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The Language barrier


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51 replies to this topic

#1
Kaftan Barlast

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After much test playing and GMing english RPGs I have realised that playing these games in Swedish severly limits the experience. Now youre thinking that its a question of us not being able to understand the rules etc. but it isnt. The thing is that:


It is impossible to convey certain moods and emotions with cerdibility in our language. It just cant be done.


Its most noticeable in Star Wars, even a basic thing like "use the force" will translate to something along the lines of "make use of the (slang for 'hydroelectric powerplant') / mechanical force that can be expressed in newton metres etc." it just sounds stupid.


Our language has two modes, casual and Ingemar Bergman. Neither of them is fit for roleplaying.

#2
Spider

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For me the problem is much larger in sci fi RPGs (and to some defree contemporary ones).

In fantasy it's non-existant for me and in sci fi stuff using some english phrases here and there makes a lot of sense given that people do that in everyday life at this age.

However, I think the main problem is one of familiarity. To us English is a little more exotic, the words sound cooler. It has nothing to do with them actually being cooler, it's just that to our ears they sound that way. Much like the way Norwegians describe the Swedish language as being melodic in nature, something I don't think many Swedes will agree with.

#3
Walsingham

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Well, you North Europeans have the edge in Engineering. So cry me a river.

#4
Diamond

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This problem exists not only in PnP games, but with games and movies in general.
Translations of terms specific to some game/movie universe can sound incredibly awkard because the way of thinking in original language is different.

This is especially the case with low quality "unofficial" pirate translations (people who do that must be impaled :- ).

Edited by Diamond, 22 November 2005 - 02:49 AM.


#5
metadigital

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Are you saying that the English words are not used, if there is no equivalent translation?

*supercilious "my native language is superior to your native language" tone* How quisquous!

I can understand the uptight French battening down their slowly-antiquating brogue, but I thought the Nordics were a little less anally retentive, linguistically speaking.

After all, there's nothing I like better than a good German compound noun: it is integral to my Weltanschauung ...


:-"

#6
Kaftan Barlast

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The issue is not that we have no translation for certain words, the problem is that the Swedish language is unable to convey the mood and emotion in a suspension-of-disbelief manner.


We have actually taken the silly habit of saying certain things in english but it sounds ridiculous.

#7
Vashanti

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I love to hear European girls speak English.

Can I sit in on one of your gaming sessions?

#8
metadigital

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I love to hear European girls speak.

#9
Kaftan Barlast

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I like girls.

#10
metadigital

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I like traffic lights.

#11
Vashanti

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But only when they're green.

#12
Cantousent

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English simply has more words. A lot more words. The language is word heavy. If I weren't so tired, I'd come up with a haiku or some such to bring the point home.

#13
Child of Flame

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English word heavy
Conglomeration like lead
Very hard to learn

#14
metadigital

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English loves her words
Swallow whole, ingest, digest,
But never excrete.

#15
Diamond

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Are you saying that the English words are not used, if there is no equivalent translation?

*supercilious "my native language is superior to your native language" tone*  How quisquous!

The same holds the other way around, though. :thumbsup:

#16
Jediphile

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After much test playing and GMing english RPGs I have realised that playing these games in Swedish severly limits the experience. Now youre thinking that its a question of us not being able to understand the rules etc. but it isnt. The thing is that:

It is impossible to convey certain moods and emotions with cerdibility in our language. It just cant be done.

Its most noticeable in Star Wars, even a basic thing like "use the force" will translate to something along the lines of  "make use of the (slang for 'hydroelectric powerplant') / mechanical force that can be expressed in newton metres etc." it just sounds stupid.

Our language has two modes, casual and Ingemar Bergman. Neither of them is fit for roleplaying.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


:D

I know this particular problem rather well, but I don't think the problem is that norse languages cannot express the mood that you're looking for so much as that we have been "americanized" or at least "angloized" to the point where we just say a lot of things in english because that's what we hear in the news and in the movies.

For those who don't know, I should hasten to point out that in the scandinavian countries the movies aren't shown in the native language of the country, but rather in the original with subtitles, even the Harry Potter movies. Well, they did release at least of the Harry Potter dvds in these languages, but I don't know if they're any good, because I really can't bring myself to listen to it, as I'll want to hear the english original even the tenth time over hearing the version in my own language for the first time... Same goes with the novels btw - Harry Potter is published in those languages, of course, but I read the english originals over those every time (they are released sooner and they're cheaper too...).

The point to all this is that in scandinavians are used to hearing the english original and not a translation in their own language. You point out Star Wars, which is a good example - "Use the Force, Luke!" is far more recognizable than the alternative translation, especially since those translations aren't always consistent and so change from one incarnation to the next.

It's true for other games as well. I played in a Trek RPG a few years ago, where the GM decided up front to keep all the classic terms in english because he felt they were inseparable to the point of being impossible to translate, since scandinavians watch any and all Trek in english and often without subtitles because they're frequently available only through imported video or similar. I really couldn't imagine Captain Picard introducing himself in swedish, and I honestly find the idea a little scary, if you'll forgive me... Add to that the joys of translating Trek's technobabble and you'll soon be pulling hairs out of your head in frustration. I mean, how would you translate "Warp Core", "Starboard Nacelle", or "Saucer Section" into swedish? And who would even know what you're talking about? :blink:

Another thing is the fact that some many english words have found their way into other languages. Words like "computer", "keyboard", "weekend" and hosts of others have no translation and are accepted as such in many languages (with french as a notable exception).

And I find that english is frequently "richer" in its vocabulary than a lot of other languages, so there are just no words to substitute the english original or else they become complex and cumbersome to the point of being rediculous.

In role-playing this often means that gaming sessions becomes of mish-mash of the native language and english, both because only english has the exact word that describes what you're talking about and because all the rulebooks are in english, which therefore has the exact terminology. The most frequently used english words in my D&D sessions would be "spells" and "level", and that's probably true in many other campaigns.

#17
metadigital

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It is possible to create alternate new words for other languages; the Alliance Franaise is one such organisation dedicated to defending the French linguistic territorial assets from the English barbarians. I've also read new latin dictionaries made for the twentieth century, that incorporate tokens for the newer technological and medical discoveries and inventions.

English is the (current) choice of Science; the fact that Hollywood has such a dominant effect on the world is not coincidental to the dominance of English in the world.

Re-reading Kaftan's comment, it seems like the English word for Force has been co-opted into Swedish as a specific noun (powerplant / ergonomic expression of mass at ann acceleration), and so the translation is skewed.

The only way to counter this is to create a new word for the specific and use the general word as a collective definition, or create a new word for the general noun and hopefully it will be adopted. (It's a lot easier to adopt a word for a specific use than to try to change the habits of a large section of a population, though.)

But I wouldn't be surprised if, in the next century, we find Spanish becomes the new (US) street patois, and Chinese the new language of choice for science ...

#18
Kaftan Barlast

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As I said earlier, the problem isnt that the occasional word has a translation that doesnt hold the same "feeling" as the english word. Its our whole language that lacks feeling. Modern Swedish is a very very casual language that doesnt lend itself to American styled drama, it just sounds ridiculous.


If we do a simile(is that the word?) using photgraphy to describe the differance in the two languages. Instead of a phrase we have a scene of a hat lying on a deserted street.
  • The English photo would be taken with elaborate studio equipment, lit dramaticly and taken from a suggestive angle as to charge the picture with as much meaning as possible
  • The Swedish picture would be a quick snapshot taken head-on with the cheapest camera available.
So english lends itself very well to hi-flying drama while swedish excels at down and dirty realism. This is a disadvantage when playing games like D&D or Star Wars. If someone was to make an RPG set in an everyday office enviroment, Swedish would be the shiznit :rolleyes: ..or if it was very angsty and philosophic where the Ingemar Bergman styled swedish could be used.


Now in many ways Im wrong here. Im actually more wrong than right but this is what it feels like to me at the moment.

#19
Musopticon?

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Considering that roleplaying in no way needs to a be clinical, severe experience; if "Bergman-swedish" does provide drama and is fun, I see no reason to not use it to your advantage.

That is, if you don't mind the odd laugh in serious situations. :rolleyes:

Edited by Musopticon?, 25 November 2005 - 07:03 AM.


#20
Janmanden

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I like english, but I hate american, and I like french and german too. Swedish really makes me yawn, there is something about that language that really makes me sleepy. Norwegian sounds kinda fun. Every other language except the ones mentioned should be a banning offence.

In games I never had the luxury of hearing a danish translation, but it would totally rock. Otherwise, they exist only for small kids...




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