No, not how fancy or plain, active voice or passive. Alien languages and non-English in my fiction, and why I do it.
I seem to have a knack for learning foreign languages. I catch inflections and accents easily, to the extent that I speak German with a Bavarian-Austrian accent rather than American. Having the ability to recognize patterns helps immensely, and my long span of musical adventures also helps, because I pick out phrases and sounds very quickly. This overflows into my writing, as long-time readers know.
The first language I created was Azdhagi. To do this, I first had to think about Azdhagi anatomy. What sounds can they make, and which ones can they not make. Without movable lips, labile sounds such as “p” and “b” are going to be impossible, and long o “oh” will be a challenge. Another consideration is how they breathe – in and out through mouth, in nose and out mouth, or what?
As a result, Azdhagi is a “bright”, with ai, ae, ee, ah, oy vowel sounds dominating. Some guttural sounds are used, and a nasal resonator in the skull allows for pitched grunts that act a bit like glottal stops. Azdhagi is semi inflected, but not too much, and is an agglutinative language, so that words and prefixes are tacked onto the core noun-verb-root pair to add description, object, and tense and intensity to the basic idea. For example, reh means a fan held in the forefoot. Reh-dakh is a hand fan made of iron. Reh-dakh-schleera means “iron war fan held in the forefoot.” If you wanted to say “Lord Iron-Fan [Rada] defeated Lord Blee in sword combat,” it sounds like Kai Reh-dakh dakh-leh-huh tsaikuhssee Kai Blee, literally “Lord Iron-fan iron-blade-long defeat-recently-completed Lord Blee.” The bolded sounds are emphatic, and “uh” is a combined chuff and nasal grunt with a glottal pause following. “Kh” is pronounced like the ch in the Scottish “loch.” Rada has not mastered the “uh” combination because her anatomy just doesn’t allow it.
In case you wonder, Azdhagi is literally “of us.” The syllabic stress tells the hearer if it is a plural nominative usage “We” or possessive “our language.” When written, it is talon upstroke on the last syllable for nominative plural and talon downstroke for possessive.
Because Azdhagi don’t have facial expressions, they use body language to communicate most emotions. The more gesticulation, the lower the rank of the individual once you get past certain basic gestures. Things like the weak-side negation, made by lifting the weak-side [right] forefoot and making a swirling motion, palm-up, are common, but the ability to remain perfectly still despite strong feelings is considered a sign of true nobility. The King-Emperor may allow his tail-tip to move two centimeters, and his neck-spines to rise one centimeter when he feels near-lethal fury. And then he will gut, dismember, or blind the offending party. To outsiders, it appears that he gave no warning at all before exploding into action. To Rada and the Azdhagi, His Imperial Majesty telegraphed a strong warning and the idiot didn’t heed it, and so deserved what he got.
One slight advantage Rada had learning Azdhagi is that Trader is guttural in terms of basic pronunciation, but has a flowing and slightly inflected rhythm. “Half-musical, half-guttural” is how Rahoul Khan thinks of it. Wanderer, which Rada does not speak unless forced to, is very sibilant and highly inflected. She thinks in Trader most of the time, and swears in Trader, Azdhag, and a few other choice languages.
Staré is another language that has body language as a major component, especially intensifiers. The Staré have exceedingly flexible tongues, and can make sounds that are literally tongue-twisting to humans. Like Azdhagi, their faces do not show emotion, but their ears and fur do to a small extent. Where the Staré truly show emotion and complex emotions/ideas is via pheromones. Entire conversations can be carried on through scent alone, making translation from Staré to Common (the humans’ language) rather difficult if the translator doesn’t know the scent speech. Rigi has a major advantage because she is a “nose,” meaning that she is very sensitive to shades of scent. She also grew up among Staré and learned many scents through context, because the adult Staré tend to ignore human children or treat them like hoplings.
Since scent communicates shades of meaning and emotion, Staré verbal communications are literal. In the next book, when Rigi and her family return to Shikhari, the “butler” Lonka uses phrases like “Be filled with care,” or “May your journey be without/free of events,” where a human would say “Be careful,” or “uneventful.” This is a sign that he learned Common relatively late. He is also high third Stamm. Lexi, Uncle Eb’s research assistant, has an unusual mastery of Common (and other languages) for a third Stamm. This should have clued Rigi in that he’s not quite what he seems, but it will take a few more adventures for her to realize this.
Other languages mentioned in my books, but not necessarily written out, include Old High Drakonic, Feltari, Russian, Pashto, Spanish, and Tsorwow. Trader is the lingua franca of business and war in the part of the galaxy where Rada and Joschka spend their time. Joschka is far more comfortable in German and English than in Trader, but it comes back quickly when needed, especially with Rada nudging him a little.
I don’t think I will ever write out an entire dialogue in Azdhagi or other languages (aside from German) because it doesn’t help the reader. Like using dialect, an introduction to get the sounds across is enough. Only when a main character such as Rada consistently uses the foreign words do I tend to stay with them, like referring to her bone-handled dagger as bahn-leh.