Tag Archives: Languages

Introducing LinguaHorizons

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Language learning can be a pleasant, if occasionally frustrating endeavour but it need not be costly. From educational podcasts to YouTube channels, from blogs to social media accounts, there is a world of free (or affordable) language learning resources if you know where to look.

I created LinguaHorizons with a few simple goals in mind: to help language lovers on a tight budget track down quality learning materials, to dispense language learning advice to aspiring polyglots, and to document my own language learning successes and misadventures.

Visit the LinguaHorizons site today to get started on your own language learning odyssey!

Say it in Dutch – Podcast in Slow Dutch

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One of my long-term goals is to get my Dutch up to the C2 CEFR level, so I’m always seeking out podcasts and other affordable resources to help me improve my listening comprehension skills. That’s how I stumbled upon the Say it in Dutch podcast, a Dutch-language podcast series run by a language school based in Groningen.

Each episode runs for an average of 20-25 minutes and covers a wide range of topics, including the Eurovision Song Contest, sports, seasonal traditions, national politics, Dutch art, and the anti-vax movement. What sets this podcast apart is its use of clips from other Dutch-language media (including news reports and TV dramas), its focus on current affairs and culture, and the fact that each episode is entirely in Dutch, albeit delivered at a clearer, slower pace.

All new words, idioms, expressions, and cultural titbits are explained in Dutch, so this podcast is not ideal for beginners but rather is aimed at those who have mastered the language to at least the B1 CEFR level. Episode transcripts exist but these must be purchased from their store, starting from € 3.75 per transcript.

Take your Nederlands to the next level by checking out the Say it in Dutch SoundCloud account, visiting the Say it in Dutch Idioms blog, or following them on Twitter.

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This article was originally published on LinguaHorizons. If you would like to hire me to write for your site or blog, please contact me for a free, no-obligation quote. All enquiries will be dealt with within 48 hours. 

Designing A Lost Language For ‘Heaven’s Vault’ (EGX 2019)

Heaven's Vault artwork

Narrative Designer Jon Ingold recently attended EGX 2019 to promote Inkle’s upcoming archaeological narrative adventure game Heaven’s Vault and talk about the game’s fictional lost language.

Over the course of the forty-minute Rezzed Sessions presentation, Ingold talked about the lengthy process of designing the game’s unique gameplay mechanic and the various challenges of creating a whole new hieroglyphic language for gamers to decipher.

 

If you’re interested to learn more about the development process, I recommend watching the entire video. But if you’re short on time or just want to know the gist of it, here’s a brief summary:

  • Inkle began brainstorming their then-untitled “space archaeology” game in late 2014 and drew on other archaeo-adventure franchises, such as Stargate and the Indiana Jones films, for inspiration.
  • The developers decided to make language decipherment a gameplay feature in their new game. Ingold briefly touched upon the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs and the as-yet undeciphered Rongorongo script of Rapa Nui (Easter Island).
  • Inkle wanted to make a game that felt like learning how to read a new language. The first prototype translation system from early 2015 used the Roman alphabet, while the second prototype made use of symbols instead.
  • Ingold’s was initially gutted when he saw that Lara Croft would be able to decipher ancient texts in the then-upcoming Rise of the Tomb Raider (2015). He felt that there was no way Inkle’s game could compete against a Triple-A title. But he soon realised that Tomb Raider’s approach was entirely different to Inkle’s and went back to redesigning his game’s language mechanic.
  • The next prototype used a combination of words and symbols and introduced a “fatigue” meter to stop gamers from solving the language puzzles by brute force.
  • He and the team then started thinking about grammar and building an “interesting and complicated” grammar for their language. They started adding bits of dialogue to tell gamers about the objects they are looking at, adding context that could aid them with their translations. Ingold mentioned that this stage of development wasn’t much fun and that he had even started looking for other jobs within the gaming industry.
  • Determined to make some progress, Ingold went back to researching ancient languages. His next prototype included a set dictionary of words and introduced a new piece of gameplay: working out where the words were in a compound string and building up a dictionary through trial and error.
  • The next stage was to design the language. By this stage in the game’s development, the language was designed in a way that would allow gamers to create compound words from existing words and apply newly-discovered words in other future contexts.
  • By December 2015, the team finally had a prototype they were pleased with, one which used runes instead of letters and allowed them to build up a dictionary over time. The final version, which was the one used in the game, worked the same way, albeit with glyph symbols.
  • From there, the remainder of the project was focused on building up the fictional language’s dictionary and making it “look pretty”. By the end, the team had over 3,000 words in their dictionary, which was enough to translate anything in Heaven’s Vault.
  • The game’s language has a well-defined grammar, which includes a specific verb order, an abstract number system, and rules about prepositions. Ingold mentions that these “are not English rules but the English structure is roughly the spine of the thing”. The script itself was partly inspired by Chinese and designed by Inkle co-founder Joe Humphrey. Sadly, there are no plans at present to localise the game for other regions.

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Heaven’s Vault is now available for PC and PS4. For more information about this fascinating game, visit the Inkle site or follow the official Heaven’s Vault Twitter account.

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This article was originally published on LinguaHorizons. If you would like to hire me to write for your site or blog, please contact me for a free, no-obligation quote. All enquiries will be dealt with within 48 hours.