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Gaming in different languages

JochenL

CL Byte Sprite
Staff member
Wizard of Adventure
Beta-Tester
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I'm also generally interested in any other languages people are running game in!
I am running in German. I played some games in English and started GMing in English recently.
The most difficult thing for me is portraying emotions in a foreign language or switching into a role using a specific subset and tone of a foreign language.
 

BenS

Member
Wizard of Story
I exclusively run my games in German, as I believe to have a pretty good grasp of English vernacular and business-speak but still believe I lack the detailed vocabulary required for a proper description of specific details of a fantasy-world. There are for example so many different words for specific weapons alone in German, which makes it kinda hard to imagine learning all those in English, too...
 

Tim S.

Member
Wizard of Story
Tim, I'm curious, do you game in Mandarin? (I'm also generally interested in any other languages people are running game in!) I'm considering D&D as a topic for Mandarin conversation group--maybe even a one-shot immersion. I wonder if there are any recommended resources!
Hi Erika. I game in English on Roll20 because D&D really just isn’t a thing here. Language is definitely a big part of why that is the case, it would be daunting enough to properly translate the core rule books and guides, but then who’s going to translate Sage Advice?!! Having thought about it, I suspect there are other cultural and historical reasons why the game isn’t yet popular in this part of the world as it is in the West.

There may be resources out there to help you, I’m just not aware of any, and I suspect the vast majority, if not all, local folk who play in this part of the world will be fluent, or close to, in English.

FYI, my players include two Australians living down under, two Brits (in Hong Kong and China), and one Italian living in Switzerland.
 

JochenL

CL Byte Sprite
Staff member
Wizard of Adventure
Beta-Tester
Gamer Lifestyle
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I am running in German. I played some games in English and started GMing in English recently.
The most difficult thing for me is portraying emotions in a foreign language or switching into a role using a specific subset and tone of a foreign language.
I think I should add, that despite gaming in German most of the time, I generally buy my books in English (even when they are available in German). For one this is to increase my English skills and for the other games get a translation started and then the German publisher just drops support.
 

ErikaHLX

Member
Wizard of Combat
Wizard of Story
I am humbled by my EFL (English as a first language) privilege! It seems a lot of folks garner their resources (rule books, modules) in English and then present them in a different language. Do those of you who game between languages ever struggle to find the right translations, or to maintain an appropriate tone between languages?

It also seems that most people prefer to handle any roleplay in their native or most everyday language--that makes sense! It's already difficult to improv in a native tongue, much more taxing than regular conversation.
 

Vargr

Member
Wizard of Story
In Denmark you can only get two or three local RPG in Danish - the rest are only available in English. So the English comes natural and we mix the Danish with the English terms and think nothing of it: "Foran jer står der en ranger med en trukken long bow - bag ved en mage, der ser ud til at forberede en fireball." ("In front of you is a ranger with a drawn long bow - behind is a mage that seems to be preparing a fire ball.")

Sometimes we have fun translating all the English terms (especially classes) into Danish - it sounds really silly :)

Most roleplayers in Denmark are also vivid readers of fantasy and scifi books and those are normally read in English. At least that is my experience.
 

Gedece

Active member
Wizard of Adventure
Wizard of Story
Erica, we run games in Spanish not only because the GM has more vocabulary, it also has to do with some players in the group that wouldn't handle the language, so they would feel excluded. Normally, it's only the GM the one that has enough English in him to handle some translations. But mostly we run the games in Spanish because it's our native tongue, so it would be silly to do it any other way.

When you get to a point in a foreign language that you can also think in that language with no translation required, translation gets easier, because you are not translating word by word, you are translating word and meaning, trying to maintain the spirit in the original phrase. It's also funny that when you get to that point sometimes you struggle to find a word that defines a thing perfectly in one of the languages, because your know there's one, and finally discover that yeah, there's one, but it's in the other language.
 

JochenL

CL Byte Sprite
Staff member
Wizard of Adventure
Beta-Tester
Gamer Lifestyle
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It's also funny that when you get to that point sometimes you struggle to find a word that defines a thing perfectly in one of the languages, because your know there's one, and finally discover that yeah, there's one, but it's in the other language.
So true! It even gets so far that you remember a fact in one language although you heard it in another language originally. :)
 

Ronaldo Lima

Member
Wizard of Story
I am humbled by my EFL (English as a first language) privilege! It seems a lot of folks garner their resources (rule books, modules) in English and then present them in a different language. Do those of you who game between languages ever struggle to find the right translations, or to maintain an appropriate tone between languages?

It also seems that most people prefer to handle any roleplay in their native or most everyday language--that makes sense! It's already difficult to improv in a native tongue, much more taxing than regular conversation.
You're totally right about comfort levels while GMing, @ErikaHLX... I had tough times trying to GM (and even just play) with English as my second language. My current games are all in Brazilian Portuguese, even though I've been living in Canada for over 5 years.
I am pretty lucky to be a part of a solid group (all Brazilian friends) that plays every week; we definitely use all the original materials/books/DDB platform in English, but talk Portuguese at the table while maintaining proper names and key terms without translation... even back in Brazil that would be what most tables would do. In a certain way, you ended up learning some English if you were to play RPGs... which is good and bad...

And I do agree with @JohnnFour about the perspective that a different language brings to you... I remember an university professor saying that we can't really have a good understand of another culture without learning its language.

btw: what's really a challenge for me is whenever I get any desires/aspirations to do more with RPGs than just play with my Brazilian friends; from time to time I will entertain the idea of writing something or even producing some sort of audio/video content... and then, immediately I get "smashed" by the reality that I would have to do that in English, if I mean to reach any significant audience beyond the small population of Brazilian RPGers.
 

Stephan Hornick

Community Goblin
Staff member
Wizard of Adventure
Wizard of Combat
Wizard of Story
Very late to this thread, but I totally agree to all of you guys.
I usually GM and play in German, just because it is easier for me and the people I play with usually don't have that level of comprehension to make it possible.

When I was young, I played a couple of times in English, and it worked, but I was far behind what it would have been in German.

Later, I GMed in Chinese, Japanese and Spanish, and this worked out... let's say, sufficiently to convey the meaning. Dropping many describing words and focusing on the gist and story didn't really make me feel happy, but it was still an elevating feeling of being able to actually accomplish this.

Lately, I have begun to play in a completely-English group and afterwards even took over the GM seat (and I'm currently thinking and dreaming a lot in English again). I'm still looking for words sometimes and honestly just ask if it is at the tip of my tongue but not accessible. And I notice that I am getting better with every session. That is great! And the players compliment me for my vivid descriptions and that it is no problem at all that I am no native. I for myself am not content yet, but I love the high note of a session run in English. I'm even now looking forward to the next session, with a mixture of thrilling anticipation and stage fright.
 

Enendill

New member
Wizard of Combat
Great topic!

I am Greek and my gaming friends are all Greeks, so we play in Greek. The funny thing is that all the RPG books we have (except than a couple of local RPGs) are in English, so it is logical for us to use some terms in English and mix them up in our normal conversation. Most of the terms when I am GMing I try to translate into Greek and my friends make fun of me for doing so, but what can you do.

At some point we had a friend from Scotland joining our group for a season and thus I GMed bilingually (English and Greek) because our Scottish friend did not speak any Greek and another (Greek) friend is not really fluent in English.

Finally, I've GMed in English solely, for an international group we gathered at some point (we had people from Ukraine, Poland and Northern Cyprus) and it run smoothly more or less.

I think it all comes down to proficiency with the language one is using. But also the medium helps. If we are talking about online play using VTTs, it gets easier for someone to understand what is going on even if the GM is not fully communicative. The real difficulty is in the in person play.
 
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