My Linguistic Niche

You know how some people seem to have a knack for languages? They effortlessly learn new terms, nail pronunciations, and possess a seemingly limitless memory. I am definitely not one of those people.

My first language was Mandarin. I’m told I was quite the talker when I was little, telling stories to strangers left and right. I could read and write over 500 Chinese characters by age three. Of course, most of that was lost when I moved to the U.S. at the age of four. Nowadays, I can barely guess my way through a simple newspaper article.

I went on to study Latin all four years of high school, progressing through advanced classical texts and nabbing prizes in Latin exams and competitions. Now? I can barely remember what carpe diem means.

In college, I decided to give Mandarin another shot. I was still fluent in speaking and listening but struggled with reading and writing. A few courses later, I was writing essays and reading short novels. But as with before, as soon as those courses ended, my memory of the vocabulary quickly dissipated.

So how does all this relate to games? As a game designer, I’m constantly learning new languages, not only in terms of new game mechanics terms and design vocabulary, but also in terms of different scripting languages.

I am by no means a great programmer, but I can say unequivocally that I love learning scripting. I find an unexplainable beauty in the process of breaking down the most complex events and actions into simple if/then statement building blocks.

While world languages may be based on verb conjugations and creative expression, scripting languages are grounded in logic. So while I may forget over time the exact syntax used to define variables in Actionscript 3, hopefully I’ll never forget how to use those variables.

I may never be one of those people who can fluently speak multiple languages, but I think I’m starting to find my linguistic niche.