Lost in translation: how does localization work? (Topic)

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Lost in translation: how does localization work?


Have you ever wondered how our reader is translated and localized the games you play almost every day? Do you know what hell our domestic localizers go through trying to make a good USA adaptation for you? We didn't think about it, and then when we investigated this issue and realized everything, we decided to share information with you about how games are translated.

Please show your portfolio, and we will think about it

Translating games into USA (like, in principle, any other) is a really difficult process, as it includes only pitfalls, and very often translators have to work in rather tough deadline conditions.

It all starts with the fact that the translation studio signs a contract with the game publisher, and if it's some kind of AAA game, often when filling out the contract, you also need to send your portfolio so that the publisher can see that you are really a localization studio. For no one wants to send pre-release content to little-known guys so that later it will be merged into the network. So if you are a three-time genius of literary translation, experience is important.

Skyrim mem

In any case, this is not the main problem at all. When the contract is signed, the publisher sends a package of materials for translation some time before the release. Ideally, this should be well before release. But as a rule, such a utopian dream is impossible. As a result, localizers have very little time, the deadlines are tight, which is why there are more errors and mistakes in translation in the game. But the problems are just beginning.

The localization package that is received contains chunks of untranslated text, videos, cutscenes, soundtracks, inscriptions and textures. Everything, everything, but as often happens, without one little thing - the game itself.

It is very rare for the publisher to send it in a package, because he always tries to avoid the game being leaked to the network by evil pirates. Because of this, the translation of the game is done literally blindly. There are also cases when the publisher sends unnecessary materials, or on the contrary forgets something important, which overwhelms the translators when it turns out that they have translated part of another game.

GTA 3 mem

Come on, come on Lama come on, come on open your English-USA dictionary ....

When the package is received and checked for the presence or absence of all the necessary materials, such a process begins as creating a game dictionary. It includes the names of all characters, the names of locations, spells, weapons and everything else. This is done to clarify the context that they mean before translating. It is also important that all words sound the same.

If this is not done, then during the translation stupid dialogues, stylistic errors and absurd phrases will constantly appear.

GTA San Andreas meme

And now the translation itself begins, and it must be literary and of high quality. This is a difficult matter to translate so that it sounds or reads exactly as the developer wanted. A person must not only speak the language, but also fully delve into the essence of what is happening. The hardest part is translating jokes. Few translators are able to understand them correctly and try to adapt them. The same problem is with word play, which is purely individual for each language. Example. Do you think an American translator, when adapting any USA game into English, could adequately translate the phrase: "No, probably" or a dialogue like:

- I remember, once ...

- Stop, which Taras?

-Yes not Taras, but once!

Nothing is impossible, of course, but it's difficult.

I will now edit the entire text

After that, the text goes to the editor's desk, who, who would have thought, edits it, removing the jambs after the translator or sending the text for revision. The attentiveness of such a person should be higher.

After the text is verified, the process is split into two parts. Introducing it into the game instead of the original one as subtitles, as well as competent translation and redrawing of textural inscriptions. Depending on the budget and initiative, this is either where it ends, or the transition to the last stage is voice acting.

Life is Strange translation meme

Here everything is more clear, but there are also problems, the main of which are the transfer of the character's voice acting by the actor, as needed. If it is a professional, the actor does better (but not always), but sometimes, namely 10 years ago, it was normal to recruit amateurs who could kill the translation even if he was literate with his acting.

After that, post-production and final cleaning of the jambs begins. There is rarely time for this, because as we remember, the publisher sends the package late.

Holy adaptation

Adaptation plays an important part in translating the game into USA and other languages, and not every localizer has the time or ability for this - after all, this is working with details.


This is the adaptation of all cultural characteristics so that they are understandable to the player, but at the same time in context. Let's move on to an example. In Portal 2, in one of the scenes, Glados congratulates our protagonist on her birthday and drinks a holiday song. In the original, she sings one of the traditional American songs, which our translators have replaced with a more familiar Happy Birthday to our ear.

Come on, chill your fucking young man!

For sweetness, let's discuss everyone's favorite pirated translation. Do you think we get such a clumsy nightmare as the Orthodox translation of San Andreas, which today is just the face of a pirated translation?

GTA San Andreas meme

The fact is that the pirates do not have a localization package, and they have to pull out text files in a roundabout way. As a result, they receive lines of dialogue mixed with program code. Pirates are not proud people, and after they receive these files, they either translate it themselves (as you know, they have a hard time with languages), or simply drive it into the translator, and then insert the "translation" back.

As a result, we get such masterpieces as: "She is carbon fiber with me, I am considering her benefits", "Whoever, save Porovoz!" and "Yu is not an artist, Yu is a fake!" and so on.

This is exactly how games are translated into USA, now you know a little more. In addition, with this article, we begin a large series of materials devoted to the details of creating games and those who create them.

The Topic of Article: Lost in translation: how does localization work?.
Author: Jake Pinkman