Talents and Skills Entry: A Knack for Languages

As writers, we want to make our characters as unique and interesting as possible. One way to do this is to give your character a special skill or talent that sets him apart from other people. This might be something small, like having a green thumb or being good with animals, to a larger and more competitive talent like stock car racing or being an award-winning film producer. 

When choosing a talent or skill, think about the personality of your character, his range of experiences and who his role models might have been. Some talents might be genetically imparted while others are created through exposure (such as a character talented at fixing watches from growing up in his father’s watch shop) or grow out of interest (archery, wakeboarding, or magic). Don’t be afraid to be creative and make sure the skill or talent is something that works with the scope of the story. 

Description: Some people have an ear for languages. They naturally pick up on patterns and nuances, quickly learn to understand other languages…

Beneficial Strengths or Abilities: recognizing patterns, having a basic understanding of languages…

Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent: being observant, passionate, focused…

Required Resources and Training: Languages can be learned in isolation, but experts agree that one of the best ways to become fluent in a foreign language is to immerse oneself in the culture. To this end, traveling and being surrounded by…

Scenarios Where this Skill Might be Useful:

  • as a translator
  • in a hostile takeover situation where one needs to be able to understand/speak the enemy’s language
  • being thrust into a foreign culture and needing to assimilate quickly…

Talents and skills not only make our characters stand out, they often help them attain their goals. So choosing them strategically can greatly enhance both the character and the story. 

If this is something you’d like to learn more about, you can find the entries in their entirety at One Stop For Writers, where all our thesauruses are cross-referenced and linked for easy navigation. If you’re interested in seeing a free sampling of the Talent and Skill Thesaurus and our other descriptive collections, head on over and register at One Stop!


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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13 Responses to Talents and Skills Entry: A Knack for Languages

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  4. I think my character might be the one learning the language! But this is a great way to force me to go back to studying Italian, and the research would be so much fun…planning a vacation, learning a language and writing!

  5. Daniela Barragán says:

    I love it when characters speak other languages, specially if it is to tell the heroine how beautiful she is or how much they love her but… and here comes the big “BUT” a lot of Authors seem to think that their readers won’t understand the other language anyway and just use google to translate whatever theire character has to say, saddly I’m one of these readers who understands more than 1 language and when your yummi/warrior heroe begins to speak like a 3 year old boy (or sometimes worse) it just doesn’t work.
    It shouldn’t be too much work to check the few sentences they use with someone who knows the language.

    • This is very good advice. Writers should definitely double check to make sure they have written any foreign bits in correctly, and Google translate is not the tool to do that. With all of us being so connected on social media, there really is no excuse for not reaching out to a few native speakers of a specific language and asking them if it’s been done correctly for the context.

  6. C. Lee McKenzie says:

    I love it when the traits are essential to the character and integral to the story. Your lists are so helpful. They make it easy to focus on traits and choose while developing ideas for stories.

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  8. I’ve know people with a gift like this. And I’ve known others who were tone deaf for other languages. lol

  9. My daughter has this skill. It is really valuable! Maybe I will make her a character in one of my books.

  10. My cousin has this gift. He speaks 3 foreign languages, and native speakers say that he does it without an accent. Pretty cool.

  11. Julie Musil says:

    Sheesh, I wish I was one of these people! I can barely master English. My husband’s side of the family is Mexican, and you’d think I’d know a few Spanish words after going to family gatherings for 30 years. Nope. Thanks for the great entry!

  12. I wish I had a knack for this.

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