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Foreign Lanugage use in eBooks

Crumbly Writer

I'm not expecting to get an answer to this since I'm the only author here who uses foreign languages regularly in his stories, but I've got an odd problem I'm not sure how to address.

I'm trying to move my old stories to a new site which wants epub files. In moving over one chapter, utilizing Vietnamese, Arabic and Hindi, I've run into a problem. The Vietnamese and Arabic display correctly, but any 'special character' above value &2650; won't display. Instead, they display as a faint circle. The accent marks show up properly, but the basic character doesn't. As a result, it makes the Hindi text largely unreadable.

Has anyone encountered this, or know how to work around it?

Since it's an older story, I'd really rather not have to rewrite the story to work around it!

Here's a sample of how the text appears: ePub Hindi error.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

My preference as a reader would be for spoken dialog to be phoneticized (is that a real word?) to a Latin alphabet, so I can form a mental picture of what it sounds like even if I have no idea what it means.

When you use a non-latin character set, without scene based context such, as set in china town, I would have to run it through google translate just to figure out what language it is. Otherwise, it might as well be Martian.

If it's narration describing written text, by all means, use the proper character set.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer  tppm
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

When you use a non-latin character set, without scene based context such, as set in china town, I would have to run it through google translate just to figure out what language it is. Otherwise, it might as well be Martian.

That's understood, and we've discussed this extensively over the years. In my case, I provide context for the usage, as well as explanations (either direct translations or indirect explanations) for what was said.

The story involves a telepathic character traveling the country interacting with various groups--from a variety of ethnic groups. The main purpose of the language is for surprise--for the reader to pull back and say 'What the hell', and then the context explains what was said--but the confusion reflects that felt by the other characters.

I've never used this technique in other stories (although I used a couple expressions in the last book in my Great Death series), but those weren't nearly as complicated (French and Italian instead of Hindi and Arabic).

Vietnamese (used more often than the other languages) is a rarity, a Latin alphabet with a variety of exotic accent marks. Arabic and Hindi not only use different character sets, but are right-to-left languages, which makes formatting/reading the passages tricky. However, in most cases, only a few native speakers would recognize the terms. However, out of a pride in my own word, I had the phases professionally translated (via fivrr.com) instead of using Google Translate (which gives poor translations).

Thus, including invalid characters wouldn't substantially change the story, but it insults my personal sense of professionalism.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

Have you tried making and supplying your own e-pub file for the site? or won't they allow that?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

Have you tried making and supplying your own e-pub file for the site? or won't they allow that?

That's what I'm doing. My point is that the characters won't convert from basic html to ePub, despite being properly defined. Apparently, ePubs only accept 'special characters' up to &8260;. Anything higher and you get filler material.

It might be my html editor, since I haven't gotten to Calibre yet. I'm using Adobe's Dreamweaver, which I use for both the html and the ePub, but it won't display the ePubs correctly, and I'm trying to figure out why.

It seems to be an ePub limitation, rather than the html editor. Again, it works fine with most languages, the only one I've found which doesn't is Hindi (their accented characters push the upper boundry).

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

is your HTML defined as UTF-8

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

I provide context for the usage, as well as explanations (either direct translations or indirect explanations) for what was said.


I'm not looking for a translation or an indirect explanation of what was said.

Rather, I suggest phonetic translation to a latin alphabet so I can get a feel for what it would have sounded like to be listening to what was said.

There is a significant difference between the two.

Thus, including invalid characters wouldn't substantially change the story, but it insults my personal sense of professionalism.


Sorry if it hurts your sense of professionalism, but I wouldn't know and wouldn't care if it was just gibberish. You might as well just do "...".

Harold Wilson

@Crumbly Writer

Take another look at your text. It's likely those characters are unicode combining accents. That means there are two or more glyphs drawing in the same space. (The way CRT terminals used to draw underlines with "A", backspace, "_".)

Can you tell if your text is showing an overwrite or two characters side-by-side that should be overwritten?

That is, are you seeing A_C instead of A(B+_)C? Or are you seeing AB_C with the two side-by-side instead of overlaid?

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

You can't make an ePub is anything but, and because I've hard coded the foreign language in, I used UTF-8 for those too. So both are UTF-8, but only the html displays properly.

@D.S.

Rather, I suggest phonetic translation to a latin alphabet so I can get a feel for what it would have sounded like to be listening to what was said.

Sorry, D.S. I never address your phonetic translation idea. Unlike you, I rarely approve of phonetic translations as they never sound authentic to me. I've traveled enough, I could recall what language sounds like, even if I can't translate it.

The bit about 'my sense of professionalism' concerned my fretting about something that readers can't read (and thus can't tell is wrong) anyway, but it bugs me that--after going to that much work to get it right--I can't display the correct text.

If anyone disagrees with typing out phonetic translations let me know and I might reconsider, but I just can't remember many examples in literature where it works well.

@Harold Wilson

Take another look at your text. It's likely those characters are unicode combining accents. That means there are two or more glyphs drawing in the same space. (The way CRT terminals used to draw underlines with "A", backspace, "_".)

Your idea sounded good, but examining it letter by letter, the higher codes are used for the combinations. In fact, a few of them include the trailing/preceding space (since it's a right-to-left language). Again, it seems like the ePub developers instituted a top level character limit which eliminates the use of certain languages. Why they'd do that, I have no clue (other than limiting overhead). They might have decided combining accent marks and spacing was superfluous.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


Unlike you, I rarely approve of phonetic translations as they never sound authentic to me.


Then they were done poorly. The idea of phonetic translation is to represent the sounds that would be spoken in a different alphabet.

Even if I have heard a language and can remember in general what it sounds like, that doesn't mean I can:

1. Associate the correct language with the written character set.

2. Associate any specific sounds with specific characters.

It's one thing to use a non-latin character set for what would be written text in the story, such as signage. But using non-Latin character sets for spoken dialog in a book directed at an audience used to a Latin character set is no better for the reader than just putting quotes around a chunk of blank spaces.

ETA:

Set aside the effort you put into having the translations done for a moment and think about it from the readers perspective.

If replacing the Arabic or Hindi script with blank spaces doesn't materially affect the reader's experience, was any value obtained from the effort / money put into having the translations done?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Set aside the effort you put into having the translations done for a moment and think about it from the readers perspective.

If replacing the Arabic or Hindi script with blank spaces doesn't materially affect the reader's experience, was any value obtained from the effort / money put into having the translations done?

Sorry, but I don't think I'm going to rewrite the entire story on your say-so alone (about foreign languages being a "no-go" with readers).

If anyone out there can suggest examples of where phonetic translations work, or where using foreign languages don't, or if a few people all agree that phonetic is the way to go, I'll stick with what I have.

It's not the $5 I invested, or the effort I put into making it work. Instead, I believe that the way I wrote those sections work since I provide context for the usage, the language used is supposed to surprise the characters, and the meaning of what's said is explained/conveyed in the story, I think I've done a pretty good job of it.

The idea is that someone with telepathy can communicate easily with non-English speakers, so the scenes capture the surprise of those surrounding the main character, and the MC's reactions to what was said (translating a language he's never heard before) shows that he's a step ahead of everyone else in the story.

I'm sorry, but I need more convincing than "I like things spelled out phonetically". For all I know, you might be the only one who prefers that style. No offense, but I just don't have any basis for evaluating your advice.

All that being said, I think my initial assumptions about the improperly displaying text were correct. No one else here has ever worked with foreign languages before, and thus hasn't encountered or heard of this problem before. I think I need to get more creative about my Google searches on the subject.

Replies:   Dominions Son
samuelmichaels

@Crumbly Writer

'm not expecting to get an answer to this since I'm the only author here who uses foreign languages regularly in his stories, but I've got an odd problem I'm not sure how to address.

I'm trying to move my old stories to a new site which wants epub files. In moving over one chapter, utilizing Vietnamese, Arabic and Hindi, I've run into a problem. The Vietnamese and Arabic display correctly, but any 'special character' above value &2650; won't display. Instead, they display as a faint circle. The accent marks show up properly, but the basic character doesn't. As a result, it makes the Hindi text largely unreadable.

Has anyone encountered this, or know how to work around it?

Since it's an older story, I'd really rather not have to rewrite the story to work around it!

Here's a sample of how the text appears: ePub Hindi error.

Is it possible your epub reader just doesn't have the font support for these codepoints? Could you embed the font in your book?

Dominions Son
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


Sorry, but I don't think I'm going to rewrite the entire story on your say-so alone (about foreign languages being a "no-go" with readers)


I'm not saying foreign languages are a no-go.

I am saying non-Latin alphabets add nothing of value for a reader who can only read languages that use a Latin alphabet (which is most European languages).

It's not at all the same thing, not even close.

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

CW, I know you use .doc files, can you send me one of the concerned stories as a .doc containing the tough characters and let me see what I can do getting it into an e-pub for you. I suspect it may be a html conversion issue.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

CW, I know you use .doc files, can you send me one of the concerned stories as a .doc containing the tough characters and let me see what I can do getting it into an e-pub for you. I suspect it may be a html conversion issue.

I'll send them to you, but again, the conversion to html went off without a hitch--and has been up on my website for a long time. It's when I take the UTF-8 file from html and copy it to the UTF-8 html for the epub file that things get screwy. Since there's no epub restrictions to the original html file, I'm not sure what the problem could be. You'd think the same program (Dreamweaver) would process the htm and html files identically.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

CW, I know you use .doc files, can you send me one of the concerned stories as a .doc containing the tough characters and let me see what I can do getting it into an e-pub for you. I suspect it may be a html conversion issue.

Ernest figured it out. I sent him the original files and he attempted to run it thru Calibre to see what the resulting ePub looked like. Since he didn't have the directory of included files it failed (I used graphical Titles and section breaks, so it couldn't build a Table of Contents). I then tried it myself (which I hadn't, because I wanted to get it right before I wasted my time with it).

Turns out the issue was a temporary display issue in DreamWeaver. The Hindi display perfectly in the finished ePub, even though it didn't in my html editor. Problem solved! (Though technically, it never actually existed in the first place anywhere but in my own imagination.)

Thanks Ernest. You're a lifesaver. Now I can finish the document off.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Crumbly Writer

Life Savers is an American brand of ring-shaped hard candy. Its range of mints and artificial fruit-flavors is known for its distinctive packaging, coming in paper-wrapped aluminum foil rolls.

At least he didn't say you had a hole in your head.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

Life Savers is an American brand of ring-shaped hard candy. Its range of mints and artificial fruit-flavors is known for its distinctive packaging, coming in paper-wrapped aluminum foil rolls.

Life Savers were named that because, after a rash (supposedly) of deaths from choking on hard candies, the inventor produced a hard candy with a hole in the middle (so you could still breathe, even if you had one caught in your throat).

But what the hell does that have to do with his being a "lifesaver"? You need to learn the difference between Corporate Product names and the legitimate use of English words and phrases. ;D

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Life Savers were named that because, after a rash (supposedly) of deaths from choking on hard candies,


According to wikipedia, it's named that way because it looks like a life preserver used for saving people falling overboard (which is what I thought so I checked).

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

According to wikipedia, it's named that way because it looks like a life preserver used for saving people falling overboard (which is what I thought so I checked).


Switch, the wiki article is interesting in that it provides no reference for the shape being the reason for the name, although I think there is a connection. However I think both of you are right, in a way. The final shape and name is due to how it looks, but I think that came about from a desire to design a candy with the hole in it for safety reason. In the article is a picture from a 1917 add which stats: We feature the hole because Life Savers are the only mints which have a hole in them. This little hole is your protection - look for it, and be sure you have a genuine Life Savers. They thought the hole was important enough to set their ad campaign around it. thus I think the shape derived from the safety intent and that linked in with the final name then feeding back into making the final design to match.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

According to Snopes, that's a myth.

Life Savers were invented in 1912 by Clarence Crane, who had been making and selling chocolate candy in the Cleveland area since 1891 and thought to augment his product line with a non-melting candy during the summer when chocolate sales were slow.

Crane envisioned a round, flat peppermint in preference to the pillow-shaped ones then being imported from Europe, and he hired a pharmaceutical pill maker to press his new mints into a circle and punch a hole in them. It was their shape that inspired the name: they looked like life savers, so Life Savers they became.


They were originally a breath mint.

the original product packaging pictured an old seaman throwing a life preserver to a young female swimmer with the slogan "For That Stormy Breath"

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


According to Snopes, that's a myth.


Snopes say the claim he invented them because his daughter choked to death is a myth. Neither article has much to say about why the name was chosen in the first place, but the wiki article did have a copy of the old ad I quoted

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:1917_Life_Savers_ad.png

edit to add: The only one who knows, for sure, why the name was chosen is Crane, their inventor, and I can't find any readily accessible Internet document where he says why. Lots of guesses and assumptions by people, but no definitive information.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

Neither article has much to say about why the name was chosen in the first place, but the wiki article did have a copy of the old ad I quoted


Even if the hole is there as a safety feature, which the add doesn't prove. The fact that the company touted the hole in early adds as a safety factor doesn't necessarily mean that's why the inventor designed them with a hole.

The inventor never sold them. Once he had a prototype he turned around and sold the idea (complete with hole) to Edward John Noble for $2900.

Oh and the Wiki article does say:

The candy's name is derived from its similarity to the shape of life preservers used for saving people who have fallen from boats.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater  graybyrd
Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Dominions Son


The fact that the company touted the hole in early adds as a safety factor doesn't necessarily mean that's why the inventor designed them with a hole.


Nor does it say it wasn't. The only thing they know for sure is: Crane insisted on having a hole in his, and that meant he had to get it made for him by a pill manufacturer. Crane designed them, had some made for the US summer of 1912, which he sold retail for some months, then sold the formula and idea to Noble in 1913.

The wiki article, like a few others, make the claim the name comes from the shape, yet they provide no supporting reference source for that claim. No one seems to have a definitive statement from Crane as to why he chose the name. Also, on the other side of the issue is the ad is from 1917, some years later. How long they had been using that advertising approach isn't stated, either. There's sufficient available information to support both claims, and nothing totally ruling either claim out. Also, both were used for advertising purposes.

The only thing that has been ruled out was the one mentioned in Snopes where it was claimed he was motivated by the choking death of a daughter, when his motivation, provided with source references in wiki, was for something to sell in summer when his chocolate sales were down due to the heat.

The only thing about the shape that's known for sure, is he insisted on having the hole in the centre, and this made them look different to similar products on the market at that time.

typo edit

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

No one seems to have a definitive statement from Crane as to why he chose the name.


Crane didn't choose the name Life Savers. Crane called them Pep-O-Mint, Noble came up with the Life Savers name.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

The only thing about the shape that's known for sure, is he insisted on having the hole in the centre, and this made them look different to similar products on the market at that time.


Actually, simply making them round made them different than any other mint on the market. The mint candies on the market at the time were pillow shaped.

Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

Crane didn't choose the name Life Savers. Crane called them Pep-O-Mint, Noble came up with the Life Savers name.


All the references I can find have Crane calling them Pep-O-Mint Life Savers and that was they both sold them as for a while, then Noble later dropped the Pep-O-Mint from the name.

graybyrd

@Dominions Son

Note: "adds" => 2+2=4. "ads" is abbreviation for "advertising." As in, "Politicians spend millions for campaign ads."

graybyrd

@Ernest Bywater

That hole in the center? That's there so you can carry a pocket full of the things on a string!

tppm

@Dominions Son

My preference as a reader would be for spoken dialog to be phoneticized (is that a real word?) to a Latin alphabet, so I can form a mental picture of what it sounds like even if I have no idea what it means.


The word you want is transliterated, and you need more than just the alphabet but the phonics of the specific language you're transliterating into.

English, French, Spanish, German, and Italian, for instance, all use the Latin alphabet (versions of it, at least), but say Russian transliterated into each would be spelled differently as the phonics is different.

Side note: When Bela Lugosi was hired to play Dracula in the WB movie, having played the part on stage in Hungary for years, he didn't speak English. The producers of the film had his lines transliterated into Hungarian phonics so he could read them phonetically.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@tppm


The word you want is transliterated, and you need more than just the alphabet but the phonics of the specific language you're transliterating into.


Thank you, I knew there was a word for it, but I didn't know the correct term.

sejintenej

FWIW Rowntrees (now part of Nestlé) developed a similar sweet in 1939 called Polo but couldn't market it until about 1947 because of German actions. They are widely available in the UK (at least) even now.

Life Savers objected to Polo being registered as a trade mark but it was registered after a slight change. Of course Polo responded against Life Savers!

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