On roleplay: interview with Sir Soltel’vayas, the drow

Sir Sol, a wonderful, snobbish, intelectual drow

Anna: I think that the average age in SL is 35. Are you younger or older than 35?

Soltel’vayas: I am younger, with my 21 years of age.

Anna: What is your mother tongue?

Soltel’vayas: I speak Portuguese as a first language.

Anna: When did you create your first avatar, and why?

Soltel’vayas: Of when I cannot actually give you a straight answer, but I think it was at the last months of 2006, I saw a notice on TV news about Second Life and made me curious enough (mostly about the building possibilities at first) to create an account to “check it out”.

Anna: Did you study or learn English before entering SL? If yes, what was your level, more or less?

Soltel’vayas: I had English in school since 4th grade, sooner than most my age, but if I am not mistaken currently, it’s on the schooling system since 3rd grade. I took an English course during summer after I finished 7th grade. I wouldn’t be able to level my English, but it is above Portuguese standards I am sure.

Anna: did you have any difficulties with the language when you arrived in SL? Or did you feel immediately at ease with everything in English?

Soltel’vayas: shakes his head “No, I didn’t find any sort of trouble upon arrival. I cannot say my English is far better now than it was when I first joined, but my vocabulary is. I mean, my English most certainly has improved, not as much as constructing a grammatically well formed sentence, but my vocabulary has improved greatly, I have learned a whole lot of new words”.

Anna: I have the impression that one learns a lot of colloquial expressions…

Soltel’vayas: laughs “Well here’s a learning moment now, as I am not familiar with the term “colloquial expression”

Anna: Those expressions you use in your everyday life, with friends and family. Not those you read in school books

Soltel’vayas: scratches his chin “Within a role-play scenario, I must disagree with that statement. I’ve read the most beautiful pieces of well arranged words, almost daring to say, professional work.

We express ourselves the best we can, when I lack the knowledge for better I stick with the simple, but it’s not for me so interesting to read”.

Anna: *shakes her head* no, we did not understand each other. For colloquial expression I did not mean “simplified language”. Let’s make an example: you go to a bar with your friends. Do you speak like your history book or do you use another kind of expressions and register there?

Soltel’vayas: smirks “While how I speak with my friends is casual and laid back, the form of speech I use for role-play is tailored more carefully. These are two different environments.”

Anna: Because your character is.. let’s us say.. a snobbish intellectual..

Soltel’vayas: Ha! Indeed.

Anna: I have a student like Sol: clever and snob.. but he differs from Sol because he’s a nice person, not an evil drow like you *giggles*

Soltel’vayas: He sips his wine reading a book, can’t get much more snobbish

Anna: Why and when did you start roleplaying?

Soltel’vayas: He smirks reading the question, turning his gaze to an empty space… remembering how his roleplaying journeys in SL began. “I was building in a sandbox, when I was approached by a fine dressed female avatar, questioning me about my intention to become a vampire (bloodlines noob hunter), I curiously accepted it as a challenge. I started playing the role easily, it was a goth casual society, I quickly raised in their ranks, ups and downs eventually ended into discovering new forms to express myself in a roleplay and I discovered the combat systems, at the young age it seemed just like a multiplayer videogame.” chuckles “I’m drifting already… let us carry on.”

Anna: *smiles at the mention of “at the young age” but decides to carry on with the following sentence*  Since then, have  you attended any course, or engaged in other activities that could have helped you improving your English (reading, movies, trips etc)

Soltel’vayas: The seek of knowledge, either for a personal research or for a roleplay kind of information always makes me read in English, I would rather do so as most of the articles I see in Portuguese are simply translated, and sometimes simplified from the English written ones. Movies, series, programs, all of that helps, I watch cable TV most of the time, it implies I learn more, sometimes even laugh my way when the subtitles get it wrong. There is also music, that teaches me a lot, as I do not dare to headbang my head to the sound of lyrics I do not understand.

Anna: Do you practice English only in SL or as well in other contexts (work, leisure, other virtual worlds or communities)

Soltel’vayas: SL is without a doubt the place I keep my English the sharpest, curiously I only know a Portuguese individual here, and yet we speak English with each other. Both of us have learned a lot of words with each other as well.

Anna: How many hours do you spend roleplaying? How many hours in SL (in general,  roleplaying or not)

Soltel’vayas: I log averagely everyday for a while, lets say 4 to 5 hours, unless I have others affairs I am logged in SL, usually in a roleplay Sim, if I am not roleplaying I am building or/and chatting on private channels. Even then RP might just engage on its own around ones location, that means get your prims collected and raise a brow looking superiorly around.

Anna: Do you see any difference in the language you use normally in SL and the one you use in Rpg?

Soltel’vayas: Well that would very well depend on the character and theme you play in. Eg.: a person playing a different race than human might have a different language, also a person playing a commoner might use a more rudimental language, lets say “Ye aint go’in t’take me wine cos yer a fo’okin wench”, apart from that there is of course the emoted behaviour, roleplayers end up using it on a casual conversation as well, demonstrating their body movements and voice tones, their reactions *cleaars his throat and shrugs* got it? *laughs*

Anna: don’t you think that this “strange” English could be a danger for a learner?.. you can pick up expressions that are not real English for instance… or that nobody says that way anymore..

Soltel’vayas: No I don’t think it truly influences the way I learn, it’s easy to understand that, the way those character speak is not the standard model, I see it as very interesting and a different source, for also different knowledge.

Anna : I found very challenging the “emoting”, I mean, that a kind of language we do not usually use when speaking in RL. Language used for describing facial expressions or movements or many other things. Did you remember if you had any difficulty with it at the beginning? and do you find it useful to “RL purposes”?

Soltel’vayas: The fact one can manipulate words to describe actions is, I believe, divine. But apart from your self-satisfaction, and verbal gratification, I don’t see a casual use for this in real life, cause we don’t say “coughs” when in fact we do so. Since the beginning I found emotes as a magnificent way to express yourself in SL, and of course, the roleplay. I actually emote in a casual typed conversation *laughs*.

A good example of an emote taken it’s way to our casual speech is the “lol”. Here in Portugal the teen folk use the abbreviation like it’s a Portuguese word. Instead of laughing at a joke, they vocalise the word LOL.

Now how funny is that?

Anna: well… technology is changing our everyday language.. yes.

Soltel’vayas: *nods*

Anna: most rpg are in chat, that is people do not “speak” but simply write what they have to say. Do you feel comfortable with your spoken English? Do you know many words or expression in their written form but not how they sound?

Soltel’vayas: You got a point there, though, me personally, believe I don’t speak the so called “voluntary typonese” too often, if I have doubts I usually try to go around the subject through another sentence. I’m surprised it seems to me that I type better than a lot of persons I’ve met in SL that have English has their first language. I know a lot of words and expressions both on their writing form or sound, I do have trouble pronouncing them out loud, I don’t do voice in SL under the fear of swallowing my own tongue and dying.

Anna: you never, never use voice in SL? never did? Neither outside Rp?

Soltel’vayas: laughs “Actually, no. There were times I tried, short lasted ones. I might on occasion turn the mic on and play guitar, I don’t have trouble maintaining a typed conversation with someone that is using voice, but I just have such a terrible accent, like I said before I tell you now as a fact “I fear I might swallow my own tongue””.

Anna: *laughs* well… I assure you that I’ve a terrible accent and I’ve never swallowed my tongue. And good to know that you play guitar on the micro… may I book for your next live session?

Soltel’vayas: HA!

Certainly not, but I’ll play a little someday, never did in the pub cause arts doesn’t have the sound on.

Anna: Can you remember and share with us a language learning situation in Rpg? A moment in which you realised that you were learning something new? Or a moment you were aware of some language learning taking place?

Soltel’vayas: I honestly cannot recall any particular event, it’s like a friend says: -When in doubt, IM and find out. So right she is, that is exactly what I do, when I don’t know the meaning of a word during RP or casual ooc conversation I just send a private message to the person who used it. You can only learn when you seek to do so, or are tricked into doing so.

Anna: Would  you recommend Rpg in SL to improve one’s foreign language skills?

Soltel’vayas: I am aware it could be used to do so, but I wouldn’t recommend it based on desire to improve ones vocabulary, but I do agree it helps on that level. I just wouldn’t roleplay with that as a main goal.

Anna: is there anything that I did not ask you and you would like to say? Something language related, of course

Soltel’vayas: No, not that I recall at the moment. *laughs* Oh there is one thing: be warned, translators are evil scripted objects in SL.

Anna: Lol, I know. I hate translators in SL.


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