I am not Bilingual

This post over at Screaming Monkeys got me thinking about another problem that sometimes pops up in the world of Warcraft: players who don’t speak English…at all.

I play on a North American server. I live in the United States. English is my first (and pretty much only) language, though being a California girl I can reasonably decipher simple Spanish. I can ask where the bathroom is, and that’s about it as far as speaking goes. I will avoid citing my political views here (at the risk of pissing people off royally) and instead I’m going to share a few thoughts and encounters about non-English speaking folks in WoW.

I’m certainly aware that North America encompasses more than just English-speaking countries. Yet somehow it doesn’t occur to me regularly that people who don’t speak English (I’m looking at Mexico here, but we must also acknowledge that there are plenty of Americans and Canadians who don’t speak English either). Somehow, when I’m playing WoW, I expect everything to be in English. The game is in English. It’s created and supported by an American company. My server is an American east coast server. So when I encounter someone who doesn’t fit neatly into that little algorithm, yeah, it throws me off. Please note that I did not say “pisses me off”.

I recall a time years ago when I was running a Zul’Farrak pick-up group. I remember there was a hunter in the group who we eventually established did not (likely) speak English. It wasn’t a problem until he put on Aspect of the Pack and no amount of yelling or begging or asking sweetly could persuade him to take it off. Our conclusion was supported by the fact that he had not said one coherent word the entire instance, so if he spoke English, he was either very young or mentally retarded. This was long before the days of vote-kick and the dungeon finder, so removing a player in the midst of a dungeon in progress was troublesome. If I recall correctly, the group fell apart.

There is obviously a level of reasonable doubt here. It is entirely possible that he spoke English and just wasn’t bright enough to work cooperatively with a group. My point here is that communication is key to a successful group run, and when it’s compromised (for any reason) then serious problems can arise. You expect, reasonably, to be able to talk to your group mates and be able to convey simple ideas and commands to them. I feel that if you cannot communicate with all members of your party, something needs to change to rectify that – fast.

On the flip side, I remember being in groups with people who only spoke limited English, and we did fine. They were honest up front and said they didn’t know English, asked if any of us knew their language (Spanish, I think, which I don’t speak). It’s a little irksome, but so long as nothing goes seriously wrong, it can be worked around quite easily. So I will not attempt to suggest that non-English speakers ruin the game or cause undue problems or any of that noise. It simply isn’t true for the vast majority.

But what about when it is true? What about people who don’t speak English who find themselves in an English-speaking party unable to communicate? I’m sure it is as frustrating for them as it is for me, trying to tell them something like DON’T STAND THERE and it just isn’t getting through.

Is it in poor taste to vote-kick someone who cannot speak English? You would not hesitate to vote-kick a player who was causing other problems, I assume. If they speak English just fine but are ignoring directions and dying and causing a problem, most people who give them a shot at doing it right, then boot them. But those people speak English and supposedly are reading what you’re saying and just choosing to ignore it. What about people who are trying their best but because of a language barrier are failing and bringing the group down with them? There seems to be a thin line between what is acceptable in these situations and what is not. It’s not acceptable to shut non-English speaking players out of the game on the premise that they don’t speak “our” language, but neither is it acceptable to let one person drag a group down because of a lack of communication.

My gut reaction is that people who don’t speak English (at least those on North American servers, where the majority of players speak English) should be aware of the language barrier. Queuing for a dungeon you’ve never seen before with the added strain of not being able to communicate with your group seems to be in poor form, as it makes you a liability. On the other hand, English-speaking players should acknowledge that those who don’t speak English are not dumb or dense as a result, and unless otherwise proven, aren’t going to cause a problem.

It may help to evaluate these situations by the performance of the player, rather than the language they speak. So maybe you can’t communicate with them and everything they type is in another language you can’t understand, but if they’re doing their job and at the bare minimum not getting anyone killed…it is worth it to be tolerant and pleasant even if you don’t know how to say “thanks for running with us” in their language at the end.


End Note: Levels 40-50 of the druid guide are coming up soon.




About Sylvestris

Gamer, nerd, book worm, baker.

Posted on June 26, 2011, in Chatter, Tales and Adventures. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Ah, very well said!

    I was recently in a Slave Pens run on my lowbie prot warrior and the ret pally that was with us kept pulling aggro. I couldn’t figure why…until I realized he was running with righteous fury on. >.> I asked him to turn it off and he says “no hablo ingles.” OK…no mas righteous fury??? I’ve always wondered if the spell names are also in spanish for them. Goggle translator – you have failed me. T_T

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