Problems with video game localization
We have already analyzed the process of language localization as well as the software required to do it. Now it’s time to look at possible difficulties that a translator may encounter. Welcome to the next part of our blog about localization. The article is divided into 2 parts: the first one is about difficulties which a translator has to cope with, whereas the second one provides examples of mistakes in game localization. Would you like a translation of your game? Are you interested in game localization? Do you wonder what the translator needs to take into account while working on game localization? Do you want to know what should be taken into consideration in order to attain high-quality game localization? Read this article and you will get to know answers to these questions. Thanks to our article, you will get familiar with possible challenges that even experienced game translators may encounter. The article provides anglo-polish examples.
The gender of the user
Both the gender of the user and grammatical gender are problematic for every translator, especially for a game translator. Let me explain. In English, you (as a gamer) might obtain for example such a message in past tense: “You have won the match”, regardless of the gender of the user – it doesn’t matter if it’s sent to a woman or to a man. Whereas in Polish the situation is much more complicated. A translator choose the gender by saying either “Wygrałeś mecz” (masculine) or “Wygrałaś mecz” (feminine). However, it isn’t a perfect situation, since, in that case, irrespective of which form he or she chooses, the other group might feel excluded. Perfect simple is very common and might cause a lot of problems to a game translator. So what is a possible solution to this problem? Well, the simplest and the best option is to translate this sentence impersonally, for instance: “Udało ci się wygrać mecz” (You succeeded/You managed to win the match). Another solution is to use the present tense in Polish translation, for example: “Wygrywasz mecz” (You win the match). But a translator has to be careful with this one because in some context it may change the meaning, and that would be unwelcome.
Moreover, Polish does have grammatical gender, whilst English does not. That’s why, if awards are generated from an arbitrary list, several problems may emerge. For instance, the awards can be a ball and shoes, and possible colors are yellow and green. In English, there is no problem with that, but in Polish there may be mismatching with regard to terminations of nouns and adjectives. In the case of an arbitrary list, a translator often has one form to choose and he or she opts for the basic (masculine) form of an adjective (“żółty” – yellow, “zielony” – green). So we can obtain awards “żółty piłka” (masculine adjective with feminine noun) or “zielony buty” (masculine singular adjective with feminine plural noun). The solution might be to translate “yellow” and “green” as “koloru żółtego” (in the yellow color) and “koloru zielonego” (in the green color). Then we change the word order and we interchange an adjective with a noun, so that we obtain “piłka koloru żółtego” (a ball colored yellow) and “buty koloru zielonego” (shoes colored green). In Polish, this solution solves the problem of the gender of an adjective.
Lack of context and lack of the knowledge of the topic
Lack of context is one of the most frequent reasons for localization mistakes. Some words may change their meaning depending on their role in a specific context. The English word “box” might have 3 different meanings in Polish (pudełko, loża, skrzynka), so, if a translator chooses an option that doesn’t fit the context, a player will be confused because he or she won’t know exactly what he or she is supposed to find. Furthermore, the picture and the item may not match, which might look strange. However, it is difficult to blame a translator for such mistakes, because he or she has to guess from the context due to the lack of in-game translation checking, which increases the chance that a mistake will occur. The next problem is lack of knowledge of a specific topic. In order to be able to translate for example a war game, a translator needs to have basic war knowledge, as well as war vocabulary, or at least check necessary information on the Internet. Otherwise, mistakes may cause outrage among the fans of the genre.
Idioms may be problematic for translators. Firstly, idioms are very common and shouldn’t be translated literally, for a simple reason that, translated literally, most of them would make no sense in a target language. It’s important to remember to adjust the game to a new audience living in a different country. All elements of the game must fit the new target audience. Some idioms are the same in English and in Polish, for instance “have an ace up your sleeve” (“mieć asa w rękawie”) and “rest on one’s laurels” (“spocząć na laurach”). But some English idioms have their own Polish version, completely different from the English one. When it rains heavily, the English idiom is “it is raining cats and dogs”, whereas in Polish we would say “leje jak z cebra”, which has nothing to do with cats and dogs. Another popular idiom in English “to kill two birds with one stone” is expressed in Polish as “upiec dwie pieczenie na jednym ogniu”, which literally could be translated into “to make two roasts while cooking only once”. If something is easy to do, in English we would say “a piece of cake”, but in Polish “bułka z masłem” (a roll with butter). As may be noticed, literal translation of idioms may cause a comic effect. Also, the product may seem cheap and funny, even if it’s not the aim.
Now you know the basis of game localization and challenges related to it. As you may see, localization is not a piece of cake. A translator has to pay attention to many different words and expressions, even if, at first, they might seem easy to translate. This is why it’s important to choose professional game translation. There are many steps in the process of translation and game localization, and a translator also has to have basic IT knowledge – it will ease his work. As for game producers, game localization is crucial for them, since it opens new possibilities to succeed on the international game market. Now let’s move on to the next part of our blog, in which we will present some examples of mistakes in game localization and in films and series.
Welcome to the second part of our blog about mistakes in game localization. Lately, we focused on how and why localization mistakes emerge. Now we will analyze such examples in films, games and other media. Be warned that spoilers may appear.
Translation of film titles isn’t easy – many questions and dilemmas arise. Should the title be left in English or should it be translated? Or maybe should the English title be kept but there should be added Polish subtitle? These methods have been already used in many cases, some of them were more successful, some less. “Toy Story” is “Toy Story” as well in Polish, but the title “Cars” is translated into “Auta”. These two examples prove that both methods may be effective, if used in a proper manner. Unfortunately, things are not always so colorful. We can cite an example of “Die Hard”. Its Polish title is “Szklana pułapka”, which matches the original title. In sequels, the title is no more adequate, though. But we can’t blame a translator because he or she couldn’t know what would happen in the future.
Mistakes in games
Video games also have numerous translation mistakes. Many of them emerge when a company wants to save some money and chooses machine translation, which can’t recognise the context properly. Game localisation isn’t a piece of cake, so it’s better to choose professional translation than machine translation. Mistakes in games occur in pre-release versions and many of them are corrected before release. However, a few are making their way into the full version. Here are some examples from the forum of the game “Tanki Online”:
In the example above, you can see a grammatical mistake. It should be “Niemcy wygrają” (noun in plural, verb in plural), instead of “Niemcy wygra” (noun in plural, verb in singular).
Here, there is a typo of the word “darmowa” (free). During the process of translation many details should be taken into account, even those tiny ones, such as typos.
The examples below come from the forum of the game “Euro Truck Simulator 2”.
The problem with the example above doesn’t concern its content, but the practical aspect. The underlined text “Wydarzenie ukończone!” (Event completed) looks rather clumsy and thus was replaced by “Ukonczono!” (Completed) in compliance with the suggestion of an user. As you can see, the translation of computer games also includes elements such as the practical aspect, as in the example above.
In the English version, the above load is called “aircraft engine” and the Polish equivalent is “silnik lotniczy”, not “Gondola turbiny wiatrowej” as it has been translated in this game. The mistake has been fixed.
Here, the apostrophe is needless, since we use it only if the last part of a word isn’t pronounced and we add a grammatical termination. Here is an example of the usage of the apostrophe in Polish in the case described: Dave, Dave’a, Dave’owi, etc. It proves that, in the case of games, like in the translation of other texts, one shouldn’t forget about punctuation and spelling rules.
Game localization also contains mistakes, some smaller, others bigger. Forums are useful, because gamers can notice some mistakes, which translators hadn’t noticed or hadn’t predicted.
Mistakes in series/films
As you already know, video games have localization mistakes, but films and series have them as well. The dispute between those who prefer dubbing and those opting for subtitles is ubiquitous. Both methods have their own advantages and disadvantages, but it isn’t the subject for this blog. Each of these techniques requires adjusting the length so as to retain the same meaning and tone as the original, while not making it difficult for the viewer to follow or listen. All of the examples come from the website rozrwyka.spidersweb.pl.
Here is a tweet by the Netflix account with an extract from the film “Conor McGregor: Notorious” showing a clear and obvious mistake. “Earlier” means “wcześniej”, not “później” (later). This mistake completely changes the meaning of the phrase. During the process of translation and after it it is essential to check everything one more time. However, it seems that mistakes are to some extent (hopefully to a small extent!) inevitable, because the process of both making games and game localization is complicated.
The series “Dark” on Netflix also contains a mistake, which is kind of funny. The English original is about “Matrix”, a well-known film, so the Polish translation “matryca” is wrong.
The following examples are from the series “1983” available on Netflix.
The Polish version of this sentence is “Nie w twoim to stylu”, which sounds unnatural and quite odd. Better translation would be “To nie w twoim stylu” (another word order).
The Polish translation of this extract is “Nie wie, że już dawno ją wyłączyli”. Here, the problem is with the Polish equivalent for the verb “to cut someone off”. It was translated into “wyłączyć” (as in “turn something off”), but it has a different meaning than the original and should have been rendered rather as “odciąć się” (take a break from someone). So the whole correct sentence would be “Nie wie, że już dawno się od niej odcięli” (She doesn’t know that they have cut her off a long time ago).
As you can see, mistakes are made not only by small companies, but also by large well-known and popular companies. However, it must be emphasized that, thanks to game localization, more people may have access to entertainment in the form of a specific computer game. A game is often translated into the most popular languages. Game localization is also profitable for game producers, as it shows new possibilities. Thank you for your attention and we hope you liked this blog series.
Original text: Sebastian Ludyga
Editing and translation: Emilia Niedźwiecka