Writing and Language ability

There's something like 34 vowel sounds: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vowel_diagram (more with nasal ones), and we can differentiate maybe 20. And that's not the only thing you might have to master:

  • German: ü
  • French: peu vs peur
  • Japanese: pitch accent in kogai (pollution vs suburb)
  • Mandarin: tonal variations

I think also English is a spoken language (Is read pronounced red or reed?) as opposed to written languages (Is French pan written pan, paon, pend, pends? Which kanjis for kogai?).

This is why native speakers make mistakes when writing English that multilingual could never do, while non-natives will use weird sentence structures because they can't speak it right.

Of course, the real problem is that there's barely any text written in Living Languages, and barely anyone speaks Dead Language the way it was used when their texts were written. And I am not sure the spelling and grammar was codified at the time. So the issue might be moot anyway.

Latin is most definitely both spoken and written in the 12th Century. The Latin spoken may have very little in common with spoken Latin of the 2nd Century, but enough people speak it in the 12th that it has valid written and spoken forms. By a much smaller segment of the population, but by one that is inclined to talk on a range of subjects.

A fair few living languages have written forms as well, just not that many from the western side of Europe. Arabic, Bulgarian, Hebrew, Greek and various other languages all have written forms and are most definitely not dead languages.


At least for me, translating what one is saying in french, formulating a reply and then translating is way harder, and too much work for my lazy ass anyway.

I fall back on french when my english fails me, falling out of "english mode". Funnily enough, I have something similar happening the other way on a regular basis, when, in a french conversation, I want to say something, and the only accurate word (or expression) that comes to my mind is an english one :unamused:

Exactly!!!! That's the hard part!!! IMO: funnily enough, I know a teenage girl who's used to speak english but has trouble reading/writing...

It's not just your interpretation, it's what the rules as written (in the errata) actually say:
"Puissant (Ability) (p. 48): Replace the first sentence of the text with: "You are particularly adept with one Ability, and add 2 to its value whenever you use it. Note that you do not, in general, use an Ability when learning it, teaching it, or writing about it."

What, only one?


I know lots of people who have very good conversational English and who can't write at all. Personally I also find writing to be the hardest foreign language skill. Reading isn't so bad.


Speak the words in your mind or even speak them loud if you need to hear to understand better(or memorise).

Compare vowels in English and Swedish, oh deary... Same letters may be used, but sometimes very different pronounciation. English is a bit troublesome overall in that way since it uses some rather nonstandard pronounciations and doesn´t even have a real "o"-sound at all.

Obviously, it´s pronounced both ways. "I have read this."(red) vs "I will read this."(reed)

Always easier in the long run if one can do it "internally" as that means you actually understand the language rather than just translating words or phrases by rote.

Kid Glove, I heartily agree with what you said about learning foreign languages. As for my personal experience, I write and read better english than I speak. Partly because of the accent, but partly because sometimes I need to stop mid-sentence and remember the proper word. Whereas, when writing, there's no indication I had to pause and think.

For the record, I think in english when writing or speaking english, but it's still harder to speak it than it is to write it. Same goes for the hearing/reading duality.

This discussion actually came up in a couple of pbp sagas I'm on here. My original inclination was that you needed to have a raw score of 5 in the language to write it. Then I went through and looked at all the fully statted characters in the books I could find, and most of them have a Latin score of 5, many with specializations in writing (iirc). Even the Bonisagus magi. Even the one who was several decades out of gauntlet, who you would expect to be writing several best-selling summae by now. So, if the 70-some year old Bonisagus can get away with a Latin score of 4 with a specialization in "writing", then it seems legit to me.

The idea that people are better at writing a language than speaking it, even in highly-technical, complex, peer-reviewed topics, is so common in my field of work that I actually had to stop and try to figure out why anyone would think otherwise.

I am a Programmer/Writer by profession - that is, I write programming documentation like this: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj991858.aspx

Needless to say, about half the people I work with are non-native English speakers - mainly Russian, Hindi, and Chinese (Mandarin, I think). the project above, for example, was all based on specs written by native speakers of Mandarin, as the project was farmed out to Microsoft China. However, other than some obviously-formally-trained grammatical structures and the occasional use of British spellings in their e-mails, I had no problem whatsoever reading what they wrote. However - when speaking to them during conference calls, I really had to concentrate to understand what they were saying. It wasn't THAT hard (they were all fairly fluent), but their ability to communicate in writing was simply much better than their ability to speak it.

Also - my own ability to write English is greater than my ability to speak it - as others have said, when writing you have the ability to go back and edit your own work, and I've been known to edit an e-mail five or six times before sending it out. Oratory, in contrast, is a separate (but related) skill.