Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Accidental Educational Gaming

English is not my native tongue and it shows. I once might have thought that it didn't but with age comes experience and experience begets wisdom which, in turn, promotes humility. You reach a point in life when you realize there will always be more to learn and you'll never have enough time or will to know it all.

Still, my English is better than most around here and I've had more than one teacher asking me if I was sure that I had never lived in an English speaking country. In a way I had: the world of multimedia entertainment.

When I was a young girl, cartoons were rarely subbed, especially the interesting ones like Captain Planet (he'll bring pollution down to zero one day, I know it) or Thundercats. So, from a very young age, I started absorbing this strange language they used, trying to understand what they yelled as they vanquished evil or died trying. Which is only natural considering that most of the known world speaks at least two languages. Most of humanity is bilingual. Smaller comunities in remote places will speak the language dictated by their governments along with the language taught to them by their parents.

I spent a few years majoring in linguistics. If nothing else, it helped me understand that linguists aren't the old sticks in the mud people take them to be. They, more so than other breed, preach that (much like magic in Dragon Age) language exists to serve man, not rule over him. A language's first and, arguably, only purpose is to help convey information. Therefore, groups of people that need to communicate will use a language to do so and they will do it in the most economical and eficient way possible. What this means is that the linguist in me is more prone to showing the finger to so-called grammar nazis than at people who spell things incorrectly.

Getting back to the point; I remember a few epiphanies I've had while learning this bizarre non-romance language. One day, around the age of eight, I was opening the door to our building when I suddenly realized the difference between "he" and "she". That was some hurdle to overcome, let me tell you. One other time I assimilated the meaning of "on hold" while playing Command&Conquer, its subtle difference from "hold on" despite both using the exact same words. What this means is that, without any effort on my part, entertainment was teaching me. And not through any special tv show like Sesame Street or a game that said "Educational" on the cover. The simple fact they were there and that I was using them opened the door for knowledge to be imparted unto me. I guess that can happen with everything.

This process continues today. I am perfectly able to understand a game from start to finish but, through force of habit, I'll usually turn on all subtitle options. Not only are we accostumed to watching every tv show with subtitles (even if we usually don't read them) but having a written auxiliary helps with memorising the correct spelling of more unfamiliar words. This alone has cimented a few rules like the difference between "your" and "you're" or "then" and "than". They're also a good source of idioms and sometimes I'll even pause the game to digest a witty pun, ending up grinning and finger-wagging a "I see what you did there" at the screen.

This has very little to do with the point, doesn't it? Well, apart from language skills, videogames have taught me a few lessons. Mostly about the importance of friendship, the power of a selfless sacrifice and how to efficiently dispose of a zombie. Oh, and that ugly children can be dealt with by removing the doors from a small room with a fireplace and plenty of rugs. All valuable life lessons. 
I'd play that.
By the way, I hear World of Tanks is out. I wish I liked tanks and guns and stuff. I'm more of a hack and slash girl, myself. Although if I think about it, I loved Ring of Red, Front Mission 3 and Valkyria Chronicles. Hmm. I might like tanky things more than I realise.

Now excuse me while I go come up with a coherent reason as to why someone would make another kill their own parents.


  1. I think your English is very, very good. Like many North American's I only really speak one language (shame on us) but I do have a smattering of Spanish- just enough to get by and not starve in a Spanish speaking country. I'm always impressed when people can learn to speak and write English so well. It's a tough language with all sorts of crazy rules.

  2. I'm in a similar position than you. I've been told from a young age that my knowledge of english is astounding (to which I reply with a shrug, especially because I tried studying english and failed miserably), and weird enough, most of my knowledge came from watching TV. Cartoon Network to be more specific. Later I upgraded that knowledge by playing games and then reading english literature. I can only remember one specific "epiphany", which was the difference between a hot dog as an idiom and an actual dog who is feeling hot (or is on fire, as the cartoons might portray it). I absorbed a lot of german in a similar way, when TV programme was only available in my mothertongue and german for my family. Shame it wasn't enough for me to actually be able to speak the language fluently (and I never had much interest in upgrading my knowledge), but at least I can understand it adequately.

    And yeah, games haven't thought me anything practical really. At least that goes for the entertaining ones.

    PS: I'm surprised Gankalicious didn't plug WoT. :D