Working in two languages at once
They say it’s an English-speaking world. Working in another language can be awkward and challenging, but it has a surprising number of positive side effects.
As a team mostly from Québec, this means we all learned French as a first language, and we have at heart to make a product that will be available to French speakers. But we also knew if we wanted to reach a bigger audience, we’d have to make it available in English.
We could have chosen the easy way and stayed with French, but to be honest, we don’t like simple things. So we decided to challenge ourselves.
For a time, we were putting a lot of work into both English and French translations, simultaneously. Of course, we still put in a lot of time and effort into them but interestingly the English version was the one most often used by our fans. The vast majority of the copies of our game that were downloaded were not in French. And since we work constantly on the rulebook and make balance changes quite often, working on both versions simultaneously was too much for a small team of 5-6 like ours. Just remember, one small change always requires twice the amount of work! This is why we determined it would be simpler for us to release our Alpha edition in English first, and then to translate it in French.
So don't be alarmed! The French translation is extremely significant to us, and we will make it available alongside the English version. However, for the time being, the regular updates will remain in English, as keeping everything updated in the French translation simply requires too much energy and time.
Why is the French version important to us? The relevance of French cannot be ignored because it is spoken by more than 300 million people worldwide. In addition to the English language, French is the most widely spoken language in the world. It is the second most frequently taught foreign language after English, and the ninth most frequently spoken language in the world.
TL;DR: A lot of people speak French. Most specifically, we — as French Canadians — think it’s really important to offer products in the language we grew up with. We are surrounded by English in Canada and worldwide. Having access to entertainment that allows us to connect, extend our social circle and share fun times with friends is so valuable — it’s priceless.
In various studies, subjects report that tabletop role-playing games have helped them maintain friendships and strong relationships*. By playing together, people are simply spending more time interacting in some way. It gives a sense of belonging in a community, too — which so many are starving for, especially in these hard times.
Growing up, we never got to play games in our own language. Our favorite TTRPGs never were translated in French or if they were, they were really hard to come by. We always wished that there were a higher number of French video games and products available during our youth.
Our team members are lucky to be able to communicate and understand English, but not everyone has the same fluency in several languages. We got to learn it when we were young because we were so eager to understand all the stories our favorite video games and books had to tell.
But sometimes, when we interact with people in a language that is not our native tongue, as for interviews or with our fans, we have to translate everything in our head first. And with stress, we often forget words, or we fail the ability to deliver a good punchline, which is heartbreaking since we are hilarious (Sadly I do not have any evidence to back up my claims here, but I assure you, we are funny as hell).
Personally, English always sounds far smarter in my head than when it comes out of my mouth. I often forget words, make grammatical slips, and miss the usual precision of my native French. It feels like trying to eat soup with a fork. As I write this, I have a dictionary open in front of me because I have learned to mistrust my ideas about what some words mean.
Funny enough, in our notes and personal documents, we find a mix of both French and English, because we live in a culture of Frenglish (which doesn’t make any sense in either French or English, really). English and French are two distinct languages — there's no denying it. However, the majority of people tend to mix. Some words, for example, come to mind more easily in one language than another. Sometimes, this is done out of simple reflexes. Certain English terms are so common, especially in movies, media, book titles, and road signs, that we have become accustomed to using them regardless of which language we speak. This language has adopted a new term: Frenglish (or Franglais, in French - yes we translated that too).
But in the end, English has a more global reach than French, and since tabletop gaming is all about uniting people, we decided to offer multiple versions. We sincerely wish, no matter the language you speak, that you have fun playing our game. And that you get to share this fun with the people you care about. Hopefully, one day, we’ll be able to offer even more versions in other languages, so we can reach even more people.
Tips and tricks for people who play in their second language:
If your first language isn’t the language you play in and you’re not really familiar with it, why not say your character doesn’t speak Common really well? Say, you’re used to speaking Spanish, that your game is played in English and that your character is an Elf: speak Spanish and pretend your character is speaking Elvish! This can add a few funny moments around the table while making you feel more comfortable! And who knows? Maybe your friends will learn a few things in Spanish while you get better at English at the same time!
Okay, well we only had one tip, but we’ll have more in the future!
* Adams, A.S. (2013). “Needs met through role-playing games: A Fantasy theme analysis of Dungeons & Dragons.” Kaleidoscope: A Graduate Journal of Qualitative Communication Research, 12(6), 69-86; Daniau, S. (2016). “The transformative potential of role-playing games—: From play skills to human skills.” Simulation & Gaming, 47(4), 423-444; Lieberoth, A., & Trier-Knudsen, J. (2016). “Psychological effects of fantasy games on their players: A discourse-based look at the evidence.” In B. Andrew & F. Crocco (Eds.), The Role-Playing Society: Essays on the Cultural Influence of RPGs. McFarland & Company; Sargent, M.S. (2014). Exploring mental dungeons and slaying psychic dragons: An exploratory study. (Master’s thesis, Smith College).