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Is a written accent going to be distracting to readers? My protagonist spends about a chapter’s worth of time with a foster couple who are first-generation immigrants from Germany and still have thick accents. I’ve been writing out their accent (still needs help to improve accuracy, were I to leave it), but am wondering if it will make readers work too hard to understand the dialogue and be off-putting. I’ve personally read books with Irish and French accents written out and really enjoyed them, but I’ve always loved accents anyway so am not a good judge of whether or not they should be included…hopefully my question makes sense

Thanks!

Short sections of my chapter that include the accent:

“Schatzi, I meant…”

“I’m not your Schatzi. My name is Jazzalyn.” I crossed my arms and shook my hair back over my face. I didn’t want to be here, so I wouldn’t act like it. My place was at home with Josh. Rosa placed a persistent hand on my arm and spoke softly.

“Chazzalyn, I meant nozing by mein questions. I ask zhe same zings about all little ones who come into mein home, out of mere curiosity und to best arrange zhe house for zeir safety.”

I scowled and shrugged her hand off my arm. She ignored my rudeness and continued.

“I do not care zat she has Down Syndrome. She is a beautiful baby vorthy of a beautiful life, ja? I don’t believe zat should change vezer zhe baby is black or vite, fully functional or foreffer dependent on caregiffers for daily needs… nozing changes zhe value of a human life.”

A twinge of guilt pricked my numb conscience and I forced a half-hearted smile.

“Sorry.”

Rosa smiled tenderly and patted my leg.

“You know vat, Schatzi, vile zeze men talk, vhy don’t I show you vere you’ll be sleeping, ja?”

*****

“Chazzalyn,” Tav’s voice was quiet, but stern. “I know ziz isn’t eazy on you, but zat doesn’t giffe you zhe right to be rude. Vile you are liffing under zis roof, disrespect tovards myself, mein vife, or anyone elze vill not be tolerated. Zat includes Keffin.”

“Yes sir.” I choked out quietly, fighting against the darkness that threatened to smother me. Shifting Jules to my other hip, I kept my eyes on the floor. “I’m sorry, Mr. Mitchel. I will remember what we talked about.” The words were stiff and disjointed, but it was the best I could manage. Tav looked at me closely and his eyes softened.

“I do not mean to be harsh. Ve’re glad to haffe you here and I hope it feels like a zafe haffen for a few dayz.”

*****

I gulped and forced a small smile, nervously fingering my special locket.

“Thank you Mr. Tav for your hospitality, I’m sure I will be very happy,” I choked on the word, “here. Mr. Mitchell, I appreciate what you’ve done for me.” Gazing sympathetically at me, Tav placed a gentle hand on my shoulder and shook his head slowly.

“Nein. I know you vill not be happy. It is too zoon for your heart to feel anyzing ozer zan grief, anger und perhaps, fear. But I hope you vill at least feel zafe und loved vile you are here.” With a gentle shoulder squeeze he turned me toward Rosa. “Now, I’m sure you vant to zettle into your new room, so I’ll zee you at dinner, ja?” He playfully bopped Jule’s nose and she giggled, burying her face in my shirt.

*****

“Spending a few days with you and Rosa could be good for her.” Kevin’s voice drifted down the hallway. “The poor girl has been through one thing after the next in her 16 years of life and I just don’t know how much more she can take before she’ll snap. Perhaps you and your lovely wife will be able to help pull her out of her depression and realize that life is still worth living.”

“Vell, ve vill try to provide as much comfort und support as she vill allow us. But her heart has been broken many times and nozing zat Rosa and I do can fix zat. It vill take time and love for her to heal. A few dayz vith us vill not help much in zhe long run.”

Brad Pauquette Answered question June 19, 2024