Paeroka is not a native to the English language, although you’d never know it from reading the blog she and her boyfriend writes: Nerdy Bookahs. I’ll let her introduce the assignment I laid out for her.
Syp gave me the assignment to write about the challenges and observations being a non-native English speaker in mostly English-speaking MMOs. There’s a problem right here, though: With the exception of LotRO, I’ve never actually played MMOs in an English-speaking environment. I do, however, play all my MMOs with the English client if it’s possible… which is a topic of its own considering that most other German players use a German client. Trying to figure out if you have the same quests than the other player isn’t too easy. 😉
I remember a conversation with some US American WoW players who were very surprised to hear that there are actually European servers. And that when you buy a WoW key here in Europe, it won’t work on the US servers. We are separated. And within Europe, you usually have several different languages to choose from. The standard are English, French and German servers/clients. Sometimes you find Spanish or Russian ones (Warhammer Online also had Italian servers). Those servers are usually inhabited by players who speak the language natively with the exception of the English servers. The English ones are for everybody but the language spoken in public channels or when grouping randomly should be English.
To get a bit further away from MMOs for a minute and more into Europe: 50 countries with a population of about 730 million people. Only counting the official languages within the European Union, you get 23 languages (and 27 countries).
Let’s have a look at some German culture which is my own cultural background: We get all of our films and TV series dubbed. If we want to see something with the original voices, we have to get the DVDs (which usually have both languages on them). Several other European countries have some form of dubbing as well. In our everyday lives, the average German does not need English. My mother worked as a saleswoman in a big department store and she only ever needed English when a costumer didn’t know German. And that didn’t happen often as the town isn’t one to attract tourists. We (in general) do know basic English as we have to learn it in school. But since we don’t actually need to use it in our lives, we don’t get much practice and without such practice, you forget what you’ve learned quite fast. There are exceptions, of course. In my case, apart from loving the English language, I also needed it for studying. About 80 – 90% of the literature is in English including scientific papers. There’s no way I could have graduated without knowing English. I also love using the English game clients because it gives me practice in reading and understanding English.
In short: There are many Europeans who know at least some English but not everybody is fluent.
Back to MMOs: Most of the French and German players are usually on their own language servers, generally playing with their own localized client in their language where they don’t meet English-speaking players.
Now what is it like playing on an English-speaking server when your mother tongue isn’t English? In the case of Europe, it’s actually not that big of a deal! 🙂 Hardly anybody I know is a native speaker, so there is no reason to feel ashamed for not knowing English perfectly. And usually, there is also no bashing of people from other countries. The only time this “peace” is broken is when somebody uses a language other than English in the public chat channels. If it’s a guild recruitment, it’s usually okay (if you can tell that it’s just a guild recruitment in another language). But if it’s people starting to communicate in a foreign language, then the flame war often isn’t far away. Players get out their worst stereotypes and prejudices and start throwing insults around. The worst I have ever seen was on the European test server for World of Warcraft (the infamous “N”-word was thrown around for those who dared writing in German). I always find those fights annoying and fascinating at the same time. Here we are, with all our different languages and our difficulties speaking and writing English… but cursing and flaming is never a problem. 😉 On the other hand, I guess it just shows that we actually do want to understand each other! Even if we don’t want to join the conversation, we are curious what it’s about and we don’t want to feel left out.
However, when you look closer, you can see that there are guilds and kinships recruiting people specifically with a certain mother-tongue (if you’re curious, have a look at the Evernight server’s kinship listing). My former LotRO kin, on the other hand, is a multi-cultural kin but there is also apparently an Italian “subgroup” within the kinship that keeps to themselves and up until the day I left this kin, I had no idea who they were or that they even existed (I only know because a friend told me).
I’d imagine language barriers aren’t such a big deal when you play mostly solo but it is much more important when you want to raid or PvP with other players. In situations where you have to react fast and may need to tell your fellow group members that something just went wrong, there’s simply no time to get your dictionary out. 😉
My boyfriend and I spent quite some time discussing the pros and cons of a German-speaking vs. European (and thus, English-speaking) guild for the upcoming Guild Wars 2 but in the end, we have decided to go for the English-speaking one. We might have some obstacles to pass with the language barriers but we can only profit in the long run: brushing up your English skills is never bad, I reckon. ^^ The longer we’re using English (in reading and writing) the easier it gets and the smaller the language barrier will get. And getting to know people from different countries can’t be bad either.
All in all, I enjoy spending time with my fellow European players and it makes Europe feel a bit smaller.