Within Shartak there are two main factions – natives and outsiders. To make things somewhat realistic (and interesting), when they first start off there is quite a hefty language barrier in that a native can’t really understand an outsider and vice-versa. This situation can be improved by gaining the various language skills that help with reading/hearing the other language, and then for writing or speaking the other language.
There are three levels of comprehension – basic, advanced and expert language – followed by foreign writing and foreign speech. As far as the translation of language goes, we’re only interested in the first three skills. The foreign writing/speech skills simply allow things to work in reverse.
One of the players posted the results of a fairly detailed examination of the translation system on the Shartak forum and he was quite accurate with a some of the information. It’s not possible to accurately translate the garbled text back into the original text – this is intentional because otherwise it would only be a matter of time before someone wrote a Greasemonkey script to translate it and thus render 5 skills completely useless.
Both native and outsider speech work in the same way, all that changes are the character sequences associated with each letter. The sequences were deliberately chosen (with assistance from someone who knows about such things) such that the outsiders have a less harsh sound than the natives.
Natives have sounds like kam, rak, hok and uck where outsiders have kar, rar, hum and uh.
Trivia: the name of the cannibals home camp Rakmogak is actually a slight variation of the native translation of “Raw meat”!