Text Based Online Games – English As a Second Language and RPG Games

One feature of text based online games is the chance to meet many people from around the world and to form friendships, bonds, and even to learn more about your own culture through another player. Yet one of the most striking lessons one can learn is that the textual RPG game is a place where one can learn English as a second language. Since British English is often the main language of choice for RPG games, players will find themselves interacting with native and non-native English speakers.

Like many Americans who play textual RPG games, I am constantly surprised to meet others in games who demonstrate a high ability to speak, to write, and to express their intentions so well. Of course, for those who write or speak English as a second language (and sometimes a third or fourth), RPG textual games are a perfect space for players to create characters and practice language skills. In all, the textual RPG game becomes a worldwide community that bridges cultures, and allows players to interact and to learn more about various elements in and out of game through written expression.

As some new users will discover, online RPG games are populated by players who often help another non-native English speaker with his or her language skills. Many player run organizations have guides and mentors. If the player tells his or her guide or mentor that English is not the first language spoken the mentor will make it known to others to help the non-native speaker with language skills. What remains amazing is the willingness established players have to assist others to make the game an enjoyable diversion and to help players learn more about the language written (or spoken) in game as well as the game culture.

While some who read this may be timid to try an online RPG game because of English being the choice language, they will find that many clans and private clans are created by other users in games where they can speak native languages too. While English remains official languages in most MUDs, it does not prevent clans from setting rules to where other languages are spoken. So, players will find that they are never truly alone because there is always someone in game who speaks one or more languages besides English. Furthermore, some mentors and guides are fluent in two or three other languages and are willing to bridge the language gap. Plus, if they make friends with someone who speaks a language they may not know- all the mentor has to do is ask other characters who may speak the common language and the online game becomes personal and enjoyable.

While serving as a house mentor, I have often discovered that my own language skills in French, Spanish, and Italian have improved if I meet a character in game who speaks one of those languages as a first language. In private conversations (often referred to as TELLS in game) we will help one another bridge misunderstandings and even correct one another. Either way, it is a win-win situation because the learning process never ends. The player improves his or her English skills and I improve my skills in other languages.

I know that many who read this speak English as a first language and may be shy about trying an online text game after reading this essay. However, you should not fear it. Even if you are a native English speaker and you feel that your writing is, either bad, or that you do not express yourself well in text, there are many in game that will assist another. So many players come from various walks of life that you often find players ranging from teenagers to doctors, lawyers, engineers, information technology and other professions play the games as well for fun. They are willing to extend a hand with proofreading, writing skills, and even referring you to others who can help with certain in game topics. Language can cross barriers, help forge friendships and even teach us about one another. This is one element that textual RPGs have that many graphical games do not- and that is a feeling of community, friendship and assistance. So many graphical games rely on various servers so some players never leave the confines of a server that is a single language focus. If a player dares to enter the world of text based online games, he or she may discover that language skills in English will improve, and he or she will even help native speakers improve skills too.