Fandoms, Characters, Languages, and Literacy part 1

I understand that everyone speaks the same language in video games for obvious gameplay reasons but for some games it makes zero sense. Looking at you, Fire Emblem! There is no fucking way that kingdoms historically at war with each other spoke the same language. Look at European history!

Like I said I know that for gameplay/accessibility reasons everyone speaks the same language, but you will never convince me that Hoshidans and Nohrians don’t speak very different languages. Same for Ylisse and Plegia. And while it would make great political intrigues shit, it is not the aim of the games but as a language nerd and trained translator it frustrates me a lot.

inb4 “Nyx get a job”

It frustrates me precisely because a different language is not just different words for things! A different language is a different way to perceive and understand the world! There is history and culture in language! Words don’t exist in a vacuum!

This is also why my Shura is a polyglot since the magatama demonification. There are demons from all over in Nocturne! Don’t try to tell me they all speak Standard Tokyo Japanese! Nocturne also has an often forgotten, seldom-used skill called “Jive Talk” (yes I know) that allows you to speak to demons that the Demi-Fiend normally cannot communicate with because he doesn’t understand what they’re saying and they don’t understand what the Demi-Fiend is saying. It’s mostly for demons that speak more “primitively”, but even there, just by its presence, it implies that not all demons speak the same language, and it makes the language nerd in me very happy that it is acknowledged by a skill in the Demi-Fiend’s pool

I am also pretty sure that it’s mentioned in-game that the 3DS consoles in DeSu and the arm terminals or gauntlets in the mainline translate demon speak for humans.

My friend Ally pointed out that FE could be using magic to allow different kingdoms to understand each other, but I think it wouldn’t work, because 1. not everyone in FE is magically gifted and 2. would that be a continental spell? Who would cast and maintain it?

Also Archduke Izana of Izumo totally speaks both Nohrian and Hoshidan and you cannot convince me otherwise because Izumo is the Canada of Fates.

Going back to Nocturne again, Hikawa is probably also pretty gifted language-wise: he’s a high-ranking Gaean, he reads and understands the scripture of Miroku, but most importantly, he hooks up an Amala Drum/Terminal to a computer system that deciphers and activates it, which is most likely a program of his own creation (he’s Chief Technical Director of Cybers for a reason), and that is what allows him to even begin plotting the rebirth of the world as a Shijima world.

So yeah. I love me multilingual characters, and I wish they would show more into games, and not just as Fridge Logic Multilingual.

1 Comment

  1. Holy shit I know. It’s… super easy to tell when a multilingual character is written by a monolingual person (and when a fantasy story in general is written by a monolingual person).

    I wish the fact that different fictional cultures must have different languages was taken more into account by writers, but I can see that it would be very hard to convey in a compelling way when the languages themselves are fictional. Barred having to design whole fictional languages for the characters to speak (and in that case you’d hit the problem of having to design the culture in detail enough to understand their language and this is something that I am not even sure CAN be written by one single human being), you’d necessarily have to consider the story “dubbed” for the benefit of readers – and in that case, it would end up being dubbed in one language only, so you’re back to the start. You could have characters not understand each other, but that would only work in media that has a narrator – you can’t have the characters of a dialogue-only story speak to each other in dub-English and not understand each other.

    In fiction which has Earth-languages, you could play with a story being written in two languages at the same time, but that would restrict your audience to the intersection of speakers of both, and I can see how that might not be in every writer’s best interest. Otherwise, having characters speak several languages in media too often leads to the bullshit approach of having the one character that’s not speaking the default language of the story just have an accent and pepper their speech with words in their first language – which is a trope that I want to see die in a fire.

    But to add to your point about demons not speaking all the same language, omg I’m dying for media in which immortals of different ages and different personal inclinations speak differently from each other. It would have to be true! I can see how some immortals would “update” themselves to speak a more current language, but there have to be some that prefer to speak a more old-fashioned version or even obsolete version of the language that humans would speak. This is even something that you could “dub” as having the characters speak in a slightly ancient version of, say, English, but I see it done so little anyway!
    (I’m writing something that tackles this on the side of the plot, but I want to read other people’s better takes goddamnit!)

    The stuff that pisses me off the most is when a character is revealed to be able to easily speak a dead language. How the fucking hell could they SPEAK a dead language. By the time that a language has no native speakers, anyone learning it from books and stuff wouldn’t be able to speak it as it was spoken back then. Language is specific of a point in time, so even if someone has studied, say, Latin, they couldn’t just go back to a random point in ancient Rome and be able to speak their language, because the Latin learned by someone when it’s a dead language would include words from many different centuries and would really be a digest of a language’s evolution and AARGGGHHHHH

    Long story short: me too Nyx, me too.

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