Sul-sul! Any game-obsessed teen who poured countless hours into the Sims in the early 2000s has probably heard this phrase countless times. It’s how the Sims greet each other — and is one of the few Simlish phrases to have a set meaning.
One of my favourite parts of the Sims was always the way they spoke. In between avoiding kitchen fires, spine-chilling burglaries and failing to keep my Sim kids out of military school, I imagined whole personalities for my sims based on their utterances. Sometimes they would sound exasperated, so I’d let them watch TV (what a benevolent teenager-with-a-god-complex I was). At other times, they’d suddenly sound flirty mid-conversation, and a few interactions later would be getting married.
However, Simlish was — and still is in the current Sims 4 iteration of the game–nonsense. So I decided to take a little nostalgic dive into the Simlish language and consider what impact it has on the overall UX of the Sims.
What is Simlish?
Let’s zoom out briefly and mention what Simlish actually is. Simlish is the official language of the Sims Nation. And by language, we mean gibberish.
Creator of the Sims Will Wright considered several different possibilities for how Sims should speak, and we’ll look into why he chose Simlish in detail from a UX perspective in a moment. While there’s no official confirmation anywhere that Simlish at least draws inspiration from any real language, some think that they can hear traces of Filipino, Irish, Navajo and Ukrainian. In fact, we know that Will Wright experimented with Sims speaking some of these languages directly, so it’s possible that sounds from each made it into Simlish.
For the original Sims, voice actors Stephen Kearin and Gerri Lawlor improvised all Simlish sounds, playing with intonation and tone and yes, making up a lot of the language on the spot.
I remember thinking that Simlish sounded like Dutch, that was until I heard Dutch actually being spoken. Some of my friends reckoned it was some sort of corrupted English, but there are a lot of sounds in Simlish that don’t exist in English. Check out this video if you want to hear what “corrupted English” could sound like.