-text of "Martin Hewitt, Investigator," first published in 1894, and here's a sample paragraph of dialogue from an Irishman with a grievance. The rendition of his accent struck me as overkill, but I remembered this thread and decided to offer this sample of how at least one author was doing it in the late Victorian Age, in a scene set in London, with the speaker having just recently arrived from Dublin:

"I will, sor. Wan day had I been in London, sor—wan day only, an' a low scutt thried to poison me dhrink; next day some udther thief av sin shoved me off av a railway platform undher a train, malicious and purposeful; glory be, he didn't kill me! but the very docther that felt me bones thried to pick me pockut, I du b'lieve. Sunday night I was grabbed outrageous in a darrk turnin', rowled on the groun', half strangled, an' me pockuts nigh ripped out av me trousies. An' this very blessed mornin' av light I was strook onsensible an' left a livin' c-o-r-p-s-e, an' my lodgin's penethrated an' all the thruck mishandled an' bruk up behind me back. Is that a panjandhery for the polis to laff at, sor?"

P.S. I had to go back and edit the word that means a dead body so it wouldn't be "censored out" by the forum software.

2/24/2014 . Edited 2/24/2014 #24
DH7

Wow, that is incredibly hard to read, and I can't imagine an Irish accent at all with all that. If I were trying to write such a character myself, I might glean bits and pieces from this, a pinch of salt.

In my fandom, one of the main characters is a stereotypical country farmer with a hillbilly accent. I might write her as fixin' to go somewhere, but some writers feel the need to butcher every single word that comes out of her mouth. There's a certain rhythm to her voice, the words have to roll out fluidly. If my brain is stopping with every 'A'hve' and 'ta', then it's going to sound nothing like her. The effect often makes me feel as if I'm reading speech from someone who's suffered a massive stroke, and has difficulty speaking.

2/24/2014 #25
Out of Books
Speaking from my RL experience, I feel the need to point out that accents from other countries are just as regionally diverse as they are in America. The New Yorker, Southern, Chicagoan, Jersey, & Texan accent are all considered American, and when writing your character it's the localized slang you use to define the accent of a character. It should be the same with using accents from other countries. As far as writing it out, that should depend, in part, on your focus character's perception on what is considered normal speech. "I speak normally. You're the one with the accent." This is the mindset nearly all people have. When reading, accent marks tends to imply an "incorrect" dialect, and I really can only recommend them when trying to get your reader to mirror your focus character's frustrations in lacking understanding.
2/24/2014 #26
Wildcard999

Lol, Idk what it was supposed to sound like, but the guy sounded like he had a half Irish, half English accent. A salty sailor, or maybe a drunken brawler. And I can only guess at half those words, they're so garbled as to be incomprehensible. What the hell is 'sor' supposed to--Oh. I just got it. Sir. Yeah, that wasn't obvious. There's several words I still don't know in there, so I only half-understood the point of this passage and the details are nearly all lost on me.

If anyone wants to do an accent like that, make sure nothing you wrote in that accent is actually important and you keep it down to a couple sentences here and there because the frustration level is high, half the words will be lost in translation and a smart reader is just going to skip to the next bit of properly spelled English (or whatever language it's written in).

I might write her as fixin' to go somewhere, but some writers feel the need to butcher every single word that comes out of her mouth.

I'm a big fan of just keeping it to the common word choices. I mean, in Harry Potter, most characters were written as speaking real English, but they said things like mum and batty, so you know they definitely weren't using an American accent. I prefer the little things giving the reader an idea of what they should hear in their mind, but leaving it up to the reader to supply the accent itself. Sure, not everyone will get it right or be able to replicate that particular accent, but so what? If they can at least understand what the hell is going on, that's better than making them look for context to figure things out, like when I read Hagrid's parts.

Yeah, DH, it's definitely hard reading a butchered section quickly. I was trying to read a Sunday comic strip last night with a Spanish and French accent and it took me two commercial breaks because translating too so long that I ran out of time during the first one! And even worse, I had to reread each panel after translating it to understand what the panel was saying, then at the end I had to reread the entire strip because it'd taken so damn long that I'd forgotten what the hell was going on! I'd actually been confused the first time I read the punch line!

When reading, accent marks tends to imply an "incorrect" dialect, and I really can only recommend them when trying to get your reader to mirror your focus character's frustrations in lacking understanding.

That's a good point.

2/24/2014 #27
Lorendiac

Just to comment: When I was first reading that Irishman's dialogue in the old Martin Hewitt story, I was strongly reminded of the way I felt in 1999 when I was first watching "Star Wars, Episode 1: The Phantom Menace" and Jar Jar Binks suddenly sauntered onstage and starting expressing himself in what I initially considered to be a nearly impenetrable accent. My brain made some mental adjustments over the next few minutes, and I was understanding him a lot better by the end of the movie, but I still felt that someone had made a horrible mistake in laying it on so thick.

(As I recall, he got very little dialogue in the next two films -- apparently George Lucas had decided the character didn't come across as being so endearing as previously hoped. But I couldn't help thinking that toning down the accent might have helped him make a far, far better first impression.)

2/24/2014 . Edited 2/24/2014 #28
Wildcard999

As I recall, he got very little dialogue in the next two films -- apparently George Lucas had decided the character didn't come across as being so endearing as previously hoped.

Given the obvious slave-accent, yeah, I wouldn't think so.

2/24/2014 #29
Lorendiac

I remember that after the movie had been out for a while, I'd sometimes see comments on the Internet to the effect that Jar Jar Binks struck some people as flagrantly racist. I think that may have related to his accent -- thing was, when I'd watched the movie myself, I hadn't consciously noticed anything particularly familiar about his annoyingly thick accent in terms of any real-world ethnic group or whatever; I'd just been too busy trying to figure out what the heck he was saying.

I don't remember, if I ever knew, exactly what real-world accent supposedly resembled his. Frankly, it's been a heck of a long time since I re-watched "Phantom Menace" on DVD or otherwise gave more than a passing thought to Jar Jar Binks.

On the other hand, just now I was remembering another treatment of the same sort of thing as that "Irishman's complaint" I quoted previously -- thick accent, rendered phonetically, combined with slang that's part of a local dialect. This example was also found in a professionally published novel, but the author (in the 1950s) had a much better grasp of how his English-speaking audience would react. (Granted, he was an American, so he could reasonably assume that most of his readers would likewise be Americans, and not terribly familiar with, nor intensely interested in, the regional accents and dialects of the British Isles.)

The following is quoted from "Martians, Go Home!" by Fredric Brown. (A humorous SF novel from way back when.) The person speaking to us directly is apparently the nameless omniscient narrator, although a Cockney criminal named Alf speaks the part in quotation marks. (Hence all the rhyming slang, such as "pig's ear" for "beer" and "smash" for "cash.")

Let's let Alf tell it in his own words.

Take it, Alf.

"Well, Guv'nor, 'ere Hi am fresh from a moon in a flowery, and Hi'm poppin' out of an oozer after a pig's ear that took my last smash. Blimey, Hi'm on the rib. So when I gets a decko at this connaught ranger takin' a pen'worth of chalk down the frog lookin' like 'e'd 'ave a dummy full of bees and honey, 'e looks ripe for a buzz. Hi takes a decko around -- no bogies. Hi see a greenie on a jam-pot near but 'ow'd Hi know 'e was a grass? Hi got to speel or there's no weeping willow for my Uncle Ned. So I closes up and uses my fork to blag --"

Wait, Alf. Maybe you'd better let me tell what happened, in my words.

Here was little Alf Billings, fresh from a month in jail, coming out of a pub after just having spent his last change for a glass of beer. So when he saw a prosperous-looking stranger walking down the street, he decided to pick his pocket. Nobody in sight looked like a policeman or detective. True, there was a Martian sitting on top of a parked automobile nearby, but Alf hadn't learned much about the Martians yet. And, in any case, Alf was flat broke; he had to take a chance or he wouldn't be able to afford a place to sleep that night. So he closed up on the man and picked his pocket.

That's what Alf just told you, but I thought it better to repeat.

Of course the key differences are that Brown only made us "listen" to that for one paragraph, for humorous effect, and then stopped and translated (and used more conventional English in the remainder of that scene telling us what happened to Alf), because he knew darn well that expecting us to tolerate such thickly-accented and rhyming-slang-laden narrative for any significant length of time was a non-starter.

2/24/2014 . Edited 2/24/2014 #30
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