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Igor Kozlov

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Hi!

 

My name is Igor Kozlov, I’m an English to Russian localizer -- and also a keen gamer, with more than 7 years in translation and 20 years in gaming.

 

Of course if you like computer games, translating them might be your dream. However not everything is as easy as it seems. Today I would like to speak about 10 serious challenges in videogames localization. These can help you get started, and even if you’re a seasoned localizer, you might also find something new. I placed these from 10 to 1. Not sure if that’s from most important to least. Here we go!

 

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10. Always follow your language intonation, your language tone. Do not blindly translate the interface, especially the instructions. Europeans for example are sweet. And Americans are sweet. And Canadians. They say: "Please remove the disk", "please push the button". But Russians are grumpy! We never say please unless we really enjoy you. Personally. So in Russian localization there must NOT be that “pleases” from English. Just "Push the button", or “нажми кнопку” in Russian. Period.
I’m sure, your native language also has some differences from English. Unless you’re English, of course. Always note that when localizing, you should localize it for YOUR people, so they would feel it’s their buddy from the neighborhood speaking, not some American (or whatever your source language is).

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9. Quotes are nasty. For example, this one, from Shakespeare: “By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes”. And I’ll tell you what, there’s no exact analogue of this quote in Russian -- neither Lozinsky has, nor Pasternak. If some character in some point says something VERY VERY STRANGE, 99% it’s a quote. Some popular quote. So don’t ruin it. If you run into such thing, first -- Google its official translation. Second -- consider replacing it with some relevant analogue in your language.
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8. Swearing is different in every language. Different words, different meaning, different MESSAGE. You see? For example Russian language is much more expressive than English. So is Russian swearing language. Russian translator can’t normally translate the word F@#K literally. In English it’s simple -- f@#k this, f@#k that, I’m bored, f@#k that. But in Russian we can’t say the same way because it will sound much more expressive. Because this word itself is much more expressive in Russian. Like, oh, we’re totally f@#ked -- that’s how it will sound in Russian. Besides it’s strictly forbidden in most places here -- don’t forget about local legislation too. So use common sense and translate responsibly -- the MESSAGE which your character means, not the words itself.
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7. If you are a localizer, you should seriously consider learning some programming languages. No, seriously. At least the HTML mark-up.
So, as it’s called, basic programming skills. Or at least HTML to work with maybe some game news pages on the Internet. HTML is simple, honestly. Of course the customer has his own specialists, and it’s their work to do the programming thing. But there are different situation, and if you can fix some missing or corrupted piece of simple code in case someone up there screws up, you will be valued by the customer much more. So remember this.


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6. The placeholders are actually small pieces of code which are later replaced by some text. They usually look like these: %s, %1$@, but may also look like capitalized words or however else.
These should never be translated or altered in any way. If you change or even delete them, then the app, game or website is probably in a big trouble.
The placeholders are especially hardcore you know in what languages? Russian, German and the like. Because of cases. Nominative, Genitive, Dative… German has 4. Russian has 6! And you must always build the phrase to include the placeholder value in Nominative case. Woo-hoo, extra challenge! Unfortunately, it’s never extra-paid. Never.  

 

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5. The next is about gamers’ slang. How many of the following words you know in context of gaming?
But these terms are very popular. It’s DOTA, an e-sports tournament game. With multimillion dollar rewards.
I once translated articles for a game like this. My editor always said: no issues grammatically, but I have honestly no idea what this is all about. You — MUST have an idea. And you must also know which of these terms have a translation in your language, and which are used as-is (which is more often).

 

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4. If your language has polite addressing (like in Russian or French, for example), the user must always be addressed politely.

In Russian for example it’s “вы”.
And in French it’s “vous”.

Unless of course your game’s audience is VERY-VERY YOUNG. In your opinion gaming may be childish and stuff, but — always politely.
Of course this is not about what characters say, it’s just about interface, instructions, notifications, manuals and so on.

 

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3. This is the famous Russian proverb, and as you may see, it’s perfectly true in case of video and mobile games. Always remember that the screen and the message boxes are usually small, so keep your translation as short as possible. Without unneeded abbreviations (unless the client has explicitly asked you to), but -- as short as possible.
 

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2. I once localized a videogame, and there was a Broken Doll character skin. A skin is an alternative hero appearance.

That skin was called like this: Broken Doll. But I translated that as Forgotten Doll. Because in Russian — Broken doll is “Сломанная кукла”, and Forgotten Doll is “Забытая кукла”. It sounds shorter, more dramatical, and more like the horror movie reference (which it actually was). In the end it turned out she was actually forgotten (storywise), so it was a bullseye. But some fans which considered themselves cool translators started spamming the Community Manager about why it’s Forgotten, when in English it’s Broken?

And that’s why they’re not good translators, but we are. Never translate. Transcreate! I love this word. This is not the technical instruction, you are not supposed to keep every word. You should localize the game so it would sound like it never was in English (or whatever your source language is). That’s the point. And if you need to change some words, do so.

 

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1. Just be a gamer. If you think “videogames are simple toys, there’s nothing difficult in localizing them” -- you’re wrong. Today videogames are natural works of art, like books or paintings (and sometimes even better). You can’t translate steam turbines instructions without actually being an engineer. And likewise you just can’t localize games if you don’t like them.
I once had an editor who was much more experienced than me. But when our agency received a game, and I sent my translation, her fixes were just pure nonsense. Do you know what the hit point is?
It's basically a health point. Monsters point at you and hit you, and you lose hit points. Well she thought hit points is something like your attacks are hitting precisely. Well, the point is -- be a gamer, play games, love games, and I’m sure you will be a great and well-paid localizer one day!

 

Thanks for attention, guys!

Get in touch at https://www.linkedin.com/in/ikozlov/

And for best English-Russian Localization visit http://applocalization.net/

David García Ruiz

You have decided to translate your website into a new language, aiming to reach new customers. However, some time has gone by, and you are not getting any queries from the translated version of the website.

Google processes over 3.5 billion searches per day worldwide. Perhaps, there is someone behind a screen looking for your products or services in the new market you are trying to reach, but your website is invisible in that target market.

To keep it simple, search engine optimisation (SEO) is a combination of techniques that help your website rank high in search results of search engines like Google, Yahoo! and Bing.

Even if SEO techniques have been applied to your website’s home country version, you will still need to apply those strategies to the translated version of your website. This is why SEO translation is a must if you want to be visible!

I am sure you know that… content is king

You will hear that phrase repeatedly as the key element of SEO success. Hence, when it comes to international SEO, the person writing the content in the new language (the translator!) is the one who can make your content SEO friendly.

Isn’t it then enough to translate the content that was already optimised in the source language? No: Due to different consumer habits, values and traditions, people may perform searches using different words and sentences that are unique for each country.

An example? Imagine you are selling an afternoon tea plus spa experience in London for weekend travellers from Spain.

Spaniards will not search for “afternoon tea” in Spanish, just because they do not know what that is! The keywords they may write on Google when searching for similar services may be champagne plus spa London or romantic spa London, but not afternoon tea.

Therefore, keyword research is vital to understand the specific words and phrases that are used in each different country. The next step is to effectively incorporate those keywords; I advise including them on:

  1. The Title Meta Tag

 

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   2. The Description Meta Tag

 

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       3. The heading (H1 tag) and subheadings (H2, H3 tags) of your page

       4. The first paragraph of your page

      Lastly, remember that it is important to make sure that copy is still appealing to humans: they are the ones purchasing products and services!

      David García Ruiz is a professional Italian/English into Spanish translator. He specializes in marketing translation and SEO copy-writing services, and enjoys giving advice to translators on his blog about good SEO practices. If you have any questions, please get in touch with him!  

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Anthony Teixeira

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Working in the video game localization industry is a dream for many game and language lovers. However, breaking into a field that generates so much enthusiasm can be difficult. Here are a few pointers to help you get started.

Choose your destiny: In-house employee or freelancer?

First of all, you will need to determine what kind of employment you are looking for. The two basic options are working in-house for a developer/translation agency, or as a freelancer. Both have their advantages and shortcomings, and may be more or less easy to achieve depending on factors such as your location (or ability/willingness to relocate) for in-house positions or self-disciple/motivation for freelancing. Balance pluses and minuses carefully, and choose your way.

Be prepared

All the information you need to know about translation as a profession, the tools of the trade, rates, pitfalls, etc. is freely available online. Articles, courses, forums... a quick search can do wonders. Learn the basics, try your hand at a few projects to gain experience (more on that later) and leave beginner mistakes behind you.

Many of your potential employers/clients (this is especially true for translation agencies) will ask you to perform some sort of test before hiring you or using your services. Make sure you've done your homework and are 100% ready to perform at your best. Follow instructions carefully, double-check/proofread everything before delivering and hope for the best. You need to be as professional as possible from Day 1.

Finding work as an in-house translator

- Starting directly as a translator: Typically, offers for in-house positions will require you to have an educational background or experience in translation/languages, plus a certain amount of experience. On the educational side, more and more universities now offer audiovisual localization courses. More general linguistic and/or cultural studies will also be seen as good alternatives.

It is probably the most natural path to become a language professional, but you may still find the job hunting difficult, as most companies will expect you to already have experience and the competition is big. We will see ways to gain experience in a moment, but even then the options to directly start as a full-time in-house translator may be limited.

The great thing, though, is that there are plenty of alternative ways (or shall I say hidden passages?), even if you don’t have a background in language/translation or if there are no positions available yet at your target companies.

- Getting in the industry and working your way through: The idea is that, rather than directly landing a position as a translator, you could try to first get that decisive one foot in the industry and move your way up from there. I will share a bit of personal experience here. I started out as a web developer for a game localization agency (nothing related to linguistic in my job description), and gained translation experience as project managers would occasionally ask me to help their team of translators in their efforts. I know a lot of people who started in a similar way, for example working in testing (debugging - a high-turnover job for which a surprising lot of companies are ready to hire even if you don't have any qualifications) or working/doing an internship in a completely different role (web developers, sales/marketing people, etc.) Admittedly, this is not the most lucrative path to full-time translation and the results may be a little random, but you’ll gain experience and you will be in a much stronger position to move to a full-time translator role.

Finding your first projects as a freelance translator

There are dozens of different approaches to find freelance translation work. Here are a few general ideas to get the ball rolling:

- Contact translation agencies: There are quite a few agencies specialized in game localization almost always on the lookout for new translators to join their teams. Contact them, make it clear that you specialize in games and have at least some experience. You will probably be asked to take a test, and from there things are in your hands. Agency rates will rarely be stellar, but they can offer a regular work flow and that's how many of us started building our businesses.

- Contact developers: Although a lot of developers work with agencies and/or their internal localization teams, you may occasionally find openings for freelance translators online. To be informed of these opportunities as soon as they become available, it can be a good idea to follow those companies on social networks and regularly check their website for new postings.

- Networking: Many countries have strong communities of translators, sometimes even groups specialized in game translation. Get in touch with them, go to the informal meetings, be at conferences and let people know about your services. Experienced translators get increasingly busier with time and may have jobs to share. You can also learn a lot from their success. Plus, meeting new people and building new relationships is fun!
Even if you're living in a more isolated area, you can always join online communities and make yourself known by contributing to discussions and sharing interesting content.
Using social networks to help and interact with developers is another way to get yourself known as a specialist, which could also lead to assignments. Here again, you will find excellent guides online detailing strategies to find clients through social media.

- Most importantly... be patient: As a freelancer, you need to establish your business and grow a client base. No matter how good you are and how hard you try, things will take time. Definitely. You will need at the very least months, and most likely a couple of years until you start making as much as you would as a company employee. Patience and consistency are key to your success. Don't give up, but don't put yourself in a financially dangerous position. Many recommend keeping at least a part-time job until your freelance business generates enough income to pay the bills.

No experience? Not that big of a problem

 

Nowadays there are various ways for aspiring translators to hone their skills. Here are a few ideas to help you develop your portfolio:

- Help indie developers for free: SourceForge and specialized Facebook groups like this one are good places to get started. Finding small translation assignments there will allow you to learn the job on the field and to have something to show your clients. Avoid assignments larger than a few hundred words though. Being willing to help for experience doesn't make you a slave.

- The LocJAM: Every year, the IGDA LocSIG organizes a game translation contest called LocJAM. With two categories (Pro and Amateur), young and veteran translators all have a chance to shine. Having your translation picked up by industry professionals can be a real plus on your CV.
But even if you don't win a prize or if your language pair is not part of the contest, it's still a fantastic opportunity to gain experience. The texts offered for translation are freely and constantly available to everybody, and encompass the typical game localization challenges. Using the translation packages provided, you also have the possibility to see a preview of your localized games. And since everything is free and open, you have something very concrete to share with your potential clients.
Local study groups are organized around the time of the contest. There, fellow translators meet and learn/polish their skills about game localization together. It's another chance to learn and grow your network.

Conclusion

The video game market is bigger and more diverse than it has ever been, and there's no reason a motivated translator couldn't find work in the industry. Arm yourself with patience, be curious, be determined, listen to your more experience pairs and you will ultimately get there.