Foreign (Even Made Up) Languages

Discussion in 'Role-Play Discussion' started by Meushell, Sep 9, 2013.

  1. Meushell

    Meushell Resident Game Owner

    The first time I saw someone using multiple languages in roleplaying, she actually knew the languages. Naturally, her character also knew all these languages, and boy were they used(...or she was really good at fooling us, I wouldn't know the difference, lol).

    Anyway, it comes up from time to time. It's perfectly naturally for your character to use a phrase or term that's in a different language than everything else they are saying. How do you go about it? Have you ever used a translator or a translating dictionary? Do you put the translation in your post?

    It's probably easier if you are actually using a language you know. Lol. I only know English though, so I have to cheat my way around it.

    I have italicized the "foreign words," and I haven't had a issue with the other person knowing what I've doing. That only really works though if entire phrases and sentences are this other language.

    I have used Google Translate recently. In one case, my character was angry, so I thought it'd make sense for a few of his native words to slip in. At the end of my post, I translated what he said. In another case, a computer spoke a foreign language (one sentence), and my character translated.

    Fandom languages are harder because you only get a partial list of words. They may not even agree with each other. I have three different links to Goa'uld dictionaries, and I haven't used them lately because I often couldn't find the word I wanted anyway. Lol.

    I've seen a couple of people make up their own language. In one old roleplay, one guy didn't provide a translation in his posts, but he provided a link to some code on where to find it. Another player got involved, and they wrote almost an entire thread with all the spoken words being in this language. It kind of made the thread fun to read, even though the characters weren't really doing much of anything.

    Anyway, so what have been all of your experiences?
  2. For our roleplay we just use English is people need to understand what the character is saying. If not, people are free to use made up words, or actual languages, which I am not going to check up on for accuracy :P I have nothing against grammar and spelling slip ups in any language.

    I really just like to write. English is my second language, I could totally dazzle you with Dutch and let you figure out what I wrote by pointing to Google Translate, but tbf: google translate sucks. I am not in this to decode posts. I just want to tell a story! :P

    I have used Klingon, in which case I just lifted a phrase from the Klingon Hamlet or Gilgamesh versions. They were meant to be decorative, not informative.

    Het zou echt te ver gaan om hele posts in mijn moerstaal te schrijven. Ik kan je dit stukje geven als voorbeeld. Haal het maar door Google Translate and kijk eens hoe raar en vervormd dit wordt. Ik denk dat dan moeilijk te begrijpen is wat ik eigenlijk met dit stukje bedoeld heb. Het levert hoogstens leuke en vreemde zinnen op.
    (Try that in GT :P I bet it will be funny and weird to read)
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  3. Shriker

    Shriker Shadowlack Owner RPGfix Admin Patron Game Owner

    At Shadowlack we have built-in BB Code ciphers for displaying alternate languages. It's not a true constructed language, but it's a quick and easy way to make it appear as though characters are talking in foreign languages. Each "language" also has its own visual CSS style, so you know at a glance what it is, and the English translation is just a mouse hover away. It works pretty well. :)

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  4. As a language buff (sorta... I am not totally that buff...) I would both be fascinated and feel lazy using that. It seems like it is just replacing letters randomly? So no true words are formed? No grammar rules? Grammar is half the fun of constructed languages! :P
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  5. Shriker

    Shriker Shadowlack Owner RPGfix Admin Patron Game Owner

    @Daenelia It's an extremely lazy way of accomplishing a "foreign-seeming" language. It really is just a cipher (letter rotation), and not a true conlang. Ramathian itself is a pseudo conlang. There are a few actual Ramathian words with English equivalents, but the rest is filled by the cipher.

    I've got an actual conlang I've been working on for a monster race, with grammatical rules and the whole deal. I've just found that that sort of thing can be overkill for play-by-post roleplaying (specially if players end up spending 30+ minutes trying to translate what you wrote).

    Ohh, and since it's relevant, I have an article up here with conlang resources. If there's something that seems like it's missing from there, let me know. I only really linked my favourites.
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  6. I think that is a very comprehensive list, nothing springs to mind to add to it, really. People who are interesting in creating their own languages usually end up finding their resources anyway.

    But yes, spending time to translate text either for writing or while reading a post, that's a bit too close to decoding secret messages. It's why we write everything important in simple (or not so simple...) English. I don't mind making people look up words, but it shouldnt interfere with the story you want to tell.
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  7. Meushell

    Meushell Resident Game Owner

    Well, I am not really going for accuracy. Lol. It can set the tone of the post better, even if the language is completely made up. The only time I did not translate right away is because I planned to have my character do so a couple of posts later.

    Google translate gets the job got done. :-) I used Latin for one of my characters. That one even has sort of "not complete" warning on it.

    That BB code cipher looks really neat. Way more work than I would want to do, but it looks really fun to play with. Lol.
  8. Lady B

    Lady B Guest

    It's generally simple to use English, but in Shadows, some use a free translator generator elsewhere while others know the language. I've no major issues with either as I encourage people that their characters could be different than what they are, their characters might like something they don't or know something they don't. It's to help them step a little out of their comfort zone and expand who their character is.
    Nothing is perfect but I do ask - and it's generally followed through without issue - that people post the translation(s) - mostly in English - below at the end of the post.

    ~Lady B
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  9. Lux

    Lux Newcomer

    I have a character that sometimes uses elvish words or phrases. In the roleplay, I italicize those words, and then at the bottom of the RP in an out of character note, I will say what those phrases mean, so that anyone reading will be able to understand.
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  10. Meushell

    Meushell Resident Game Owner

    You have a web translator you use for that?
  11. VirusZero

    VirusZero Resident Game Owner

    I used to be able to write 3 languages (not fluently though)... But I've slacked off (partially due to not having anyone around that I knew who spoke the languages also. So I've forgotten most of what I knew.)

    But I'd very rarely ever used them in roleplay. If I did, I'd write just a single sentence in the other language just so people knew that this character does indeed speak another language. Then I'd have the translation of that sentence directly below (so they could see what was stated even if they didn't know that language also). But then I'd have the rest of their speech all in English (often with a few of the other words from their language added in for emphasis. So like for German they'd say: "Nein, we need to go left, not right." ). This way people knew what was actually stated without worrying about any translations. And they'd know that the character was speaking English.

    In terms of using ciphers or anything like that, I think it's neat... But it's way more work than I really want to put into it. And from a reading perspective, I'd find it kind of annoying to have to stop every few minutes to check to find out what they actually just said. So I'd probably just ask whomever I was playing with to go easy on the translations and instead just go with the assumption that my character (if they know the language) realises it's being spoken and so they're speaking it also. So this way anything we write in English from this point on to each other is presumed to have been stated in that language.
  12. cash

    cash Newcomer

    I've rped with people who speak in foreign languages, they pretty much just use google translator for it and then add in the translation of it if needed. Like a friend would have their character talk in french, but because my character is really good friends with theirs they understand the language at this point so everything she throws at him he understands and responds back just as well. Kind of like how a friend of mine likes to mess around and talk to me in spanish and then I'll just respond in english.

    But yeah, google translator isn't perfect but it get's the job done. Being a native spanish speaker and giggle at times when people use it for spanish. But no one us judging you on how you write in a language you don't know. Are at least they shouldn't. >:/
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  13. Zozma

    Zozma Spider Demon Game Owner

    I use a sprinkling of foreign languages but I don't write full sentences. I know they're supposed to be speaking the language the whole time but to me, it adds a little cultural flavor to their dialogue if you use their word for mother, for example, or curses in their language when they're upset. I have a friend who speaks Mandarin fluently, though, so I kinda maybe don't use a whole lot of Mandarin with my Mandarin speaking characters out of embarrassment.
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  14. That is truly awesome!
  15. kaz

    kaz Newcomer

    I use foreign languages sometimes. I only REALLY know English and ASL, but I have some really basic knowledge of Spanish, French, and Tagalog because I travel a lot. Usually I use Google Translate. I translate it back and forth to make sure it comes out the same in both directions, which is my way of checking that I'm not too far off. And I don't translate directly, but I usually say in the character's head essentially what they had said so you can figure it out. Ie--

    Kaelyn said, "Que sera." It was a phrase her mother used to use with her, when she was little, to tell her that she couldn't always control everything.

    There's no direct translation of Que Sera (what will be) in there, but you know what it means. You know?
  16. Nerf Herder

    Nerf Herder Newcomer

    If there's a translator available for the strange languages that I come across, I'll translate if I don't understand...The translation might not come out in perfect English, but I usually get the drift of what's being said.
  17. Icarus243

    Icarus243 Newcomer

    I just use English for the most part. I might use a single word or phrase if it's a foreign character though. That's assuming there's context to back it up. Even then i give a translation.
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  18. lion

    lion Newcomer

    I've studied linguistics in school, so I make up my own languages from time to time with a set morphology, phonology, etc. It takes a lot of work to do a fantasy language well because you can't just make up a bunch of words that people use as random expletives. You have to consider what your S, V, and O order will be, whether or not you mark tenses with morphemes or a specific word, whether you put adjectives before or after nouns, all kinds of things. It takes a long time--time most people aren't willing to put into the process. But it can be a very enriching experience to make up or learn a language to better understand your character.
  19. I speak Spanish as a second language. Different languages have always been very interesting to me. Back in the day when I started roleplaying, I was a teenager, and something of a weeaboo,lol, so I made a lot of Japanese characters and used whatever Japanese words I knew whenever possible. Now that I'm a more mature writer, and actually have a second language under my belt, I love to make characters that are from different places and have different mother tongues. There are several ways that I will play this out. The least complicated way is like this,

    "The rose you are looking for is down by the lake." MC stated in French while the recipient stared silently in ignorance of what was said to him.

    The only problem with this method is that it is a little easier to have a misunderstanding with your partner, who might misread what you wrote and have another character understand what was said when they shouldn't have. I will use this method more often when both characters speak the language being referenced. Another way is to write out the text in the foreign language and give the translation along with it.

    "¡Hay demasiados guisantes en mi sopa! (There are too many peas in my soup!)" The chief screamed at his assistant.

    I like this method because the translation is right there, you don't have to scroll down to the foot notes or translate the text yourself. There are some cases where I don't include a translation at all.

    "Te amo..." He whispered in his lover's ear.

    I do this for very short, easy to understand words and phases that are either self-explanatory or nearly impossible for a translator to get wrong. That being said, I only use foreign words in spoken or internal dialog, never in any other parts of my writing unless I were to do a roleplay completely in Spanish with another person fluent in Spanish, which I have yet to do with anyone yet.
  20. Star Army

    Star Army Resident Game Owner

    I use the "Vikings" method: When people that understand each other speak with each other, it's in English so everyone watching can understand it. When a character is talking to someone that doesn't speak their language, then it's time to have everyone speak in their actual tongue so there's a sense of a language barrier. I also have an extensive glossary for Star Army of Yamatai terminology, which includes a lot of Japanese words, on the wiki, which allows us to kind of pepper some military "slang" into our posts like "Ryokai!" (Roger!).

    @Iversia How are your ciphers implemented, technically speaking? That sounds like something useful for my RP.
    Last edited: May 12, 2016
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