I don’t recall the last time I had a translation contract. I assume it was somewhere around September or October, when I just had finished working on Whispering Willows and was about to translate Qasir al-Wasat (which, unforunately, I didn’t manage to complete, as focusing on my quite demanding studies was on the top of my priority list). Indeed, I haven’t done anything constructive ever since. Now, it’s time to end it and start anew; and that’s why I came back.
Few years ago I started a translating-related blog on the WordPress, hoping it would become a quaint diary of a computer games translator; all my tasks would be described there, all of my hints and tips would be written, sometimes even brainstorming would occur, so I could finally move on. As usual, I ended up with 2 or 3 entries, quickly forgetting about the blog as I lacked a motivation to run it. I was obviously destined to fail from the very beginning as how could I have succeed if I kept thinking that translating video games is a piece of cake which requires no preparations? Sorry, my younger self, but you have no idea how wrong you were. Let me get these few things straight, okay? Listen carefully:
- No, translating is not a job for everyone, not everyone can do that. Just studying English for these few(…ish) won’t give you proper qualifications to do that, you do not become an unmatched linguist or professional translator, so don’t get any ideas.
- No, translating is anything but easy. Game localization requries solid preparations, since you never know what you will get (apart from the standard things, e.g. “New Game”, “Change Resolution”, “Skip Cutscenes”). You might encounter problems with: English language version (remember that not everyone is a native speaker, hence various mistakes of spelling or grammar nature), unclear context, very rare phrasals, slang and out-of-place words (such is beauty of licentia poetica) and the list could go on! Yes, this is anything but easy.
- No, doing it for free won’t make everyone take a bow, worship you for your gratefulness because of you, almighty, decided to help these poor peasants and translate their games. Everybody needs to start from somewhere, that’s sure, however keep in mind that there is somewhere someone (probably an Asian) who’s much better than you and will do your job faster, better and cheapier (Not like you can do something cheapier than “for free”. You’d have to pay your employer or something). Teams of translation has a huge advantage, as you are alone, with no experience and no qualifications, meanwhile there are many, prepared, with vast knowledge. The only thing you can do is to look for minor hipsterish indies, and yet due to low budget or/and not enough experience they quite often do not have a multiple language support.
- No, translating is not that can be done fast. If you think that you’ll be able to in a rush, on your way to school or university or sitting in a coffehouse drinking refreshing cup of warm tea with lemon you’re wrong. The most important things are dictionaries. Lots of dictionaries. No, checking the very first online dictionary might not be enough. You need to check few of them, particularly the English-to-English ones. It is not enough to know how to translate a word but it’s also required to understand it, context and possible meanings. Going through all this stuff is tedious, dull and frustrating and I won’t even mention the fact you need to proofread it, see it in-game, make sure everything sounds natural. To do this, you need to be extremely focused, dedicating all your time to polish it. And yet there is always this feeling that someone could have been done better.
I’m rather amused by how much naive, how cocky my old self was. (Un)fortunately nothing is easy, you need to work hard to achieve success (Sorry, here we do not take into account the easy way). After the first term of my beautiful, glorious linguistic studies (during which I managed to finish my first larger task, yay me!) I’ve managed to come to a conclussion. A conclussion stating that maneuvering through all these linguistic details is exhaustingly difficult, even a little tedious. Translating is not a piece of cake, it requires some preparation, especially theoretical one. If you’re reckless enough to start your adventure with it, here are few tips for you: do it step by step, do not overburden yourself, begin with something easy, not overly complicated and… think about it. So you won’t be disappointed.