Friday, 29 June 2012

Creating the Housemaid Audio Book

I am delighted to tell you The Housemaid's Daughter will be published not only as a physical book and a digital e-book, but also as an Audio Book.
Audio book? I hear you cry. What fun!

But creating it is not a trivial business. There's the matter of pronunciation to be tackled. As those of you who have read the original book will know, there is a sprinkling of Xhosa, Afrikaans and colloqial South African phrases scattered throughout the novel. These have to expressed convincingly in order to build the authenticity of the characters speaking them, convey the meaning of the words correctly, and satisfy all those eagle-eared listeners out there who will be fluent in English, Xhosa and Afrikaans. A tall order.

So, for the past few days, I have been recording all the non-English phrases in order to help the lovely lady who will be doing the reading for us. She will be able to practise her pronunciation alongside mine. Another way to guide pronunciation of a foreign word is to find an English word that rhymes with it. So, for the bird called a hadeda, I offer 'blah di blah'. For those rock rabbits called dassies, how about (brazen) 'hussies'?

As in all languages, however, there are some sounds that are unique and not easily copied. For example a particular variation of the vowel 'o' in the words koppie and bossie seems to defy an English equivalent. It's a mix between the 'o' in hot and the 'au' in haughty. The vowels are not the only culprits. The Afrikaans pronunciation of the letter 'g' is a particular challenge for an English speaker. And when it is combined with an r requiring a good roll of the tongue - as in the river Groot Vis - then some serious PT is needed.

My all time favourite has to be Qongqothwane, the magical Click Song made famous by Miriam Makeba and played on the piano by Ada in the book. Not many of us can manage the palate-stretching Xhosa clicks required to pronounce it accurately, so we will be setting our sights a little lower and aiming for 'Caw-kot-wa-nee'.

Those readers with a delicate disposition, look away now. The langasem grasshopper can only be rendered as 'lung-arse-em'. Apologies!

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