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  1. monsterjazzlicks's Avatar
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    #1

    Question RE: Help With U.S. Dialect/Slang Question

    Hi folks,

    Last week I started a thread of which loosely asked some questions relating to grammar/vocabulary in relation to writing a story which incorporates U.S. dialogue. The question arose because I am British. I thought it wise to start a more dedicated and focused thread (for fear of the original question slipping slightly off-topic).

    I was looking on Amazon and wondered if there was anything published on there which might assist me understanding and being able to write (as a U.K. resident) in an American voice?:
    One of the books (by Paul Meler) has a 30 minute CD included.

    The context of the story is two convicts who are getting released from a Californian jail, and the main body of the story relates to their actions when back on the streets.

    Many thanks in advance for any kind assistance offered here.

    Best,

    Paul
    Last edited by monsterjazzlicks; 18-Jun-2017 at 14:08. Reason: Spelling

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    #2

    Re: Help With U.S. Dialect/Slang Question

    I have a question for you. Why do you want to write American dialogue? Is it just for fun or do you intend to write a book for American audience?

  3. monsterjazzlicks's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Help With U.S. Dialect/Slang Question

    Quote Originally Posted by andrewg927 View Post
    I have a question for you. Why do you want to write American dialogue? Is it just for fun or do you intend to write a book for American audience?
    Perhaps you did not see my mentions in an earlier threads that I am only at pre-GCSE level. So, yes, it is for 'fun' (i.e. I am not a 'professional') and to try and improve upon what basic skills I currently have. There is no book to be published at the other end! Ha ha.

    Most of what I read, watch and (musically) listen to is American. I wanted to try something new and stretch out a bit.

    I was looking through many books in my collection tonight and, from what I saw, the writing was not massively different to English. I would say that the narration parts (ie. 'third person') actually seemed like the American authors were trying to sound British! But, as GoesStation pointed out, there are specific words (eg. slang) which where (as far as he/she was concerned) dead giveaways on my part.
    Last edited by monsterjazzlicks; 18-Jun-2017 at 21:56. Reason: Spelling

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    #4

    Re: Help With U.S. Dialect/Slang Question

    I plead ignorance but what is GCSE? I have seen a few of your posts but I don't follow closely. And I don't think British and American English are very different. I never have difficulty reading a Bristish novel as I suppose you have no issue reading an American novel either. The difference is probably in little details. Let's say you want to write about a character who lives in New Orleans, it's only convincing if you are familiar with the scene, where the shops are, what kind of fauna and flora that are unique to the city, etc. Unfortunately, you can only know that sort of detail if you have lived in the city for a while.

  5. monsterjazzlicks's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: Help With U.S. Dialect/Slang Question

    GCSE is the 'level' of English (and all other subjects [e.g. Maths, Science, etc]) which teenagers of between the ages of 14 and 16 take when they are at high-school. So in their final two years. If they pass, then they are awarded (say) a 'GCSE English' qualification (with the achieved grade - which ranges from 1-9). Therefore, a top 'A*' pupil would achieve 'GCSE English Grade 9'.

    I understand what you are saying about having not lived in the area/country of which you are writing about. However, I have seen/read a few interviews in which writers have been highly commended on the fact that they have written a most convincing book based in a setting where they have never visited before. Most of these people have either studied the region via 'Google Earth' and/or watched 'You Tube' videos (those stupid ones where someone drives/rides around a city all day with a camera filming the whole laborious tour!), or else they have a qualification such as a degree in (say) 'German Social Studies'. I am not saying I am qualified, nor am I saying this is a method I would follow; I just mean it has been done successfully on a number of occasions.
    Last edited by monsterjazzlicks; 18-Jun-2017 at 22:59. Reason: Spelling

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    #6

    Re: Help With U.S. Dialect/Slang Question

    You remind me of my friend. She is a professional writer and she frequently writes about characters in Sicily. Granted, she has visited Italy a dozen times but she only writes for American audience. People like me who read her books are amazed at the level of details she recalls from her trips but I can't say the same applies if an Italian reads her books.

  7. monsterjazzlicks's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: Help With U.S. Dialect/Slang Question

    I was quite tickled to learn I actually reminded you of someone you know!

    To be honest, I find most other places in the world to be rather boring in comparison to the U.S!

    I have to make a quick correction here: I did actually go on holiday to Vegas about 15 years ago for one week. But I did not consciously absorb any of the culture or it's people. I mean, I basically did not speak to anyone (other than my girlfriend of course!) and we mostly hung out in the casinos playing on the slots. Plus, I have only been trying to learn about 'writing' since January last and so it was not something I even considered during my visit back in 2004.

    Secondly, I have worked alongside many Americans on and off throughout my career. So I have a reasonable 'feel' for this nationality. However, once again, at the time (a 15 year period on and off) I knew zilch nor had any interest in trying to put a story together. I was interested ('obsessed' you might even say!) with other things.

    Everyone (well not everyone, but you know what I mean!) has always told me that I should write a book one day. This has been going on since I was about age 30. But they insist the book be about my life-experiences. I have thought about it but I don't really want to do that. I suppose it would cover the full spectrum of 'dark' to 'comical' but it would mean me reliving those experiences again (which I am not sure I want to do. I do have (what I consider to be) a fairly good idea for a true-account book, but again it is personal and I don't really want to start digging up morbid memories again. It would be (emotionally) akin to going through a whole DIVORCE again!

    If I had the money and opportunity, I would like to spend two years in the U.S. and travel to different states. I would probably spend about a month to six weeks in each one. I know which states I would like to visit. I would go alone and just try to hang-out with locals in coffee shops and talk about every day things. I would not drive or fly, I would travel from state to state via train or bus. I think it would be a very interesting experience; I mean I can't see why it wouldn't be?!

    By the way, I have just added a 'signature'!
    Last edited by monsterjazzlicks; 18-Jun-2017 at 23:51. Reason: Spelling
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  8. Skrej's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: Help With U.S. Dialect/Slang Question

    You're talking about writing, not speaking, so aside from some of the vocabulary differences, 'AmE' isn't going to be so noticeably different from BrE as the spoken variants. Much of the accents that make regional variants so noticeable are of course lost when converted to text, unless you're trying to write dialogue. Even then, it's hard to accurately convey a particular accent in text. There are a few grammatical differences (for example 'have' vs 'take') and uses of verb tenses, and even some minor prepositional changes, but those are fewer in number than the vocabulary. Even the vocabulary differences aren't really all that many in number.

    Much of Meier's work and research is available online at the IDEA project, where you can hear people from all over the word reading selected passages in their variant of English. What's neat about it is that there are two speaking samples from each candidate - one from a standardized reading passage, and one where the candidate is asked to speak about personal memories, usually from their childhood or their upbringing, etc. Some, but not all, have phonological IPA transcriptions.

    There is also demographic information about each candidate's age, education, occupation, and regional upbringing. You'll often notice how some people may adopt a more neutral accent when reading a story and then switch to slightly different dialect when recalling a story of their youth.

    For strictly AmE dialects, consult the DARE project - Dialects of American Regional English. A subscription is required for the majority of that information.

    Again, those are primarily for speaking.

    If you're not familiar with Neil Gaiman, you might read some of his books, especially American Gods. He was born and raised in England but moved to the US 20 some years ago. Some of his earlier works (especially whenever he collaborated with Terry Pratchett) have more Anglicisms in them than his later works. American Gods was written about the US while living in the US. It's probably about as good an example of an English author writing in "American" as you'll find.

    There's even a item on his FAQ page (about halfway down the page from 'Amanda') on his website addressing some of his Anglicisms in American Gods. To be honest, I didn't even catch them, as I was more engrossed in the plot than the grammar. Unless I see something blatant like 'petrol' instead of 'gas', or 'boot' instead of 'trunk', it's not likely to register with me that the author's likely English instead of American.

    As for your travel plans to the US - one of the major differences you'll find is that trains won't offer you the travel opportunities they do in England. Passenger trains aren't widely used in the US, and are mostly limited to a few major commuter routes. Buses have also really died out over the last 20 years or so. The personal automobile reigns supreme in the US as the primary mode of transportation, ever since its introduction. We Americans have something of a love affair with our personal vehicles, and public transportation generally takes a backseat to personal vehicles outside of the larger cities. Even people who do regularly use public transportation will likely still have their own vehicle. It's a part of our culture, and a rite of passage as a kid- getting your license and your first car.

    As for coffee shops, in the US they tend to attract a fairly similar crowd, or type of people. Nothing against them, but if you're really that interested in meeting Americans from all walks of life, I wouldn't consider them as good places to meet a wide variety of socioeconomic groups. Again, they're mostly a thing of bigger cities.
    Wear short sleeves! Support your right to bare arms!

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    #9

    Re: Help With U.S. Dialect/Slang Question

    Haha, it's rare to hear someone say that most places in the world are boring compared to the US. Most people I know talk about wanting to travel to Europe, Australia, etc and those who have always talk about how they want to go back.

    I think it is a good idea to talk with locals when you have a chance to visit the US. Coffee shops are okay in my opinion especially because you want to get to know regional differences. As Skrej pointed out, you can't reliably travel across state lines by train or bus. However, that's something I'm sure you will plan beforehand and it's possible depending on where you want to visit.

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    #10

    Re: Help With U.S. Dialect/Slang Question

    You should change your signature. It will not be understood by people who have never heard of GCSE.

    Those who do know what it means will assume you are of school age.
    Last edited by Rover_KE; 19-Jun-2017 at 09:02.

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