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Mar 18, 2007



Or, you know, Esperanto.

The problem with new languages is that they're dramatically in favor of very young players who are far more capable at picking up new languages as need be, an ability that stagnates and disappears past, perhaps, 30 years of age.

It also suggests a barrier between games: if you speak one language in one game and another in a second, that means you'll have to learn a new language in every game, which is not an easy feat. The quickie solution is one language for all games, in which case, the language has nothing to do with any game and might as well be one that exists already.

Like Esperanto.


or Sanskrit.
I've been told by Finns that computer programmers learn their language pretty quickly but it doesn't look simple to me..


Speaking as a computer programmer, the two quickest languages to acquire for linguistic consistency (simple rules, no irregulars) and ease of pronunciation have to be Japanese and Latin.

Speakers of "new" or "revived" languages tend to evangelise about how easy their languages are (Welsh and Hebrew speakers in particular) but both are throat-torturing to anyone not raised breathing sand or gargling gravel.


You're seriously asking players to learn a whole new language just to play a computer game?

Just asking them to read the manual is often too much !


Nate, i think you misses the point, persons with a mother language who is not english wants in many cases to use their mother language when gaming, i do too, i am not english. Result is often, non-english guilds form, its just natural.

I am not shure if a engishman or american really is able to understand how it is to be a non native speaker in a english speaking world, i am using more english than my mother language written, and, i am living in a country with 99.99% got same language as me!
The number of englification in buisness life, and in games, grows. Of couse east europeans want to use their own languages, if they did not, maybe they didnt get to write in it, at all?
Its already stared to appear foregin speaker corporations who drop their mother languages for engish, since its "more accurate" and precise for business purposes(lmao!), and, then, the workers meet engish at job, see english movies, hear all their native singers in radio sing english, and go home, play a computer game and:

Is they to write engish with their countrymen there, too?

Virida, of mindstar corp, EVE online.


I have to say I find this article pretty funny. Proposing a new common language to be learned by all for uniform communication... Getting US people (from now on refered as "americans") to learn a new language...

Being a non-native english speaker, I tend to find pretty often that most american's position towards other languages and cultures in MMORPG's is: 1) Server is in our country and 2) the majority of players is American so, either everyone speaks in english or go away. This happens even in games where, for instance, French and German are officially supported languages. Sometimes we can even watch situations where a discussion, in game, is going on on a "foreign language", and an american starts complaining because he's being left out of it (when probably it didn't even concern him at all in the 1st place).

More than just the language barrier, it's also a cultural barrier. Americans considering game festivities and prize awarding for Christmas, Thanks Giving, Halloween and the likes, dates that outside their country aren't holidays or don't even mean anything. Those same that think it's just natural a game organizing an event for the 4th July and then if someone asks "Why not the 14th July or the 3rd October or the 10th June?" they start arguing that if we would start celebrating other countries dates, we would have an event every day. But don't consider the possibility to stop celebrating "their" day. Or "their" religious holidays. Or...

Where I want to get is that many times US citizens are so sociologically self-centered that they don't notice how much they are forcing others to lose their social and cultural backgrounds and even adhere to US ones. So, seeing a proposal to get everyone to learn a new language to communicate in a game is just too funny since it's mostly the US (UK, Australians, NZs and half Canada) that haven't learned a different language precisely to communicate with everyone else on the game.

For those that will say "Not all US citizens are like that", I can also say, not all cyrillic-based EVE players gather in just one corp, not all Chinese call the Japanese flag the "used sanitary paper", etc... But all these are generic examples that fit an arguable majority and, as such, seem acceptable examples to make a point.


As i recall, EVE's main server farm is in London. (I refuse to enlarge upon that with a country designation - there is London and then there are namesakes) and the development company are based in Rekjavik.

As such, it's not known for fooling about with July 4th celebrations.


Michael Chui> an ability that stagnates and disappears past, perhaps, 30 years

30! ^..^

Just asking them to read the manual is often too much !

Yea, I know about the manual test - don't get me rolling on that subject, again

Virida/Happy Guy>

I actually like the idea of a diverse virtual world - more languages the merrier. I think Ren and a few others here have posted in the past their disappointment with the current trend towards "localizing" servers to national/regional markets to avoid these linguistic/cultural pitfalls (Btw, Jeff Atwood citation below provides a vague analogy of even how hard that is). My crit is centered on the real world baggage that accompanies these sorts of imports. MMOs may be more than a game to some, but I think privacy and baggage avoidance are useful steps to making these places tick over more effectively for all.


Why opt out? Why learn another language? Soon enough, the Babelfish will provide instant, perfect, idiomatic translation for all of us, either text-to-text, voice-to-voice, or any combination thereof. And with voice-fonts, to boot.

So... I can yak into my microphone in my deep, growly, unaccented (to my ear) Americurn basso, and my warez will make me sound like a sweet, sexy Ukranian elfgrrl (with a slight Muscovian accent and idiom) if I use the right plugin.

Nobody should have to learn English who doesn't want to. It's a crazy language. I love it to death and back again, but it's a hugely difficult proposition unless you're soaked in it. We are closing in, I read, on a million words, and seem hell-bent on ingesting and creating every possible combination of syntax and vocab from our own labs and around the globe. Which is, I think, one of the strengths of English. As in nature, mutts are a heartier breed.

There's nothing inherently "better" about English... We just don't give a rat's ass (as opposed to the French) about creating new words every ten seconds or so. Or splicing together new words when the need arises. That's why we love Stephen Colbert and his "truthiness." It wasn't a word. Then he said it, and it was funny, specifically because it wasn't a word. Now it is a word. And it's still funny. That's English for you.

Do you have an overweening fear of being pwned? You would then have "pwnophobia."

What a dumb-ass word, eh? Except, in English, it means exactly what you want it to. Because that's how we've been cranking it for the last couple hundred. We pwn this language. Not the other way around. And we welcome you to own it with us. Everybody into the pool.

But in games, it won't matter. 'Cause, like I said, we'll all be plugged into the Babelfish. Mes amis, ce n'est rien mais une chose.


You 'pwn' your language?

"where u at?"

Maybe you will be able to get a Babelfish voice-font that will make even Americans speak English :)


I like the idea of the inhabitants of a virtual world speaking their own language. But for it to work in a VW, I think the relationship between players and the inhabitants would need to be something mid way between the Sims Offline and the Sims Online. Not entirely the helpless pet of the Sims Offline, but not just a puppet that only ever moves when I move. I am struggling to find a good word for the relationship though. Avatar has too much of an overtone of a full embodiment of the player in the inhabitant.

In that context, when speaking through your “ambassador” to another being in the world, an alien tongue would come rather naturally. Figuring out what to say and how to say it could be a big part of the game in itself. This might be a case where you could trust the client rather than the server with a lot of the work. Give the players some opportunity to come up with better ways of translating the alien tongue to your native language.


I dunno why its necessary.

The goons , maybe 6 months ago , formed a major joined-at-the-hip federation. with the "Red alliance" in eve-online. The goons are mostly Americans and british, with a smattering of aussies, and assorted europeans. Its basically an english speaking alliance. The Red alliance is mostly russian speaking.

So language at first proved a bit of a problem. But the goons started passing around little phrase lists, with various useful phrases such as "Is the next system camped" and "Our leader loves honey baked ham!" (The goons seem to have a love of pointing out to there leader his generous proportions) and so on. Both sides also found themselves rather amused at the fractured but earnest attempts each other made at learning each others languages.

Regardless of the matter, its an awesome pairing, and one that has little clash, because even if we *wanted* to argue, we dont know how! But we are happy hanging out in spaceships, playing silly music over teamspeak and doing spaceship conga lines and the like.

We dont NEED to hide cultural diversity in this game. If folks are prepared to accept it, it actually makes the game so much more interesting. Most gamers are too lazy to take role playing to the extent of needing to learn new made up languages, when real earth languages are a good enough proxy to the creation of space tribes. The truth is Eve-online only imports ethnic rivalrys on its dumbest fault lines. Most alliances have a huge array of different ethnicities. Online we are all just 'teenagers' (Or late 30's teenagers in my case :( ) and are more interested in playing astronaut space-marines rather than replicating the ethnic divides of boring-world (earth).

That said, recently I sat in on an eve-wide teamspeak when a young lady turned up and was immediately pounced by a large group of horny young men. I can see that being a real problem in future, and to be honest, it worrys me.


fwiw, I've occasionally heard foreigners who live in Iceland describe the infamously-difficult local language as "Klingon." Does it all start to make sense now?


To people suggesting some kind of babelfish, um.

First, the babelfish was a joke. By Douglas Adams. And yes, I know about the webpage. But it was a joke, and a joke for a good reason.

Second, I don't use Babelfish. Why? Because it sucks. I use language-to-language dictionaries because not only are they what machine translation software is based off of, they are also more complete and more nuanced than word-to-word guesses.

Third, it's near-impossible to machine translate English to another language. It's already hard enough to translate a simpler language, like Spanish, with its finite irregular verbs, explicit conjugations, and authority-checked dictionary, or any other Romance language.

"Soon enough." Heh. In my lifetime? I'm not sure how to emphasize the severity of my doubt. Do I expect it to happen? Of course. But by then, we won't be using keyboards anymore, either, anyways: we'll be interfacing with the computer directly through our brains.

nate combs said, "30! ^..^"

It's different for everyone. My guesstimate is that that the average point where people completely lose the ability to become fluent in a new language is 30 years of age. I'm 22, and I'm almost convinced I've lost the ability.

It might be possible to push it back a decade by an excellent curriculum replete with high immersion and stellar instruction.

Like Hellinar, I really like the idea. The reason I know any linguistics at all is because I was hell-bent, for five years or so, on producing and implementing languages into my own MMO. But with my knowledge has come an understanding that, without a dedicated team of absolute geniuses in computational linguistics working with a truly exceptional predictive MMO client, you've got no shot.

But by all means, go for it. I'll even pay to beta test it. And I guarantee I'll break it within 10 minutes. =)

And this is about text. You want voice? Heh. Dragon hasn't come that far yet, though I'd imagine most players wouldn't mind investing the time to train it, if they were given the right incentive.

I'm normally quite optimistic about technological achievements. But not in the arena of language. Because you're not translating languages. You're taking a culture, compressing it into an expression, transmitting it, and expanding it into a different culture. That's what idioms are.



Which form of English?
Cockney? RP? Kettering? Estuary? Scouse?
(I like Manchester personally, but Im a big fan of the Music there also)

I'd be much more appreciative if the English just spoke American, you know for consistency sake.

Since there are places on the island that supposedly speak "English" but unfortunately no ones been able to understand them for like 350 years....


I'd agree with Michael that full on translation is still long away. I've long been interested in the less obvious problem of translating one persons English into another’s. Not just the dialects, as Allen mentions, but the really tricky stuff where both people think they have been understood. The translation problem doesn’t just happen across cultures. My decompression of your words inserts a lot of cultural and personal baggage. All the baggage that sometimes makes "I love you" one of the most dysfunctional statements in the English language. I think the insight that we are all speaking foreign languages using a common vocabulary is one of the main strengths of the postmodern view. Bring on the machine translation!

As for games, in any close future, I can't see getting beyond simplified "alien" communication between the inhabitants of the world. Probably with not much more than the menu driven communication of Toontown or Club Penguin. I think a step up or two up from that might cover a lot of the everyday chat in worlds I've been in. As I see it, its not so much the content as the attention given that is the energizing thing in such conversations. That sense of attention and respect doesn’t need a elaborate language model to convey. At least, that’s been my experience in many foreign jaunts.



Gamasutra: April 4, 2007

Q&A: Using World Of Warcraft to Teach English?

What we're hoping people are going to do is say, "Let's make an ESL-friendly server. Tell the Americans that not everyone is going to have perfect English, but they're going to want to learn."

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