Spanish Video Game Localization : A Thorn in The Translator’s Side

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Localization is really popular among young translators. Many of them are drawn to video game translation, which encompasses specific challenges going far beyond those encountered by a “regular” audiovisual localizer. Indeed, while working on the subtitles, lip-synching and other challenges linked to transcreation ; video game localizers need to be pragmatic and allow the player to easily connect with the virtual environment which the game offers.

As such, localizers need to become masters at choosing the right words. Even though there are a lot of articles on the topic of video game localization in French, this article will focus on the specificities of Spanish video game localization.


The main issue when it comes to localization in Spanish (whether it is in video games or cinema) lies in the many variations of the Spanish language all over the world. Besides the official languages –Castilian and Catalan– there exist numerous dialects spoken in Spain alone. If you add up all the terminological and phonetic variations across the whole of Latin America, you might start understanding how big of a challenge offering localization to the whole Spanish-speaking market can be.

Many audiovisual localization agencies work with a norm based on Spanish spoken in Latin America, mainly Mexican Spanish, in order to make the language as neutral and reach as many Spanish-speaking individuals as possible while limiting the cost of the localization process. For the majority of Castilian-speaking natives, the “LatAm” (standing for Latinoamerican) version speaks to their childhood. In fact, many cartoons have been localized in the same way for years. LatAm doesn’t faze Spanish-speaking natives, since they tend to find it more direct and informal, which fits cartoons well.

However, if you consider the struggle to identify to characters who speak with an accent and idioms which differ from yours, the need for a Castilian version for more “serious” audiovisual productions and for video games appealing to a more mature audience is understandable.

There are a couple of very good examples, such as the Spanish pronouns used when on a first name basis or not ; which can vary according to the country (“usted” is usually used in a very formal context, but in Colombia, it can be used when talking to your children). The terminological differences can also hinder your experience when playing a game. “Coger” can be used to code the action of “taking” or “picking up” an object in Spanish from Spain, but this choice might make a player from Argentina laugh, since it conveys a more sexual message in the country. They would rather use “agarrar” which means “catching” in Castilian.

The need for multiple Spanish versions when localizing a game seems obvious but in reality, it is rarely done. This year, when State of Decay 2 –a survival game in a zombie-filled post-apocalyptic world- was released, Spanish players felt as if they were considered as second class players when Microsoft chose to localize the game in Mexican Spanish only.

The tweet reads : “The final version of the Spanish cover for State of Decay 2 has leaked”Ironic title : “Was Not Translated 2”

The frustration of these players is understandable, especially when compared to the attentive work of some companies like Sony, who makes a point of offering rich multilingual and fully-dubbed versions of its games. The video game industry is still dominated by Sony and its PlayStation 4 while the sales of Microsoft’s Xbox One are stagnating. It was the opposite during the last generation of consoles.

Among other things, Microsoft has chosen to cut corners on its localization department to mitigate the situation. However, without an effort from the American giant, Spanish players are less inclined to spend their money on Microsoft’s games and “it’s a vicious circle”. Spanish players stay away from LatAm versions and a lot of them prefer to play the original version instead, as it was the case with the Halo franchise, even though it featured a fully-dubbed version. Microsoft seems to be heading into a dead-end and the situation will not improve unless the company is willing to really listen to its customers. Since gaming remains an industry first and foremost, profitability remains a priority for the American publisher, who keeps wondering : “is it worth it ?”

Maxime Cicurel

Translated by Céline ECHILLEY

El drama del doblaje de los videojuegos se aviva con State of Decay 2

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A Beacon In a Sea of Clients

Even though becoming a freelance translator is synonymous with freedom, it also involves somewhat of an instability. Every freelance translator fears not having (enough) clients. This fear is even more present when one has just graduated from school and is faced with diving into the working world.

So what should you do ?

The answer is simple : canvassing.


Messages in a bottle

Even though it seems like a basic thing, the first step of canvassing is sending emails.

The issue lies in this method’s rate of success : for every 25 emails sent, how many will be read at all ? How many of them will be saved ? How many will lead to employment ?

The answer fluctuates between hearing back from possible clients and nothing at all.

In her book The Freelance Content Marketing Writer, Jennifer Goforth Gregory tries to answer these questions to help translators approach canvassing calmly : they shouldn’t be afraid of quantity. If the number of answers is low, they just need to send more emails. According to her own experience, getting at least one positive answer for every 50 emails and at least one client for every 100 emails is doable. As such, it can lead to a pretty astounding number of emails. However, translators should remember that this is only a point of reference : it is possible to find clients quickly but they shouldn’t give up and keep at it, even if a good number of their emails remain unanswered.

How many clients ?

Many translators think that anywhere between 20 to 30 clients is enough, but they shouldn’t stop there. Given the nature of the job, it is crucial that translators keep canvassing at the pace of one or two emails a day in order to maintain some leeway. Building up their client base takes time and for every client lost translators should double their efforts with canvassing. This holds even more true for newcomers : the first few weeks of being freelance should mostly revolve around establishing contact.

Managing their image

There can be several reasons as to why your emails remain unanswered. It is very important to check their content and the way the email, the resume, or cover letter was written. Despite how tedious it might be, systematically tailoring your emails to each client can prove to be effective. Translators should also remain aware of what is possible for them : limiting themselves to only a few domains can be another reason why they find few clients.

To conclude, to be a freelance translator is to be a driving force in your own success, or at least, your visibility. Even if the main goal is getting clients, becoming an « option for a future translation » is just as important. Canvassing is a crucial phase for any freelance translator and can be a source of anxiety. There aren’t any risks at offering your services, so dive in !

Clément Lagarde

Revissed by Fanchon Morin

Translated by Céline ECHILLEY


Source  : http ://

Teleworking : How to Do It Right

Working from home, at a coffee shop or a coworking space is not uncommon among translators and technical writers, whether they are freelancers or not.


In general terms, working from home is more and more common. Indeed, the number of remote jobs keeps increasing, and the French Labor Law, which was enacted late 2016, promotes teleworking. In France, 17 % of employees were telecommuting in 2016, and 41 % wanted to do it fulltime.

This type of work enables employees to increase their well-being (according to 96 % of people surveyed), lower absenteeism (5.5 fewer off days per teleworker), gain in efficiency (+22 %), time (37 min dedicated to family and 45 min of sleep) and money (related to means of transport).

However, remote work cannot be improvised : it is essential to be prepared.

The right skills

The more time spent working from home, the more it is necessary to develop essential skills in order to feel fulfilled by this type of work.

Adrienne Jack from Lionbridge presents six skills required to get started :

  • Time management : learning how to value one’s time, and how to say “no”, combining one’s work and lifestyle.
  • Self-discipline : avoiding distractions, self-training, delivering the project on time.
  • Independence : not cutting oneself from the outside world and knowing instead when to meet others to develop one’s empathy.
  • Reliability : delivering quality work on a consistent basis, keeping managers updated on one’s progress, asking for feedback, offering help to colleagues when it is possible.
  • Flexibility : adapting to customers’ needs and urgencies.
  • Joy for the work : remote working does not make one enjoy working.

The right tools

Apart from owning a computer equipped with a good setup and the right software, it is also important to have a good internet connection with access to online resources, but also to facilitate the customer relationship and the delivery of information or projects.

In addition, some tools can make remote teamwork easier (such as Trello or the new open source platform Crust) and others simplify work organization.

For example, author and translator Lionel Davoust made an inventory of the most relevant tools on his blog to create a “toolbox”, ranging from spell checking software to applications allowing for faster typing, and including software to avoid distractions.

The choice of telework is not random. It isn’t a miracle but, if you are prepared enough, it can provide great opportunities.

Alexane Bébin

Translated by Sarah Deville

To be (or not to be) an effective translator

In a recent article, Jenie Gabriel from the translation agency Gengo has been suggesting seven practices to improve one’s efficiency :

  1. Work quality assurance
  2. Continuous proofreading and reviewing
  3. Good customer relationship management
  4. Learning from feedback
  5. Stepping out of the comfort zone
  6. Meticulous time management
  7. Continuous learning and improvement

What kind of efficiency are we dealing with ?

Upon reading this advice, we instantly realize that it is not about time-saving nor organization or customer relationships improvement tools. It is rather a question of work improving than of “work more to earn more”.

Jenie Gabriel quotes Aristotle : “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit”.

Therefore, translators must aim for excellence. Why is that ? For the love of the profession, or for work ethics ? Partly, but it is mostly to stand out.

In a world where language service providers must meet increasing needs, the supply also rises, but with very different quality levels.

These habits would therefore rather be a way of determining the difference between a trained and experienced expert and others. Between someone who, through the quality of its work, manages to develop a loyal customer base with interesting and profitable projects, and someone forced to translate whatever is given to him.

Being efficient is not a matter of word count, but rather of gaining more savoir-faire and quality. It is not only about translating, but also building a reputation and making sure there will be more translation projects tomorrow.

Yet, the excellency standard set by this advice—while it allows long-term efficiency to the company—seems to contradict the short-term need to translate fast (and well) and therefore to be cost-effective.

Develop the habit to be effective (and vice versa)

“Time is money.” You could think that the time spent waiting for proofreads, sending e-mails and calling customers is wasted for translation.

Of course, but that is when practice steps in : the daily tasks get faster to carry out. By making sure that they keep improving for each new project, translators make less mistakes and thus spend less time reviewing their work. They gain efficiency in their short-term work.

Excellence and habit go hand in hand, just like Isaac Newton said : “When two forces unite, their efficiency double.”

Alexane Bébin

Translated by Sarah Deville

Proofread by Kim Condron

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Only Translating to One’s Mother Tongue : Compulsory Rule or Free Choice ?

Languages are the cornerstone of translators since they all use several of them for work. On this topic, the French Society of Translators (SFT) asserts that all translators must translate towards their mother tongue, not the other way around. But why is that ?

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The advantages

Each language being inherently linked to its country’s culture, it seems normal that a native speaker can easily adapt a foreign language concept into their mother tongue. They are aware of all the cultural subtleties and stylistic nuances, so that they can transmit the original message more accurately.

Moreover, they can instantly gather expressions and wording from the richness of the vocabulary, , because these all belong to them from the moment they were born.

That is the reason why translation agencies always recommend customers to employ translators working in their native language. The SFT is again inflexible on this point :

“Translators who do not follow this basic rule will be more likely to overlook other criteria which are essential to the translation’s quality. If you want an international image, approximation is not allowed. In many cultures, people disapprove of their language being altered. Ask for a translator whose mother tongue is the same as the required target language.”

Is mastering one’s native language enough for a translator ?

The answer is assuredly negative. Translation is not only about transposing a text from one language to another. There are various factors to this process, namely the understanding of the original text.

Indeed, working towards one’s mother tongue does not guarantee that there will not be any mistakes from a rough reading of the original document. Translators must be skilled in all their working languages. If they are poorly skilled in foreign languages, they won’t be able to convey the original message accurately.

What happens in everyday life ?

When translators make their way into the job market, they must pick their working languages. Most translators generally choose to work towards their native language. Yet, others choose to expand the number of their working languages. In spite of the SFT and some translation agencies’ opinion, this decision does not follow any particular rule. It depends on the will and the professional coherence of each translator.

Francesca Laganella

Translated by Sarah Deville

Source : http ://

How to Properly Choose a Sworn Translator

Every year, a growing number of French natives decide to move abroad. If you have also made that choice, your receiving country’s civil service can ask for a number of required documents, such as a birth, marriage or divorce certificate. If the country does not speak French, one issue remains : you need these documents translated. Even if you consider yourself bilingual, you cannot translate these documents yourself. Any translator won’t be able to do it : a sworn translator is required.


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What is a sworn translator ?

A sworn translator will perform a certified translation of any of your documents and will guarantee its legal value. Not everyone can pretend to be a sworn translator. In France, sworn translators are recognized as judiciary experts by courts. They are required to obtain a master’s degree and to have a solid working experience before they can present themselves in Court. They are also required to have a clean criminal record.

Each region’s Court of Appeals establishes a directory of every sworn translator, which you are free to consult if you ever find yourself in need of one.

How should you proceed ?

Once you have found a skilled sworn translator, don’t hesitate to ask for a sample of their work. If everything seems in order, you can ask for a quote. The translator establishes a price depending on the number of pages in the document (each page can be billed between $45 and $136 – rate for the 12/4/18) and the language pair. The rarer the pair, the more expensive the translation becomes.

Once a price has been agreed upon and the translation is finished, the latter needs to be legalized. The legal validation process – also called an apostille depending on the country which have signed this global convention – certifies that the documents are authentic. It is one of the sworn translator’s prerogatives.

Indeed, the translator’s stamp and signature will both appear of the original document and its translated copy. After this, they need to be validated by the town hall, the chamber of commerce or a notary.

What if you are in a hurry ?

If you do not wish to worry about all these formalities, the easiest solution would be to contact a translation agency. Currently, there are agencies which operate online and to which you can directly send your documents in a PDF format. They will then find a sworn translator for you, even though it will cost you more.

Dorian Baret

Translated by Céline ECHILLEY

Artificial Intelligence Learns From its Mistakes

It is well known that we all learn from our mistakes. All creatures from the animal kingdom answer a causality principle which forces them, by memory, reason or instinct, not to reproduce an error if they have already been subjected to a physical or psychological reprimand. Since this type of perception is specific to beings endowed with feelings and consciousness, it seems impossible to apply it to computers. But what about artificial intelligence ?


Nowadays, AI is not only limited to the recognition and processing of programs made to achieve a specific goal, one action at a time. In 1951, at the beginning of AI, a student from the University of Manchester created a machine capable of beating you hands down at the game of chess. This is an example among many others of primitive artificial intelligence, outstanding at the time, but quickly outdated by technical and scientific needs.

Through the years, scientists have discovered the need to revolutionize AI and decided to use the most logical example to leverage their advances : the human being. The tendency to make mistakes is thus an imperfection envied by machines. Current artificial intelligence systems are therefore capable of reproducing thoughts, a deductive mind and even reasoning in order to stock each piece of data into its own memory : an advanced learning process.

In the past machine translation software used to run with an algorithm splitting the whole text into fragments and then searching the meaning of these fragments in the memory. Depending on the language, the software would then adapt the structure of the fragments based on the grammatical rules of each language. But since the translation’s quality was not always perfect, online translation has recently been suited with a new advanced learning system, allowing the software to learn from its mistakes.

As an example, let’s take two languages intrinsically different : English and Japanese. Having encountered performance difficulties during a previous translation in this language combination, the software changes its strategy and chooses a “compromise” language. In this case, Korean acts as a bridge between two grammars that are too different. After a short analysis, the automated translation software first translates from Japanese to Korean, and then from Korean to English. It gets around the difficulty and improves the result.

By taking language as an example, we quickly understand how much modern AI learning, which imitates human reasoning, can become effective. We could think that the gap between AI and human beings is becoming smaller, but the non-mechanical mechanism of the human mind cannot be excluded from the equation. The nuances, the feelings, the cultural knowledge, etc. What makes humanity beautiful is the myriad of unsolvable enigmas that even the most powerful calculator,-let’s call it “computer”- could not solve.

Written by Gildas Mergny

Translated by Arthur Chevallier-Letort

Your Translation is all Chinese to me !

Translating for China, what a real headache ! China counts up to 81 dialects, 49 of which bear the same name as the ethnicity that uses it. The other 32 are named differently than their speakers’ ethnicity (for example, more than 90,000 Tibetans have the gyarong language as their mother tongue).


Linguistic distances between minor languages are largely more visible in the South of China than in the North, which makes communication harder for southern Chinese people. Those 81 dialects are strongly different from one another and this is why they are sorted into four large categories : Sino-Tibetan languages, Altaic languages, Austronesian languages, and Indo-European languages.

Sino-Tibetan languages

The Sino-Tibetan group clusters half of the dialects spoken in China. Those 40 languages are spread into four distinctive groups : Chinese, Tibeto-Burman languages, Kam-Tai languages, and Hmong-Mien languages. With 1.5 billion speakers, the Sino-Tibetan group represents the second largest linguistic family in speakers. Majorly spoken in China, this linguistic group extends to Nepal, Bhutan, India, Myanmar and Thailand.

Altaic languages

Altaic languages cluster 19 out of the 81 languages spoken in China. This linguistic group is named after the Altai Mountains, which cross through Central Asia, containing China, Russia, Mongolia and Kazakhstan. Altaic languages listed in China include the Turkish languages at 0.7 %, the Tungusic languages at 0.5 %, and the Mongolic languages at 0.32 %.

Austronesian languages

With just under 300 million speakers, Austronesian languages are part of one of the most geographically spread out linguistic families, second only to the Indo-European languages. This area includes a large part of Oceania (Taiwan, New Zealand, Hawaii and Easter Island). In China, only 0.035 % of the population speaks a language coming from this family. These 14 different dialects all come from one group.

Indo-European languages

Globally, Indo-European languages form the most spread out linguistic family. Despite their prevalence in most of the world, these languages are not really spoken much in China (only 0.0026 % of the population speaks them). With 0.0023 % and 0.0003 % of the Chinese speakers, Tajik and Slavic languages are respectively the two categories represented in China.

Written by Morgan POULELLAOUEN

Translated by David LOURY

Source : http  ://

The difference between Localization and Translation

There is a fine line between localization and translation, but according to the definitions, these two activities are different. Translation consists in transposing a text in an original language into another language, the target language. On the other hand, localization requires further work. It goes beyond mere translation by adding a cultural aspect in order to adapt the product to the local needs in the best way possible.


Localization is often mistaken with translation. The difference between the 2 concepts is hard to grasp for some people and therefore the importance of the processes of localization is often underestimated, like adapting the non-textual components of a product or a service. For instance, let’s take the adaptation of graphs, the adoption of local currencies, the use of specific date formats, addresses or phone numbers, the choice of colors and many other details. These modifications can lead to the complete physical restructuration of a project. The purpose of all these changes is to avoid any misunderstanding with the local culture and customs and also adapt to the specific needs and desires of a population when entering a foreign market.

The localization service is a direct consequence of the increasing internationalization of global trade. That’s why many translation agencies are hired to localize products. They will mostly be asked to localize computer products, like translating software and its documentation, as well as websites or more “traditional” documents such as leaflets, packaging, pictures, etc.

Localization is a process in which the culture of the target audience is taken into consideration. The translator knows about the characteristics of the target language and is thus able to perceive its nuances. This requires a thorough understanding of the rules that govern both the original and the target culture. In that sense, it may be said that the process of localization simply is a more advanced and complete version of translation.

But be careful, translation is a vital step that remains at the heart of the process of localization.

Written by Anne-Laure ZAMARRENO

Translated by Nathan HERMANCE

One for Humor, And Humor for All

When we bring up the difficulties that may be encountered in a translation process, we tend to think about very complex legal or commercial documents, or even poetry. Indeed, translating Victor Hugo’s or Baudelaire’s verses in English is not a piece of cake ! However, it’s not what this article will be focusing on today. I’d rather propose you to give a round of applause for all those who have to translate humoristic messages.


Thanks to streaming websites –that are getting more and more numerous over the years- American series live beyond their shores. Nevertheless, some like The Big Bang Theory or Two Broke Girls are sometimes really hard to deal with. Indeed, whether humor can be translated or not has led to many studies and debates. Some authors like Zabalbeascoa have even decided to create a classification for the different types of jokes, in order to make it less tedious for audiovisual translators.

If humor is something universal, its translation is way more complex, as puns are usually specific to a culture. Thus, translators have to succeed in adapting these references to the targeted culture so they can be understood..This can turn into a real nightmare, considering they also have to respect translation techniques and restrictions which exist in subtitling, for example.

Below are few examples to help you understand :

  • I assume you haven’t forgotten about the Game of Thrones episode in which the origin of Hodor’s name is revealed. Admittedly, this passage is not humoristic at all, but it does a good job of depicting the challenge that is translating puns. The sentence “Hold the door” works pretty well in English, but it’s not as easy to find a translation that makes sense in other languages. The Dubbing Brothers chose to translate it by “Pas au-dehors” in French, (litteraly “not outdoors”), which then becomes “Au-dehors” and finally “Hodor”. In Spanish, it became “Obstruye el corridor” (“Obstructs the corridor”).
  • Did you know that during the Cannes Festival, the directors of the movie Intouchablesmade a guide book adapting the dialogues and jokes for the foreign audience ? Therefore, the joke “Pas de bras, pas de chocolat !” (which literally can be translated to “no arm, no chocolate”) was translated by “No handy, no candy !” or by “No feet, no sweets !” in order to keep the rhyme.
  • Sometimes, the translation choice itself makes us laugh : John Snow’s name was kept in the French version of the show, but not in the Quebec’s one. They decided to translate it literally, which leaves us with a wonderful Jean Neige, as testifies the French Tumblr “Les sous-titres de la honte” (“The subtitles of shame”).

Written by Déborah Rivallain

Translated by Zohra Lepeigneul