On writing accents
Okay, some people have commented on this and I wanted to give my point of view.
I’m against writing accents for several reasons:
- They only make sense to the people living in the same region as you. Since I was little I’ve always thought that I didn’t have an accent and when I moved cities suddenly everyone knew where I was from by my way of talking. We tend to think that our speech is perfect and that only other people have accents.
- They are not understandable by foreign readers. Being from Spain I don’t know how a Boston or a Dover or a South New York accent sounds like. When I see it written in a dialogue I just think it as “gibberish” or “funny english”. When I was younger I jumped those parts because I didn’t understand them, as they rely a lot on phonetics. Even now I have trouble decoding them.
- They aren’t translatable. Tell me how am I supposed to describe a Chicago accent in a language from a country where we haven’t got a Chicago. No matter how proud you are of your multicultural dialogues, they are going to become plain spanish or plain french or plain japanese. Sometimes they are translated to a kind of equivalent from the country, which tends to be offensive (for example, a redneck accenttranslated as a south of Spain accent).
- They tend to be offensive. Believe me, I’ve heard a french woman speak english with an accent and there was no “zhe” or “zhey”. We tend to exaggerate accents which is offensive in most cases.
- They “otherize” people with accents. Imagine you have a main character and he talks in perfect english and you have secondary characters from other countries which speak with an accent. You’re otherizing those characters, making them seem “strange” or “exotic” in the best cases when you’re not making fun of them. No one speaks a perfect version of their language. And what are you going to do? Make the main character speak with an accent making the dialogues even more difficult to comprehend?
- It’s much more interesting and challenging to describe the way of talking. If you write that someone has a “musical” accent or “long vowels” it’s much easier to understand and better for imagination. It’s much more beautiful and interesting and lets you show your descriptive skills.