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A virtual role-playing "nation" has emerged in a larger, expansive online realm. This nation is de facto bilingual in two natural languages. About half of the members (including myself) speak both languages, but the other half is effectively monolingual (they only speak one or the other language, but not both). Monolingual members report frustration, distrust, and social isolation issues when they see conversations in the other language that they do not understand.

How can these monolingual users be made to feel more welcome? In our case, simply telling them to leave or schizm is a greatly disfavored option because the community is having trouble holding on to members and actively wants to recruit. The current number of members is hovering slightly above the "critical mass" number of participants necessary to have a viable community (i.e. we can't afford to lose people for minor or fixable reasons, and splitting the community across language lines is likely to leave nonviable, dying communities). A few members are actively studying the other language, but asking others to do so is a major request for what is in actuality a small-time activity for them. Asking members to spend 5-10 hours a week drilling verbs in order to gain one extra hour of hunting for virtual treasure is a bit beyond reasonable.

We are far below the "critical mass" where more rules are necessary to preserve order. If anything, we need to be adapting to our members, not the other way around.

To some extent, automated translation services such as Google Translate help with very concrete statements, battle orders, and intelligence reports (e.g. "We have five ships.", "Attack the Blue Base.", "We need troops in Sector 1.", or "They have howitzers."), but using them is burdensome and adds quite a bit of social awkwardness that is not exactly helping build community.

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    Did you ask your users too? – Jan Doggen Aug 9 '17 at 17:03
  • @JanDoggen the users mostly want someone to do something to get others to stop being so cliquish. – Robert Columbia Aug 10 '17 at 20:27
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    Is there scope for making all signs, announcements, etc. bilingual? Then at least everyone has "official" notices in a language they can understand. – ChrisF Aug 11 '17 at 22:10
  • What's the approximate volume of monolingual activity? Are you talking about a few messages a day or hundreds? – Monica Cellio Aug 11 '17 at 22:58
  • I gave you an answer, but I would like to know the exact numbers of each of the 3 sides: bilinguals, and each of the monolingual groups. – Baskakov_Dmitriy Aug 12 '17 at 19:59
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I have been in a trilingual coalition in an online game. It consisted of three distinct clans, one Russian, one Polish, one Turkish, each had its own armory, leaders and rules (and, of course, members). But we were not all big enough to make attacks on the global map alone, so two of the clans united for each attack: one initiated it officially and spent resources, and members of the other one came to help. How did we coordinate?

  • For all communications we had a TeamSpeak server that all of the clans shared. Each clan had its own set of rooms, but we could come "visit" each other.
  • All of the official notifications were translated so everyone could understand them. We used native language+English combo.
  • When playing, commands were either given in English or echoed in English after giving them in the native language of the clan leading the attack at the moment.
  • English was spoken in a TeamSpeak room if not everyone speaks the same language, unless those who do not understand gave explicit permission AND it is not something they should know too.
  • When you just had a chat about nothing and there were members of two monolingual sides, you could translate what you say in both languages, or someone else could do it for you. This way you chat slower, but everyone is (or at least seems to be) involved.
  • I don't know how many members do you have, but it is probably a good idea to divide your clan in small groups that actually perform something on the battlefield (squads). All of the members of a squad need to have at least one language in common, and the leader has to speak both of the languages you use, and better if he/she also speaks English. Then you can always have someone close to talk to.

This way playing in a polilingual society can and will be pleasurable.

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