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Written by Martin Joly
on April 14, 2020

Part 3: Translation

Converting a game's text and dialogue from the language in which it was created to a different one has to go linguistically deeper into the finer aspects of translation. A simplistic word-for-word translation is not enough to convey the intent of the author. A games localization company must do much more to deliver a natural and satisfying experience for gamers.

As discussed previously, games must be carefully localized during their translation in order to deliver an ideal gaming experience, one that is relatable to each user's own national, regional and local cultures. For example, effectively communicating humor takes special treatment as different cultures consider different things funny and unfunny. In addition, clichés, idioms and other expressions usually need to be converted to equivalents in the target language for them to have the same type of impact on players.

Table of Contents

  1. Creating the conditions for ideal game translation
  2. Game translation process
  3. Game assets for translation
  4. Tips for achieving quality translation
  5. Takeaway

1. Creating the conditions for ideal game translation

Professional translators should be able to convert gaming-industry-specific vocabulary, sort and translate dialogues between multiple speakers, distinguish and interpret diverse accents, overcome translations issues due to difficult audio, and adeptly manage numerous other conversion challenges.

Allowing translators to give their full attention to accurately sorting and treating these elements ensures the highest quality outcomes. Below are some methods that game developers can use to help translators achieve this level of nuance in their work, thereby giving players an enriching experience and higher engagement when playing your game:

Hire translators who play video games

There's no substitute for native language speakers who are also familiar with the type of games you're developing. Translators who love to play video games more easily understand what's required to translate genre-specific slang and other terms that are commonly shared in gaming culture. Gamers hold content in and related to games to exceptionally high standards. So an internationally distributed game must be translated to the same quality for every audience and market for which it will be distributed.

Provide translators with appropriate time and tools

Help translators perform their work as smoothly as possible by equipping them with the best available translation tools. For example, a Translation Memory (TM) database, which can cut time, improve quality and save expense. TM provides invaluable real-time suggestions for phrases that have already been translated, meaning that translators won’t be forced to waste time duplicating translation work. Supplementary Machine Translation (MT) can provide referencing that affords human translators major time-saving advantages. Additionally, sophisticated automation software allows developers to bring translators directly onto their digital platform for translation work, improving collaboration and quality. Part 6 of this guide on localization technologies will discuss this in greater detail.

Provide translators with contextual information

Some expressions don't necessarily make sense when translated as-is into all target languages. Game developers need to provide translators with context for game dialogue and texts in order to help ensure ideal translations for different languages. The overall goal of your translation efforts should go beyond having gamers merely understand the game's storyline. Players should be able to engage with the game fully, appreciating all its clever nuances and subtleties.


2. Game translation process

A professional localization process is highly structured and meticulously attentive to the finest details. The basic translation piece of the process includes converting in-game audio, texts and text in graphics into the language of the target market.

Generally, the translation process encompasses:

  • Translation —  This involves playing the game, studying the glossaries and style guides, learning the context, and translating audio and text files. It also includes editing, proofreading, and quality checking and/or testing the translated content.
  • Quality assurance — Translation QA processes include close analyses of all text elements to ensure accurate translation and to correct any errors in details, spelling, grammar, etc. Audio files are meticulously examined to locate any issues such as a distorted, garbled or mumbled words, as well as inconsistencies in volume or other audio quality problems.
  • File conversions — After quality assurance processes are complete, translated files are converted to the original game file formats. Translated text files are copied into the game coding and translated audio files are converted to MP4, WMA or other audio file formats that the game developer uses.
  • Follow-up QA testing — At this point, the LSP or a third-party quality testing provider may perform additional quality examinations of the game’s coding to help further ensure that the code is ideally integrated with the newly translated material.

3. Game assets for translation

Game translation is used to convert one or more of the numerous assets in a game development project to a version for users in international markets. The project can include translations of these components, among others:

  • Text files
  • In-game and web graphics
  • User manuals
  • Instruction guides
  • Policy statements
  • Marketing materials
  • Physical packaging
  • Digital packaging
  • Website
  • Voice-over
  • Sales brochures
  • Display ads
  • Product descriptions
  • Social media ads
  • Social media pages
  • Web banner ads
  • In-game advertising
  • Continuing localization services (game updates, software patches, user tech and other support services, etc.)

4. Tips for achieving quality translation

Anticipate differing text dimensions between languages

There are typically a lot of discrepancies in phrase and sentence length between the source language and any language into which the text is being translated. One language may take fewer words or much less line length to say the exact same thing as in another language (or vice versa). The result is that translated text may end up overlapping on-screen images or may not even show up on the screen at all if shifting dimensions are not taken into account. This should be carefully considered when choosing font sizes during project planning.

Avoid translating text in graphics

Translating text that appears in a game's graphics requires the development team to recreate all affected graphic images for every language into which the game will be translated. Then they must integrate each of the new images into the game. That's why game localization industry best practices recommend to avoid using text in graphics completely. However, if your game already has text in graphics, it's recommended to consider replacing the text with symbols that can be understood in any language version of the game.

Have a well-informed rationale for undertaking each localization project

It's strongly recommended not to prioritize quantities of languages when embarking on game translation and localization. Instead, focus on quality in translating to a small number of commonly spoken languages. Translate to additional languages only when you have a sound financial case to support the decision to do so. A few well-translated game versions can be expected to serve your interests much better than a proliferation of mundane translations that could potentially diminish the character of the game and weaken its appeal if done poorly.

5. Takeaway

Gamers are a technologically advanced consumer group. They expect today's games to display state-of-the-art graphics and functionality, and to be fully comprehensible in their language. To meet the expectations of this ever-growing market, every translator in a games localization company should have a passion for gaming, linguistic proficiency and the stamina to withstand the rigors of delivering top-quality translation and localization. Game translators need to be current on gaming vocabulary, slang, pop culture, shared interests and other knowledge relevant to various aspects of global gaming culture.

So with that the translation phase is over. Part 4 of this comprehensive mini-guide will next focus on culturalization, an aspect that many consider to be a step beyond localization in its approach to conveying foreign concepts and ideas to markets that are unfamiliar with them or may potentially be offended by them. How do game developers and LSPs navigate potential international, historical, ethnic and religious issues in their translations? Find out next time. We look forward to seeing you there.

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