Friday, June 4, 2010

Je Ne Detruis Pas Le Bugbear

Ok, in my post yesterday I suggested D&D would be an ideal tool for learning new languages. I'm going to try it...

I'll DM myself. We'll go on the "if you can say it, you can do it" rule...

DM: Ok, who are you?

Z: Je suis un...(Fuck. All I know is "rogue"--I'm assuming the word "rogue" is French--and wizard--"Sorciere". But then, if I'm male is it "sorcier"? In order to make it easy on myself I'll be female...)...Je suis une sorciere. Aussi, je suis...(I can't say "elf" or "dwarf" in French. I think "human" is "humaine". Or I could do "un demi-orc" but that's kind of cheating.)...Je suis une humaine avec une (Level? How do you say "level"?)...non, je suis un nouveau caractere. Je m'apelle Contessa Allegra Bardot.

("I am a wizard. Also, I am human. I am a new character. My name is..." Jesus, I sound like Sesame Street.)

DM: Ok, there's a bugbear, what do you do?

Z: Je...("Cast"? Don't know "cast". I "hit"? Don't know "hit". Detruis or something like that is destroy, but then if I go "I destroy the bugbear"--let's leave aside the fact that I don't know if I can say "le bugbear"--then the DM would go "With what?". Fuck. "Avec une langouste"?--"with a spiny lobster", but:

1-Why would I have a lobster?

...and, perhaps more importantly...

2-How do you destroy a bugbear with a lobster?

With what, then? "Avec un epee" is with a sword, but that makes no sense since Je suis une sorciere. Fuck, if only I knew "fighter" I'd be home free. Fuck. Avec un...pamplemousse? Un parapluie? Un fromage? Great. A grapefruit, an umbrella, or a cheese. Why do I only know Monty Python French. Jesus. Hitting things seems like a wash, here...

I just remembered "level", it's "niveau", anyway...

"I run away"--Only I don't know how to say "run". Or "avoid" or "dodge". I think I can say "I go"--Je vais. Je vais au bibliotheque. "I go to the library.")

(I will now google the phrase.)

DM: Sorry, that should be "je vais a la bibliotheque" so you fail, plus, y'know, unless you say you're "running", then I assume normal land speed. Either way the bugbear hits you and since you are une sorciere avec seulement un niveau you are mort.

Z: Merde.

DM: Try again demain.

Ok, so I suppose what I would do now is go find a translation of Fafhrd And The Grey Mouser stories into Francais and try to read for a while then try again.

And thank god D&D is all present-tense.


  1. Do you need a translation for the words like rogue and else ?

  2. You mean in the theoretical game? You need a translation for all the words.

    In the blog post? That's easy, I just ask Mandy.

  3. Yep, you'll need to play it all in french.

    When i was playing, the DM's Handbook were in English and the player's handbook in french, and some scenarios were in French and other in english, so somtimes some terms like "Rogue" were hard to understand correctly, it's "Rôdeur" in French, "to cast a spell" => "Jeter un sort", so it was hard sometimes to not being confused

  4. lol!

    Though if Mandy (or whoever else does speak french) d DM in french only; Im sure the first session woulod be like this, but by the 3rd you ll actually be a lot better!
    And thats the point here, no :)

  5. That was cool. Taking a page from the Eddie Izzard school of DMing...

    Je jetai un boule de feu! Dix huit? Un frappe! Mais ou est le singe...?

    By the way, did you find a good games store?

  6. Another gotcha: unless you know how to say D&D, then you're probably playing "Rose Bleu" by default ...

  7. @biopunk
    game store? no.

    I am spared that, since I can say "Epees et sorcellerie"

  8. I've been trying to find a group of people who play games and speak or are interested in learning Japanese to run an L5R or Bushido game in that language for a while. Not only would it be thematic and immersive, but it presents an coherent opportunity to practice all the varying levels of formality and politeness that exist in Japanese, which is one of the hardest aspects to master and to practice.

  9. Could you obtain a French translation of the core rulebooks somewhere? It may help (and provide you with the needed vocab.).

  10. I tried playing but I got as far as "My name is Mordicai, I am a Red."

    Why oh why can't I pronounce "Rouge" correctly!?

  11. That was hilarious.
    Now the image of someone destroying a bugbear with a lobster is stuck in my mind...

  12. I agree with bipounk, that was very Izzardish, but it also made me think of this:

  13. @Nicolas
    «Rôdeur» is actually ranger, not rogue. Rogue is actually quite hard to translate because there is no french equivalent. But we usually just go with «Voleur» (Thief), even if most DnD veteran will agree that a rogue is more than just a thief...

    You beat me to it, was gonna post that ;)

  14. I'd love to see it done in Japanese. At probably could've pulled it off at one time.

    French? No. French is evil.

  15. Well, maybe D&D is all present tense, but one of the coolest things I ever read was in one of the Dying Earth RPG supplements.

    Now, DE was full of things that looked great on paper but were unplayable, or at least are unplayable with the kinds of players my group is, who aren't really into reading and thinking and witty repartee when they can SMASH IT. And this is certainly one of them:

    There was some kind of steed that would take you where you wanted to go, and do what you wanted it to do along the way, if and only if you commanded it by describing the successful outcome of the action in heroic-flavored third-person past-tense.

    That is: "The Noble Steed Rudigar boldly ascended the treacherous hillside, stepping nimbly across the skittering talus, to arrive at the hill's crest, where he quaffed a much-needed barrel of beer."

    I always WANTED to play with that, but my players would have castrated me.

  16. Playing in another language is a good way to practice the language, but it comes with a few problems to me. The first being that you need to have at least a basic familiarity with the language, otherwise you're just hoping you're going to be able to stumble upon a word that is somewhat applicable.
    The second is that, if you're going to use a fantasy-type setting, you're going to end up knowing a lot of the applicable jargon, but without it having a lot of real-world use. It's all well and good knowing what a bugbear is in French, if you're trying to rent a car. For the record, I consider myself to be fluent in French, but I can't think of a translation for bugbear.

    That said, roleplaying in another language is a great way to master a language. Because we use English books, we've come to use the language as shorthand for in-character. That is to say, all the natter is in Dutch (oftentimes with English terms thrown in), but the actual interaction between the characters and each other or NPC's, is done in English.
    I've considered replacing foreign languages in game with real languages (so that goblin becomes German, for example, and elven French) for some time (inspired by a LARP I took part in), but eventually decided not to, as I don't know enough langauges to hold a more-or-less understandable conversation in.

    I'm curious to see how further experimentation turns out.

  17. My French is rusty, but I do remember when I encountered the word "cauchemar" for the first time in a (French language)book. I requested assistance from my grandmother and the translation she gave for it was "bugbear".
    Bugbear = old-fashioned term for nightmare, therefore:
    Bugbear = cauchemar.

    Google translate disagrees:
    "bugbear" = "epouvantail" (pretend there is an acute accent over the "e" - I am typing on a mobile!) Which translates back as "scarecrow", "bugbear", "threader" and "tatterdemalion".

    So WTF is a threader???

  18. Warhamster is reminding me that I actually do use foreign languages for racial languages, mostly written stuff, as spit out by AltaVista BabelFish.

    My girlfriend is French, and back in our longest-running D&D game, she was the only half-orc. Hence, in that campaign I stipulated: Orcs speak French. And love stinky cheese, etc., etc. Got a lot of mileage from that.

    But more generally my function is:
    * Dutch (Halflings)
    * German (Dwarves)
    * Italian (High Elves)
    * Portugese (Sea Elves, etc.)
    * Spanish (Wood Elves, etc.)
    * Russian (Goblins, Orcs, etc.)

  19. Je suis un Voleur et un Sorcier. Je suis un Humain. Je m'apelle Contessa Allegra Bardot.
    But then your character is in fact a female, if you are a Countess, isn't she?

    Bugbear could be "Croquemitaine". But the first French translation of D&D used the very odd "Goblours" (mixing Goblin and Ours). That sounds like a Owlbear...

  20. Hello. Some notes from someone who makes a living translating D&D into French.

    - Rogue is "roublard" in D&D 3e (and, I think, AD&D 2), but "voleur" in D&D 4e. The world "rogue" exist in French, but barely, and it doesn't mean anything close to rogue in English.

    - A wizard is a "magicien" (ou "magicienne"). A "sorcier" (ou "sorcière") is actually a warlock (from the 3.5e Complete Arcane or the 4e PH). And a sorcerer is a "ensorceleur" (ou "ensorceleuse").

    - Bugbear's official translation is gobelours ("gobelin-ours", or goblin-bear).

    - Orc is "orque" and not "orc". (But it is "orc" in Warhammer FRP !)

    - "Je suis un nouveau caractère" means something closer to "I am a new temper" ... You should say : "Je suis un nouveau personnage".

    - Contessa is Italian ! In France, the caracter would be a "comtesse" (no capital). Of course, maybe this is an Italian contessa that happens to speak French :)

    And you'd say "Je m'appelle Allegra Bardot" ou "Je suis la comtesse Allegra Bardot", but I'm nitpicking.

    Thanks for the great post. Very funny :)

  21. Phersv: an owlbear is an "ours-hibou".

  22. @olivier
    I know Contessa is Italian--I just wanted to make her french/italian like Contessa Allegra Fontaine from the Nick Fury comics

  23. I find interesting the fact that since Dungeon was translated as Donjon in French editions adventures tended to take place in above-ground castle complexes (since a donjon is a keep) rather than in the more traditional underground complex. Translation inevitably changes things, if only slightly.

  24. @Ovrad > my bad, i messed up with the terms.

    Still other comments agree with the translation problems english => french and it's not quite clear (And bugbear was Gobelours when i played).

  25. This would be a great way to teach or practice, provided you had a DM that knew the language. Which you do, of course.

    In my case, I'm wondering if treating the language (I'd prefer to learn Spanish) as a separate in-world language would be better. As in, a dungeon full of traps requiring speech puzzles to disarm them, or guardians that can be talked out of attacking.

  26. @Tom Fitzgerald: I DID NOT KNOW THAT. That is super interesting.