Learning Languages with Hyeronimous the Owl

Has Tuesday come and gone already? Where’s the Ark blog tuesday, you ask?! Well, during these hot and humid summer months we do tend to get a bit lazy, but have no fear, ark lore is here! This time, we’re talking about the (second?) most important bird in the game: Hyeronimous the Owl!

Hyeronimous explaining some languages to Charles

As you might know, our game will feature a very cool mechanic involving learning animal languages!

A language’s difficulty is decided by following factors:
1. How close (in taxonomic terms) the language is to another language that the player has already mastered. I.e. Learning the Rat language becomes extremely easy when the Squirrel language has already been mastered. While learning the language of the Birds is very difficult and requires a much bigger effort.
2. Ease of exposure to the language, some animals might not speak in their native tongue when you are listening nor might they be inclined to teach you.

To learn a brand-new language, the player has to visit the owl, Hieronymus, an expert in different languages that will help to get you started for a modest fee.

In general, and regardless of the player’s previous linguistic skills, there are 3 different important parts involved in learning languages:

Vocabulary / Exposure

Hieronymus explains to you certain key words that are the basis for the entire language that you want to learn. So for example, one of the keywords of the Squirrel language words is ‘acorn’. In-game this would correspond to a distinct squeaking sound that is easily noticeable. To get yourself acquainted with these keywords, Hieronymus sends you off to listen in on conversations to hear the word ‘acorn’ used in all of its versions. A possible conversation between a customer and a shopkeeper selling some acorns, which just
sounds like squeaking to the player:

Shopkeeper: You-buy-what?
(= What do you want to buy?)

Customer: I-buy-1-“acorn”-please.
(= I want to buy one acorn)

Shopkeeper: I-give-1-“acorn”. You-give-10-“acorns”.
(= Here is one acorn. That will be 10 coins)

Customer: I-give-10-“acorns”.
(= Here are 10 coins.)

Shopkeeper: I-thank.
(= Thank you)

Customer: I-give-many-“acorns” –to-you!
(= Best of luck to you! This is a typical Squirrel goodbye)

Shopkeeper: I-give-many-“acorns” –to-you!
(= Best of luck to you! This is a typical Squirrel goodbye)

You witness this conversation and write down the relevant animal runes (which are common to all animals) in your journal. All instances of the rune corresponding to the word “acorn” will be underlined and the matching circumstance. E.g. the customer used the word “acorn” when giving the money to the shopkeeper, which might mean that money is also called “acorn” in the Squirrel language! Also, the verb ‘to buy’ is repeated twice in previous example and the player might deduce the rune’s meaning from this.

When you have found enough usages of “acorn” (and other keywords) in their natural
environments, you’re ready to go back to Hieronymus and take the syntax exam.

Syntax / Exam

After being exposed enough to the language’s keywords you can go back to Hieronymus and he explains you the syntax involved in the language. An example of possible rules:

– Verb goes at the end of the sentence.

– Subjects all go to the beginning of the sentence.

– If there are two objects they should be right before / after the verb.

– You can’t use the same rune more than two times in a row.

– Each sentence must start and end with a special rune in this language

(and so on)

After learning the correct syntax rules, you can do a mini-game in which Hieronymus tests your mastery of the syntax of the language using the animal runes. This mini-game is a random conversation you have with Hieronymus that involves a given task. (Ex.: Order some acorns from me in the market!). Hieronymus will talk to you in the Squirrel language and you’ll have to give the correct combination of runes that obeys the language’s syntax and vocabulary.

After successfully completing this mini-game, you now know the basics of the language and can talk to squirrels in their native language.

Morphology / Experience

When questioning suspects and witnesses, you aren’t able to discuss more advanced topics such as science due to the language barrier. After each conversation you get a more firm understanding of language’s intricacies and the relevant chapter in your journal grows with additional syntax rules and translations.
If, after acquiring enough experience, you wish to completely master a certain language, you can try your hand at the morphology exam, which involves a more difficult mini-game with Hieronymus and uses more advanced syntax rules.

After succeeding this exam, you can now fully understand and discuss scientific topics in the, now mastered, language.

All these steps can be significantly shortened when you already know a taxonomically close language. (I.e. Rat and Squirrel are both rodents, so their languages are quite similar) The result is that much less exposure is required to the language’s peculiarities before taking the syntax and morphology exams.

That’s the general idea of how we want you to learn languages in the game. What do you think about it? Let us know on our Discord server, or anywhere else!

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