reading · the how of writing

what if your character speaks spanish…and you don’t?

So, a while back, I wrote a romance novel in which one of the minor characters was fluent in more than one language.  Obviously one of them was English.  The other was Spanish (New World not Old).  It’s a four part series that focuses on four different characters.  He doesn’t get any focus until book three.  However, he does fling around some Spanish phrases once in a while.  No big deal, right?

I don’t speak Spanish.

That’s right.  I live in Texas.  I have more than one friend who speaks Spanish and my husband has worked and is currently working with people who speak Spanish.  I don’t.

I’m not sure why.  It’s useful.  It’s a beautiful language.  I had the chance in high school and even took a semester.  And it’s not like I have some aversion to foreign languages.  I took a semester of French in college and not only got an “A” but found myself speaking it even when the occasion didn’t warrant it.  Then I met this guy who had taken four years of it when he was in high school and, even though we found other things in common, speaking French to each other was fun.  Since hardly anyone in our area of Texas speaks it we felt like it was our own little language.  (And yes, I married him.  But not because he spoke French.  That was just a perk.)

Anyway, I’ve thought about changing the character’s language, but the plot won’t allow it without destroying the point of the story.  I could use Google Translate but as good as it is, it has no concept of context or culture.  Plus, Spanish would be good to learn for several reasons I’ve already listed.

So, my solution to the question in the title is to learn the language.  They offer free classes online through my library from a (not-free) website called Mango.  Because I’m not writing a novel in Spanish, I don’t have to learn it to the level of a Jorge Luis Borges.  Though it would be nice to pull a Joseph Conrad, I think I’m only going to end up learning enough to get a good grasp of the culture (which is beautifully complex).  I’ve still got book two waiting to be created so I’ve got time.

That leads me to another problem, though.  The hero of book two is a CEO.  How on earth am I, Harriet Homemaker, going to write about that and make it sound real? (Research, research, research…)

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