Friday, October 12, 2012

Conlangs: Simlish

If you've ever played any of The Sims games, you know that the characters have their own language and spend most of their time crying, setting fire to their kitchens, pissing their pants and sleeping with everyone in their neighbourhood.

We're talking about Sims, not SIMs!

So why do they have their own language? If you've played the game as long as we have (yes, we have no life) then you'll know that it's quite repetitive, just like real life. You get up, make some food, go to the toilet, shower, go to work, come home, set fire to your house, sleep with your neighbour, go to bed, and repeat ad nauseam. Imagine how you'd feel if you heard the same dialogue for each of those activities.

This is where a conlang (constructed language) comes into play. We can hear the characters talking without understanding them, which makes it perfect background noise. It sounds like people talking, so we can just assume they are interacting. Though if you've spent as much time playing as we have, you probably know most of this gibberish inside-out anyway.

Their language is called Simlish. Okay, so it's not the most original name, and it's nothing compared to the languages that conlang god J.R.R. Tolkien constructed... but they still put some time and effort into it. Simlish was created from messing about with fragmented versions of English, Fijian, Finnish, French, Latin, Tagalog and Ukranian.

It was a brilliant idea for them to create their own language instead of using an existing language in the game and then having to translate it for sale in other markets. Translating a game with as much dialogue as The Sims would have been incredibly expensive... and since the dialogue is little more than ambience, the accountant would most likely have refused to let them do it anyway!

Imagine all the costs associated with translating video games...
we're glad we're not accountants!

While most of the Simlish in the game is dialogue, it can also be found in the music the characters listen to. Since the Sims 2, instead of creating unique music the game creators have had famous musicians record new versions of their songs in Simlish. Artists from around the world including The Black Eyed Peas, Depeche Mode, Katy Perry, Nelly Furtado, Cansei de Ser Sexy and La Oreja de Van Gogh have recorded their songs in Simlish. We wonder what those recording sessions are like and what kind of linguistic preparations the artists have to undertake before doing this... it sounds like fun, though!