Stumbling blocks

Owing to the fact I’m having very little time in the upcoming days, I need to postpone another post regarding my Vintage Year’s translation for the next week. But just to make you not bored and have something to read, I decided to contemplate over the magnificent world of computer games translating and try to think why this world is so inaccessible.


My “career” as an indie games translator began in 2011/2012, when I, incredibly excited over the vision of me being a professional, decided to look for some projects to work on… Not only I was truly naive (in fact I believe I still do in some way), but also convinced of my English proficiency. Thousands of thousands of messages were sent to various indie developers with an inquiry about their possible interest in translating their video games into Polish language. Obviously, it was supposed to be a volunteer work, as I wasn’t (and still am not) professional; I hoped this significant argument would convince my potential employers and make them fall at my feet. Unfortunately, since then I have been encountering one particular huge obstacle that I cannot pass through.

Independent games are typically made by either one huge video games freak or “independent” group of “independent” people. That means we have a one-man band (the first case) or a tiny team created by two programmers, three graphic designers, one composer, a writing guy… and that’s it. Human resources are limited, financial resources are limited, everything is limited apart from human stupidity. There is not enough time or money, so you need to calculate and plan ahead, trying to use everything what you’ve got. And that’s the cause of the first problem: no multiple language support. When your debit does not fit onto the screen of ATM and impatient fans are threating you with unliking your fanpage, the only thing you think about is delivering your beautiful digital child. Don’t get me wrong, though, as I have nothing against indie devs! On the contrary, I just adore their passion and dilligence, how they face all these problems without knowing whether they’ll succeed or fail. I’m not angry at people but at the problem. I’m just so tired of scrolling for hours through these endless pages of Steam Store or Greenlight, looking for just a tiny game that has got a multiple language support. I don’t expect devs to endlessly improving their titles, as I do realise they want to carry on and work on further projects. It’s just so painfully exhausting and sad that I can’t find anything for myself.

No Polish

This game supports only English language, just like 3/4 of the other titles on Steam.

Even more frustrating thing than trying to get into that translating stuff is trying to contact with devs (emphasis on trying). The endless waiting for a single reply is like a torment, especially when you are 95% sure they will reply with a “no” covered between fluttery and gentle words. But hey, don’t worry, usually developers do not bother with answering me. This really sucks, I just feel like I’m being a nuissance. But what do I know? I’m just being a mediocre translator who needs to beg people to actually give him a job.


Yet another obstacle that makes it difficult to start translating video games is incredible hermeticity. To start translating, you should know language very well and have some experience. But how one can acquire these skills when there is no way to get into translating? Well, there are few possible solutions.

The first one is simply improving for the sake of improving, working just for yourself, to see how it is like and hopefully polish one’s skills. A fine example of a place when one could go and gain some experience is SteamTranslation. Unfortunately, to gain an access to it, firstly you have to work on a random Steam Store description, so moderators can rate your language profficiency but also your translating skills. When you are approved, you can start working on various stuff, items’ names, descriptions, FAQs and many other things. You cannot recieve an entry for your resume for that, although you will know how it is done. Another option might be also translating books, movies or lyrics (for your own use, of course). This will broaden your vocabulary and help you with quick, creative thinking that is a must-have for translators.

SteamTranslation

Another way to gather some experience and get into the wonderful realm of video games translation is working with groups. There is nothing much I can talk about it, as I prefer working alone. I’m inclined to believe everything depends on people you are working with. How does such job look like? In my previous project, there was a supervisor, project coordinator who were giving members certain lines, let’s say, person A was given lines 1-100, person B 101-200, and so on and so forth. This overseer also had to make some adjustments; having gathered all translated text, he analysed it and mark wrong punctuation, ortography, some grammar mistakes or words that did not suit the sentence. It wasn’t a final though, as each member could discuss it and propose other solutions. Such revisions are incredibly useful as you’re learning even much more than when working alone (although obviously everything depens on the person we are working with).

The last solution to get into translating video games, the one I’m using with such fondness, is working for yourself. If you are self-assured, you’ve got some experience and your language is good enough, you might try looking for a job on your own. I don’t have to mention it has its own pros and cons, right? First of all, you are totally independent, unrestrained (apart from deadlines), your creativity is unlimited, what in my case is incredibly helpful. I like relying on myself, although I have no problems with asking for a help when I encounter more complicated, more difficult to decypher phrases. Overall, I’m glad I’m being my own boss. This solution, however, has got some serious disadvantages. Firstly, it’s far more difficult to get some feedback. People will help you with few sentences but there is nobody who will do a complete revision, telling you what is translated well and what needs to be changed. In this case, you have to rely on fanbase, on community and its willingness to rate the translation. Moreover, working alone is not as fast as working in a group, so it takes more time to finish a task.


If you want to be a professional translator, think about it. Don’t throw yourself in at the deep end, start from a very small things to check whether this job suits you or not. When you are 100% sure that this is what you want to do, try gathering some experience, step by step, starting from volunteer work, then looking for groups so in the end you can make your own team. The most important thing is to be positive and motivated. Just don’t give up!

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