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Old 08-18-2004, 03:27 PM   #1
Valg
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Disclaimer: This probably only matters for roleplaying games where most/all communication is IC.

We've always had a number of players for whom English is not their primary language. Several of them have played 'big impact' characters on Carrion Fields, and it's always been our philosophy to try to judge people by their actions/ideas and not nitpick them over the idiosyncrasies of English grammar.

We do, however, require that all in-game communication is done in English. This is largely a matter of practicality- the staff needs to be able to make sure the rules are being followed, and there needs to be IC continuity regarding that communication- if one elf is speaking Russian, and another elf is speaking Spanish, how do you explain that ICly?

Now, there are extreme cases. Sometimes, we get a player who can't communicate effectively at all, at which point we try to recommend a game in their native language, or just point out that if you don't understand English at all, playing English-based text games is probably not the hobby of choice for you.

But most of the people from other countries that find us speak English well enough to get by. They can read a room description or helpfile and figure out what is going on. They can keep up a conversation, even if they're sometimes a little harder to understand. However, while it can be challenging to hold a conversation in a secondary language, it's much harder to do it while you're trying to assume a role other than "yourself". It's much like humor- people who are learning a language have a really hard time telling jokes (especially spontaneous ones) in it- the timing and word choice doesn't come easily.

Now, let's say you're holding an IC contest involving storytelling. Style and delivery obviously matter as much as content, particularly if the chosen genre is more about entertainment than information. Do you "round in favor" of obviously foreign players? Do you just accept that this isn't an aspect of the game they aren't going to excel at?

How do your games handle these issues?
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Old 08-18-2004, 04:40 PM   #2
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I don't know if Armageddon has any particular policy - except that we DO have coded racial and tribal languages in the game, and that the game is written and played in English. We have occasional banter on our forum about the "correct" spelling of certain words, because a large portion of our player base is British and they spell things differently. It's mostly just a fun teasing kinda thing, and rarely meant seriously.

I've come across lots of people who don't speak English as their primary language, and I have to say that most of them write English better than a lot of native English speakers I know. I also know some who struggle with words, phrases...colloquialisms...

It can certainly make for interesting RP if they don't understand what "How's it goin?" means. They might respond "How's what goin? I wasn't planning on going anywhere today." If it's an "important" character who -should- have a good command of the language being spoken, then we might just chalk it up to some eccentricity, or assume the "important person" is being witty.

If it's a half-giant, well, they tend to take things literally sometimes, so it would fit perfectly.

If the misunderstood phrase/word/sentence can possibly result in serious reprocussions, and it's a new player to the game, we -might- use the OOC command to ask if they need help outside the game structure. AIM, our IRC chat room, e-mail, contacting helpers...

As for me personally, I try to be patient with people who are obviously having trouble with the language. But I'm human, and have gotten frustrated when the other person is -so- inept at the language that all RP falls by the wayside while we try to explain what this or that word means, or wait for them to look it up.

So it really depends. Yes, the game is in English and people are expected to be somewhat fluent in it. It's also expected that people will TRY. If they don't try, they won't get much sympathy if they screw up. If they try and fail, often they will be encouraged to continue and given kudos for their attempts.
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Old 08-18-2004, 04:57 PM   #3
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I agree with Jazuela on that one, if the mud is an english language based mud, then the player should speak fluent english, however me being from the south, we do have our slang, as does the north and west, so even when two fluent english speaking people get together , you still have scenarios as Jaz explained.

But like Jazuela said, as long as they are trying, well then not much you can do except try to help them along, but patience is a virtue, that not all people possess.

Now ya'll play nice ya hear. :-D

Enola
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Old 08-18-2004, 05:15 PM   #4
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I would agree that a number of non-native English speakers tend to write better than their native English speaking colleagues if only because they've been taught to do so, whereas the native speakers have been taught through culture more than through a textbook, so their speech is full of colloquialisms and grammar errors that have found their way into acceptable speach pattern.

At the same time, however, I've found that those who are able to roleplay well enough often pass off any deficiency as a simple racial trait. That is, if they are a Troll, their speech impediment is simply a fact that they learned to speak Common later than Trollish. It's basically an IC analogue to the OOC situation, and in almost all situations works out quite well.
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Old 08-18-2004, 05:27 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Enola_Phoenix @ Aug. 18 2004,16:57)
I agree with Jazuela on that one, if the mud is an english language based mud, then the player should speak fluent english, however me being from the south, we do have our slang, as does the north and west, so even when two fluent english speaking people get together , you still have scenarios as Jaz explained.

But like Jazuela said, as long as they are trying, well then not much you can do except try to help them along, but patience is a virtue, that not all people possess.

Now ya'll play nice ya hear. :-D

Enola
Well tah me to an aint-hill and covah me with jayam...Ah DO believe Enola agrees with mah opine-yun!
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Old 08-18-2004, 06:10 PM   #6
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As a player who comes from a country where english isn't very important (to most people, that is), I can assure you there are hardships involved with playing in games which are entirely based on the english language.

While my grammar and spelling are (obviously) not perfect, I have improved much over the years. This is, of course, aided by the fact that I have been playing and participating in such games since I was six years old, and started learning the language when I was four. This isn't the case with most people, and it all mostly varies with the training you've had chances for.

Thankfully, I met people who put up with my lack of grasp on english long enough for me to become better. Back in the days where I would name myself after Final Fantasy characters, make a zillion aliases for 'kill (mob)' actions and wonder if RP was something the bigger players ate for breakfast.  

Now I can at least talk to most people with a relative degree of ease and I hold good friendships with many people I would've otherwise never met.

It's a matter of patience, however. I wouldn't have been able to practice and improve my english without interaction with those that had a good grasp on it. I did because they tried to guide me through it back then, even if all they did was ignore the mistakes and keep the game flowing.

To make this -short-... Have patience. Today's newbies and pests may turn out to be tomorrow's friends and co-players.  
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Old 08-19-2004, 05:28 PM   #7
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This is a rather interesting topic, and not just for Roleplay Muds. In a strict RPI there is even a relatively simple solution to it: the person with the bad English skills could assume the role of a child, an animal (if those exist as race choices), of one of the less verbal races like trolls, or - if they care a lot about their dignity – a traveller from some remote place, who is not yet familiar with the lingo of the country. A tactful OOC suggestion from the Admin in that direction could probably solve a few problems. Not all would follow the hint, but if they don’t it will be their own fault, not yours for not trying.

A bit more difficult to handle are the more OOC problems, that occur in all muds, not just in RPIs. People who don’t have English as their first language definitely are handicapped. Not so much in the playing the game, even though it may slow them down a bit, at least in the beginning. But they can use dictionaries to check any words in the descriptions that they don’t understand, and they soon pick up. (This is one way that a good mud can actually be educational, the players learn some better English from it. On the other hand a badly written mud with tons of typos is detrimental, but hopefully there are not too many of those around).

The real problems are socially, in the swift flow of conversation, because there is no time to check in a dictionary then, you have to go with what you have got. A mud is a very social place, and player relations are extremely important for the pleasure - or pain - you get out of mudding. Bad language skills can lead to severe misunderstandings, which in some cases can poison a relation forever, if they don’t get cleared out. Players with bad English can appear to be very childish or very stupid, (which they probably aren’t, since they have managed to find their way into something as ‘off-the-mainstream’ as a mud, but the average player doesn’t see any further than the obvious). They also often get mocked and ridiculed by other players, and that can lead to resentment and retaliation.

I am Swedish myself, so I have firsthand experiences both from the view of the player and the Administrator. I will probably never forget the time when I, as a total mudding newbie in my very first mud, accidentally typed ‘Buy Lance’ instead of ‘Bye Lance’ and got the response ‘I am not for sale, Molly’. I managed to turn it into a joke, but the memory still makes me blush.
Many years later, now as Imp, one of our East European players told me ‘I know that you disgust me’. Not the wisest thing to say to an Imp, you may agree, and I admit I raised an eyebrow at first. However it turned out that what he really meant to say was something like ‘I know that you despise me’ or more simply put ‘I know that you dislike me’. A kid would probably have said, ‘I know you hate me’ and the misunderstanding would never have occurred.

This brings us to a second common problem; when the non-English-major tries to use ‘big’ words that he doesn’t quite understand. This usually occurs with more mature, more intelligent and more educated players, and paradoxically enough those are the ones that usually get into the most social and disciplinary problems, especially if there are cultural differences or lacking social skills on top of the language deficiencies. A person, who is used to being treated with respect and courtesy in their own environment, usually responds very badly to being ridiculed and/or treated like a retarded kid.

If you had a chance to check out the age of the worst Troublemakers in your mud, I think you’d be amazed over how many of them are 20+ and quite intelligent. That’s why I usually try to talk things over in a calm way with our own Troublemakers, rather than just bashing or banning them. It doesn’t always work, but surprisingly often it does.

A third problem is that even a person with comparatively good English, still may have difficulties with idiomatic expression and the ‘value’ of certain words. Non-native English persons may write grammatically correct, but often become a bit circumstantial and longwinded in their effort to express things clearly. This can in turn make them seem a bit stuffy or even unintentionally arrogant, which offends some people. (I’ve been told that I often come out as that myself).

In our mud we have several players from the former Soviet Union countries. They are all very skilled with computers - (it seems almost all people from that hemisphere are) – and consequently they picked up the game mechanics very fast, and are very successful as players, if you simply define success by strength and power and most pkills. But almost all of them have encountered very serious problems socially. It all started with some player mocking them, and escalated to a spiral of revenge and retaliation which for a while rocked the entire mud. Things have calmed down now, mainly because their English has improved considerably, but some players will never forgive or forget some events from the past.

I don’t think there are any easy solutions to the language problems. The best thing you can do is to urge your players to show some tolerance. In our mud we have a rule -–(one of very few) – that any derogatory expressions based on a person’s gender, race, religion, nationality and sexual habits are forbidden on all channels. Maybe I should add some rule about not giving a person a hard time about their language skills. Especially since we have an amazingly large percent of non-English players. Maybe all muds have, now that the net is getting more and more global.
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Old 08-19-2004, 09:01 PM   #8
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Molly, though long-winded, puts it very well. She outwinded me - and that's a feat (as some of you might know).

Tolerance is important on the part of the observer. Making an attempt is equally important, on the part of the enactor. If both do their part, everyone will be happy (eventually) and each side will benefit. If one side fails, then both sides lose.
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Old 08-19-2004, 09:39 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Molly O'Hara @ Aug. 19 2004,17:28)
They also often get mocked and ridiculed by other players, and that can lead to resentment and retaliation.
Wow, I'd hate to play on a mud where players (not characters) are mocked and ridiculed because they can't speak english too well.
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