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Languages?

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  • Tim Hall
    Question for the group, In my Fudge build I d originally been treating each language as a Skill, with Fair being fluent, Mediocre being broken/heavily
    Message 1 of 15 , Jan 1, 2010
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      Question for the group,

      In my Fudge build I'd originally been treating each language as a Skill,
      with Fair being fluent, Mediocre being broken/heavily accented, and Good
      having no accent. But I'm in the process of rationalising the skill
      list, and languages are looking too expensive compared with other skills.

      One option I'm looking at is having a single Languages skill, with the
      skill level determining how many languages you speak.

      How do people handle languages in their Fudge games?
      --

      Tim Hall
      Weblog -> http://www.kalyr.com/weblog
      Photos -> http://kalyr.fotopic.net
    • bynw
      I use language skills pretty much the same way you currently do, yes that may make them a bit expensive but in the real world most people speak (let alone
      Message 2 of 15 , Jan 1, 2010
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        I use language skills pretty much the same way you currently do, yes that
        may make them a bit expensive but in the real world most people speak (let
        alone read/write) only one or two languages.

        On Fri, Jan 1, 2010 at 16:40, Tim Hall <kalyr@...> wrote:

        >
        >
        > Question for the group,
        >
        > In my Fudge build I'd originally been treating each language as a Skill,
        > with Fair being fluent, Mediocre being broken/heavily accented, and Good
        > having no accent. But I'm in the process of rationalising the skill
        > list, and languages are looking too expensive compared with other skills.
        >
        > One option I'm looking at is having a single Languages skill, with the
        > skill level determining how many languages you speak.
        >
        > How do people handle languages in their Fudge games?
        > --
        >
        > Tim Hall
        > Weblog -> http://www.kalyr.com/weblog
        > Photos -> http://kalyr.fotopic.net
        >
        >
        >


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Phill
        I m leaning towards making languages Gifts rather than skills. This is because in practice it ends up being annoying to play many levels of language knowledge
        Message 3 of 15 , Jan 1, 2010
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          I'm leaning towards making languages Gifts rather than skills.

          This is because in practice it ends up being annoying to play many
          levels of language knowledge and is often forgotten in the heat of NPC
          interaction for the simplicity of "if you've got the language then
          you can communicate".
          Really it depends what you and your group are interested in playing out.

          I will possibly break it up into two levels with Minor Gifts giving a
          passing knowledge and Major Gifts a native level.
          (in my Fudge build, Phudge, characters get 4 Minor Gifts and can use
          two to get a Major gift)

          Phill

          --
          Once enlightened to the dolphin agenda, there's no going back
        • Brian Doyle
          You might want to consider having the skill apply to language families or sub-families, depending on the number of genetically related languages in the family.
          Message 4 of 15 , Jan 1, 2010
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            You might want to consider having the skill apply to language families
            or sub-families, depending on the number of genetically related
            languages in the family. You could allow the PC to select one
            particular language in which he/she is fluent and then grant lower
            levels of skill for related languages.

            Ethnologue is probably the most authoritative source for information
            on real-world languages: http://www.ethnologue.com/

            An index of language families can be found at: http://www.ethnologue.com/family_index.asp

            Regards,
            Brian Doyle

            On Jan 1, 2010, at 4:40 PM, Tim Hall wrote:

            > Question for the group,
            >
            > In my Fudge build I'd originally been treating each language as a
            > Skill,
            > with Fair being fluent, Mediocre being broken/heavily accented, and
            > Good
            > having no accent. But I'm in the process of rationalising the skill
            > list, and languages are looking too expensive compared with other
            > skills.
            >
            > One option I'm looking at is having a single Languages skill, with the
            > skill level determining how many languages you speak.
            >
            > How do people handle languages in their Fudge games?
            > --
            >
            > Tim Hall
            > Weblog -> http://www.kalyr.com/weblog
            > Photos -> http://kalyr.fotopic.net
            >
            >
            >



            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Undead Trout
            Tim Hall wrote: How do people handle languages in their Fudge games? ... I take my cue, where language is concerned, from the superb but unfortunately less
            Message 5 of 15 , Jan 1, 2010
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              Tim Hall wrote:

              How do people handle languages in their Fudge games?
              >

              I take my cue, where language is concerned, from the superb but
              unfortunately less known *Dark Continent*. When buying languages skills,
              investing one point gives a character familiarity with a single language
              (such as French). Investing two points gives familiarity with a language
              group (such as Romance Languages). Investing three points gives familiarity
              with a language family (such as European Languages). While most people may
              only know one or two languages at most, this allows for the exceptional
              individuals appropriate to certain genres. Can be handled as either Gifts or
              Skills, the numbers should work well regardless.


              --
              Undead Trout -- undead.trout@...
              ~ Always Something Fishy Going On™ ~


              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Stephan Beal
              ... 0.02 Euros from someone who lives in Europe (Germany): The vast majority of Europeans speak one language fluently and at least one additional language
              Message 6 of 15 , Jan 2, 2010
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                On Sat, Jan 2, 2010 at 7:31 AM, Undead Trout <undead.trout@...> wrote:

                > unfortunately less known *Dark Continent*. When buying languages skills,
                > investing one point gives a character familiarity with a single language
                > (such as French). Investing two points gives familiarity with a language
                > group (such as Romance Languages). Investing three points gives familiarity
                > with a language family (such as European Languages). While most people may
                > only know one or two languages at most, this allows for the exceptional
                > individuals appropriate to certain genres. Can be handled as either Gifts
                > or
                > Skills, the numbers should work well regardless.
                >

                0.02 Euros from someone who lives in Europe (Germany):

                The vast majority of Europeans speak one language fluently and at least one
                additional language quite well. In my experience, the only Europeans who
                speak only one language were born in a country where English is the native
                language. (Strange, but generally true, and the same applies for
                Australians, Americans, and Brits of all sorts.) i've met people who speak
                up to five languages well enough to get by with them in day-to-day affairs.
                The official term for such a person is "polyglot", and it embarrasses me to
                say that i learned that word from a Norwegian.

                Some languages are close enough to each other that knowledge with one will
                allow you to read a _bit_ of another, but they normally sound different
                enough to make _spoken_ cross-language understanding difficult. For example,
                i can read a small bit of Dutch, Danish, and Swedish because i can read
                German fairly well, but i can't for the life of me understand what a
                Dane/Dutchman/Swede are _saying_.

                However, going so far as to say "European Languages" are a group of their
                own is a bit of a stretch. Italian and Spanish are closely related, but have
                little or no (useful/exploitable) relationship to French or Dutch. Finnish
                and Hungarian are exceptions in that they literally do not derive from any
                other languages still in use (including each other), and no amount of
                German/Dutch/Italian/Russian/Chinese knowledge will help one understand
                either Finnish or Hungarian.

                i personally have no gift for languages. My first 5 years of living in
                Germany, i could only speak enough to order food (because i worked at a
                company with people from 13 countries in our team, and English was our
                common language). It wasn't until i started working at a German company,
                using German every day, that i really learned to speak it. However, i've met
                gifted individuals who not only can speak a language fluently within a year,
                but also a very, very few who can lose their dialect. In my life i've met
                many hundreds of non-native speakers of all sorts, and perhaps 5 of them
                could speak a non-native language without a non-native accent. My point here
                being only that any typical PCs might be able to learn a language fluently,
                but being able to also lose the accent is a whole other matter. i, even as a
                non-native German speaker, can always hear the difference between a Russian
                or Italian speaking German. (They have the exact same patters as a Russian
                or Italian speaking English.) Germany itself has a surprising number of
                individual dialects (i can think of 4 off the top of my head, not including
                the dialects from Austria or Switzerland), but even so it is normally easy
                to hear if the speaker is a native German speaker or not (whether or not
                they speak any given dialect of the language fluently).

                Some people simply have a gift for learning languages, but i'm of the
                opinion that languages themselves are skills, not gifts. They must be
                learned from the ground up (growing up in a multi-lingual home is, however,
                a Gift, as one can then grow up accent-free in two languages), improved over
                time, and even practiced to keep them maintained.

                In closing, a humorous true story regarding languages:

                i was in a museum in Salzburg, Austria sometime around 2000. The tour guide
                explained to us, in English, how to use the multi-lingual headphone things
                we carried around to hear the details of each exhibit (they activate when
                you stand near an exhibit, speaking in the language you've chosen). Then she
                repeated her spiel in German. Then in Spanish. Then in French. And then she
                asked (in English), "are there any Russians with us today?"

                --
                ----- stephan beal
                http://wanderinghorse.net/home/stephan/


                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • PatrickB
                I agree with what Stephen has touched upon. We make a big deal in games about defining how things work in the real world, but the truth is that languages are
                Message 7 of 15 , Jan 2, 2010
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                  I agree with what Stephen has touched upon. We make a big deal in games about defining how things "work" in the real world, but the truth is that languages are too complex for rules to adequately capture how they work in the real world.

                  Invented languages, like Klingon and Elven, that people try to create with structures and rules fall flat. Yes, there are some people who will learn them and even use them from time to time but languages that develop naturally from patterns and rules and evolve because of an actual need to communicate. Games treat languages as these on/off type switches that work at various degrees of efficiency. The truth is that two people who do not speak the same language can and will find a way to communicate out of need. The rules get thrown out the window at first, and then once there is a common ground some structure starts to form.

                  Let's put it like this - as an American I have learned that my British co-workers and I speak English but do not speak the same language all of the time. And when we have to talk with the Australian sales guys another layer of "English" is added. All three groups are speaking the same language, and none of us are speaking it the exact same way. But we have a need to communicate so we make sure to be very precise and not to use any local terms.

                  So I would have a Linguist skill. For every rank that your character has in the skill the character speaks an additional language. The character also has the chance to understand and speak a new language based on an unopposed roll versus a target difficulty. A Superb Linguist would know seven languages, and because of that amazing skill might be able to piece together how to communicate with a speaker of a language that they do no know for a short period of time.

                  Leave the accent and dialect stuff for another skill to handle, like Acting or Impersonation. That is what a non-native speaker would use to convince natives that they are from the same region IMO.

                  I hope that helps!
                • John Rudd
                  I always thought that Hero did well with how they break up languages into groups and sub-groups (in a family tree , but they don t draw it like a tree), and
                  Message 8 of 15 , Jan 2, 2010
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                    I always thought that Hero did well with how they break up languages
                    into groups and sub-groups (in a "family tree", but they don't draw it
                    like a tree), and you get a penalty for each level up you go in order
                    to find commonality with another language. And, learning just a level
                    of a language is cheap, but learning languages at higher levels in the
                    tree is progressively more expensive.

                    Not sure how, exactly, I'd represent that in FUDGE. Maybe:

                    You learn individual languages as skills. Having 0 points/ranks in a
                    language gives you no ability to use that language.

                    For each level up the family tree of languages that you go, in order
                    to find commonality with someone, you get a -1 to talk to them.

                    By default, you only have written OR spoken ability with a language.
                    Having both costs a 1 or 2 point Gift.

                    Learning a language group is an N point Gift, where N how high up the
                    tree that "group" is. It gives you a +1 when using one language in
                    that group to talk to someone who only knows a different language in
                    that group.

                    Then you just have to draw your family tree of languages (maybe borrow
                    the one from Hero). Though, really, it'd probably be a forest
                    (multiple disconnected trees), unless you assert that there is one,
                    knowable/learnable, root language.

                    You can also apply this to programming languages, if you want (they
                    also have "family trees", as languages have evolved from each other;
                    and the "forest" of these family trees of programming languages only
                    has a few trees).



                    On Sat, Jan 2, 2010 at 12:49, PatrickB
                    <Patrick.Benson@...> wrote:
                    > I agree with what Stephen has touched upon. We make a big deal in games about defining how things "work" in the real world, but the truth is that languages are too complex for rules to adequately capture how they work in the real world.
                    >
                    > Invented languages, like Klingon and Elven, that people try to create with structures and rules fall flat. Yes, there are some people who will  learn them and even use them from time to time but languages that develop naturally from patterns and rules and evolve because of an actual need to communicate. Games treat languages as these on/off type switches that work at various degrees of efficiency. The truth is that two people who do not speak the same language can and will find a way to communicate out of need. The rules get thrown out the window at first, and then once there is a common ground some structure starts to form.
                    >
                    > Let's put it like this - as an American I have learned that my British co-workers and I speak English but do not speak the same language all of the time. And when we have to talk with the Australian sales guys another layer of "English" is added. All three groups are speaking the same language, and none of us are speaking it the exact same way. But we have a need to communicate so we make sure to be very precise and not to use any local terms.
                    >
                    > So I would have a Linguist skill. For every rank that your character has in the skill the character speaks an additional language. The character also has the chance to understand and speak a new language based on an unopposed roll versus a target difficulty. A Superb Linguist would know seven languages, and because of that amazing skill might be able to piece together how to communicate with a speaker of a language that they do no know for a short period of time.
                    >
                    > Leave the accent and dialect stuff for another skill to handle, like Acting or Impersonation. That is what a non-native speaker would use to convince natives that they are from the same region IMO.
                    >
                    > I hope that helps!
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    > ------------------------------------
                    >
                    > --> Please visit the Fudge Community Yahoo Group home page at http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/fudgecommunity to search the archives, upload or download files, and more! Note: No attachments are allowed on the fudgecommunity@yahoogroups.com email list, please upload any attachments to the Files section instead. Thank you! <--Yahoo! Groups Links
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    >
                  • Ann Dupuis
                    Hat tip to Hunter Johnson on Facebook, who shared a link to this article on the difficulties of learning languages: Difficult languages Tongue twisters Dec
                    Message 9 of 15 , Jan 4, 2010
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                      Hat tip to Hunter Johnson on Facebook, who shared a link to this
                      article on the difficulties of learning languages:

                      Difficult languages

                      Tongue twisters

                      Dec 17th 2009 | NEW YORK
                      From The Economist print edition

                      In search of the world’s hardest language

                      http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15108609

                      Fascinating stuff! not sure how to translate it into Fudge mechanics....

                      --
                      Ann Dupuis ghostgames@...
                      Grey Ghost Press, Inc. http://www.fudgerpg.com
                      Grey Ghost Fan Page on Facebook: http://tinyurl.com/yzhyfs2
                    • gm@dsl-only.net
                      In the past I ve used skills or gifts to represent language, but anymore I think that s too much investment for too little payoff. Unless communication
                      Message 10 of 15 , Jan 4, 2010
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                        In the past I've used skills or gifts to represent language, but
                        anymore I think that's too much investment for too little payoff.
                        Unless communication difficulty is a major challenge in the game, it
                        tends to get glossed over (pun not intended but happily noted) and
                        rarely used. A linguistics skill covering multiple languages fixes the
                        cost problem, but then loses the ability to distinguish how well you
                        speak a given language, making the skill level kind of meaningless and
                        turning it into a Gift in disguise.

                        Anymore, if the setting is fairly monolinguistic (like the USA) I just
                        ignore language. Everyone can communicate, end of story. If for some
                        reason you need to speak a foreign or scholarly language, it can be
                        covered by an appropriate knowledge type skill, or you can take it as
                        a special ability, or it could just be part of your background story
                        you don't pay points for.

                        Mostly I play fantasy, with lots of languages, but also a regional
                        trade language for convenience (yeah, original I know). In
                        multilinguistic regions like Europe most people speak a variety of
                        different languages to some degree (AFAIK), so I fall back on the
                        moldy old D&D rule: you can speak a number of languages equal to your
                        Intelligence + 2, with a minimum of one... so with good intelligence
                        you can speak three languages. Additionally you have a smattering of
                        other languages spoken in your area, so when encountering such a
                        language you can make an Intelligence roll to attempt to communicate
                        it in. Nonlocal languages are of course unknown. Those are *starting*
                        languages. To learn a new language, find a teacher and invest the
                        time, then write it on your character sheet as a gift. No worries
                        about experience points or skill levels.
                      • Stephan Beal
                        ... You obviously haven t met my step-dad[1], who grew up in Ozark, Arkansas ;). ... that s pretty much true (in my 12 years of living over here). And when
                        Message 11 of 15 , Jan 4, 2010
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                          On Mon, Jan 4, 2010 at 7:48 PM, <gm@...> wrote:

                          > Anymore, if the setting is fairly monolinguistic (like the USA) I just
                          > ignore language. Everyone can communicate, end of story.
                          >

                          You obviously haven't met my step-dad[1], who grew up in Ozark, Arkansas ;).

                          > In
                          > multilinguistic regions like Europe most people speak a variety of
                          > different languages to some degree (AFAIK)
                          >
                          that's pretty much true (in my 12 years of living over here). And when they
                          don't have a common language, they fall back to English (which is very much
                          the "regional trade language" you mentioned, or the "Common Tongue" of D&D
                          fame). My girlfriend (a native German) and i switch frequently between
                          English and German, as some things are simply easier to say in one language
                          or the other, and i think that's a common phenomena in multi-lingual
                          households. It's not about "which language should we use?", but about "what
                          do i want to communicate?" Our dog[2] understands both "no" and "nein", for
                          example, to mean "stop whatever the hell it is you're doing."


                          [1]=http://timberframemag.com/staff.html (top/left)
                          [2]=http://picasaweb.google.com/sgbeal/TheDog

                          --
                          ----- stephan beal
                          http://wanderinghorse.net/home/stephan/


                          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                        • magic-user.geo
                          ... Hey! I studied latin in high school :P
                          Message 12 of 15 , Jan 5, 2010
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                            --- In fudgecommunity@yahoogroups.com, Ann Dupuis <ghostgames@...> wrote:
                            >
                            > In search of the world's hardest language
                            >
                            > http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15108609

                            Hey! I studied latin in high school :P
                          • Mark Cunningham
                            2010/1/1 Tim Hall ... If you assume that a character needs Poor to get by in the language, that would be two increases to learn a second
                            Message 13 of 15 , Jan 5, 2010
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                              2010/1/1 Tim Hall <kalyr@...>
                              > In my Fudge build I'd originally been treating each language as a Skill,
                              > with Fair being fluent, Mediocre being brokein/heavily accented, and Good
                              > having no accent. But I'm in the process of rationalising the skill
                              > list, and languages are looking too expensive compared with other skills.

                              If you assume that a character needs Poor to get by in the language,
                              that would be two increases to learn a second language. Is that really
                              considered too expensive compared to other skills?

                              --
                              http://thedeadone.net
                              http://lostheroesrpg.com
                              http://irishgamingwiki.com
                            • Tim Hall
                              ... Indeed! I ve seen too many game designers lose sight of the fact that game mechanics are supposed to be a playable abstraction and not a precise model of
                              Message 14 of 15 , Jan 5, 2010
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                                PatrickB wrote:
                                > I agree with what Stephen has touched upon. We make a big deal in games about defining how things "work" in the real world, but the truth is that languages are too complex for rules to adequately capture how they work in the real world.
                                >

                                Indeed! I've seen too many game designers lose sight of the fact that
                                game mechanics are supposed to be a playable abstraction and not a
                                precise model of reality

                                > So I would have a Linguist skill. For every rank that your character has in the skill the character speaks an additional language. The character also has the chance to understand and speak a new language based on an unopposed roll versus a target difficulty. A Superb Linguist would know seven languages, and because of that amazing skill might be able to piece together how to communicate with a speaker of a language that they do no know for a short period of time.
                                >
                                > Leave the accent and dialect stuff for another skill to handle, like Acting or Impersonation. That is what a non-native speaker would use to convince natives that they are from the same region IMO.
                                >

                                Looking at everybody's responses, I'm going for something very close to
                                PatrickB's solution above. A single "Languages" skill grants one
                                additional language for every level beyond "Poor", and you can roll
                                against the Languages skill to try to understand any language you don't
                                know but is in the same language family as one you do know.

                                There's also a Language Talent gift, which gives you additional
                                languages (doubling the additional languages seems balanced against
                                other gifts)

                                Thanks to everyone for their responses.
                                --

                                Tim Hall
                                Weblog -> http://www.kalyr.com/weblog
                                Photos -> http://kalyr.fotopic.net
                              • Bloomfield
                                Coming late to this but wanted to suggest a different way entirely of looking at languages in RPGs. Before it even makes sense to think about modeling
                                Message 15 of 15 , Jan 5, 2010
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                                  Coming late to this but wanted to suggest a different way entirely of
                                  looking at languages in RPGs. Before it even makes sense to think about
                                  modeling languages one way or another, I think you have to decide what role
                                  you want knowledge of languages to play in your game. There is a weapons
                                  skill (or whatever) because you want people to be better or worse at it and
                                  to have the tension of injecting luck into conflict resolution. Is that
                                  similar to how you are going to use language? Do the players have to decide
                                  at whenever they acquire the skill which languages they know, which may or
                                  may not ever appear in the campaign?

                                  It makes more sense, I think, to either think of a language skill as open
                                  and malleable, representing a likelihood to understand, or as a kind of plot
                                  device. So in the first approach, the skill represents the likelihood of
                                  knowing that particular language an NPC speaks, when it matters to the story
                                  whether the PCs understand. Of course you can adjust difficulty to model
                                  obscurity, etc. But no picking languages up front.

                                  The second approach I'd use starts by asking whether you want the PCs to
                                  have to struggle in an environment in which they can't communicate (well).
                                  If so - don't let a PC kill that aspect of the story by taking a high
                                  language skill; you need the confusion, alienation, dangerous
                                  misunderstanding to drive you story after all and don't want to have to deal
                                  with a smug player who can translate everything. If not, then who cares
                                  about languages, and why would the PCs have to waste resources on acquiring
                                  them? Just make languages part of the PCs background: Raised in Gondoling
                                  before the fall? speaks Sindarin (or whichever one it was). French mother,
                                  Swedish nurse, Scottish boarding school, stationed in Saigon, married a
                                  Russian? � you get the idea. That way it can come up as the story unfolds,
                                  adds color, but it isn't saddled with mechanics apart from perhaps giving
                                  modifiers on certain rolls when communications happen in an unfamiliar
                                  language.

                                  The shorter the skill list, IMHO, the better.

                                  Cheers

                                  On Tue, Jan 5, 2010 at 4:33 PM, Tim Hall <kalyr@...> wrote:

                                  >
                                  >
                                  > PatrickB wrote:
                                  > > I agree with what Stephen has touched upon. We make a big deal in games
                                  > about defining how things "work" in the real world, but the truth is that
                                  > languages are too complex for rules to adequately capture how they work in
                                  > the real world.
                                  > >
                                  >
                                  > Indeed! I've seen too many game designers lose sight of the fact that
                                  > game mechanics are supposed to be a playable abstraction and not a
                                  > precise model of reality
                                  >
                                  >
                                  > > So I would have a Linguist skill. For every rank that your character has
                                  > in the skill the character speaks an additional language. The character also
                                  > has the chance to understand and speak a new language based on an unopposed
                                  > roll versus a target difficulty. A Superb Linguist would know seven
                                  > languages, and because of that amazing skill might be able to piece together
                                  > how to communicate with a speaker of a language that they do no know for a
                                  > short period of time.
                                  > >
                                  > > Leave the accent and dialect stuff for another skill to handle, like
                                  > Acting or Impersonation. That is what a non-native speaker would use to
                                  > convince natives that they are from the same region IMO.
                                  > >
                                  >
                                  > Looking at everybody's responses, I'm going for something very close to
                                  > PatrickB's solution above. A single "Languages" skill grants one
                                  > additional language for every level beyond "Poor", and you can roll
                                  > against the Languages skill to try to understand any language you don't
                                  > know but is in the same language family as one you do know.
                                  >
                                  > There's also a Language Talent gift, which gives you additional
                                  > languages (doubling the additional languages seems balanced against
                                  > other gifts)
                                  >
                                  > Thanks to everyone for their responses.
                                  >
                                  > --
                                  >
                                  > Tim Hall
                                  > Weblog -> http://www.kalyr.com/weblog
                                  > Photos -> http://kalyr.fotopic.net
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >


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