As an Australian writer, I am sometimes surprised by what gets lost in translation.
Most recently it was my assertion that a character could walk straight from her classroom to the outside. One of the wonderful critters in my international writers’ group found this odd.
It never occurred to me that our Australian schools are different.
When I consider all the movies with high school settings I realise I have to say, Australian schools do not have hallways. They are usually (even my kids’ high school which is only 20 years old) rows of buildings with doors that lead directly outside or perhaps to a veranda.
I also had a translation issue when a character in my book Cassandra, went under the house to play. Perhaps you have to be a Queenslander to take for granted you can walk under a house but I am pretty sure we are not the only place with such high set houses. By the way, I have never ever known a person with a basement at their house. That is why we played under the house.
A word that threw my American critters in a spin was ‘ute’. Not only is a ute a real thing they have their own festivals. We had one on our farm with a hole in the floor – the result of a fire when the undercarriage overheated on the dry grass. You could watch the road whiz by under your feet. I expect it was not legal.
It’s important to me to use the words that belong to my childhood and country. I insist we eat lollies, biscuits and patty cakes. You will not get a cookie in my house.
Sometimes I find myself struggling to be pure. When the girl stepped from her classroom directly outside, she was going to talk to a boy about her maths assignment. Not her math assignment. But if I leave it as maths for the American publication I submit it to, it will look like a typing error. And as you know I never make typing errors!
I also changed Jelly to Jello for my story Worm. Jelly would just mean jam and that is not what I meant.
Every country has its culture – reflected in the words we use and the environment we inhabit. I think, as a writer, it is important for me to keep these cultural differences alive whenever possible.