Do you speak English?

One of the great things about Second Life is the opportunity to chat with people around the world from different backgrounds. Since Linden Lab is based in the US, the default language in SL has been English, although there is a large number of sims that are primarily Italian or French or German or another language.

Most people, however, tend to speak English when conversing with people who don't speak their own language. Or they use the Babbler, which is a popular (but primitive) inworld translator using web-based dictionaries.

However, it is all too easy to assume that you're getting your point across just because you're both speaking English. Idioms, metaphors, and cultural references make our language more descriptive and help us communicate better. But when the other party does not understand the idioms, metaphors, and cultural references, the message becomes blurred instead.

Before the holidays, Poid Mahovlich was telling me about her Christmas jumper and how it was making her feel itchy. In the US, a "jumper" is an overall, typically a loose denim pair of pants with a bib-like top in front and two straps to go around the back. Apparently, a jumper is a thick knitted top with sleeves that you pull over your head, what US people call a "sweater."

When I advertised my 3D Tic-Tac-Toe, Absolut Paine (also from the UK) asked me if tic-tac-toe was the same as the game Noughts-And-Crosses. And after doing some research, I found out that it was.

The techniques we learn in communication classes -- clarifying what the other person meant, avoiding assumptions, giving the other person the benefit of a doubt -- are even more important in online communications. It takes longer, yes, but a misunderstanding that's corrected early saves time and effort in the long run.

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