Aksys Blog – The “Interpretation, Not Translation” School Of Thought

Now that the boring stuff is out of the way, it’s time to look at the more colorful aspects of the whole deal, mainly my job.

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Once I get all of the raw translations, it’s my responsibility to make it read somewhat naturally as well as bring out the intent of any given dialog as opposed to just the meaning of the words. In other words, I belong to the “Interpretation, not Translation” school of thought. What does this mean, you may ask? Well, I was going to go into painful detail about this (in fact I did, but I deleted it all when I realized how long this was getting), but I decided to me nice and not bore you to death. Needless to say, there are a number of Japanese words and phrases that just cannot be accurately translated into English, and so it is the job of the localization editor to come up with a way to convey the intent behind the words, whether it is a threat, joke, or observation on a situation. And to the very tiny yet vocal minority out there: No, using the Japanese word is not an option as the vast majority of players wouldn’t understand it.


The biggest headaches almost exclusively come from the jokes in the script. Japanese humor is based on multi-layered puns and alternate readings of kanji, thus making a direct translation either impossible or horribly obtuse and incomprehensible.


This is where the localization editor’s personality tends to bleed into the script. I try my hardest to make sure the jokes I put in fit the character delivering it, but I do have a list of things that MUST be inserted into every game I work on (The amazing Mr. Tiddles and the holy battle cry of “Spoon!” are pretty much in almost every game I touch. Thanks Jess!). Also, my sense of humor tends to be slightly…stygian…for lack of a better term and this always results in a joke or two that completely clashes with the personality of the character saying it. While this wasn’t a major problem in Blazing Souls, it did make certain characters a bit more bitter and hateful than strictly necessary. In addition, my playlist and whatever book(s) I’m reading at the time will influence how certain lines are delivered/written/ massacred. I was listening to A LOT of SST/Blast First! stuff at the time, so you can imagine what frame of mind I was in while editing.


In regards to my approach to editing, I try not to stray too far from the Japanese and stay more or less true to the spirit of the original dialog, although there have been games where I had to do wholesale re-writing. I won’t bother boring with the details as they would…bore you. With Blazing Souls, I did take a few liberties characterization as the original Japanese was…dry…to say the least.


What I ended up doing was exaggerating certain aspects of each character’s personalities and made all of the female characters fiercely independent and somewhat stronger-willed than your average RPG female cast. I also slightly tweaked how everyone responds to the main character Zelos. And as for Zelos, he started out as the stereotypical RPG loner was ultimately a nice guy. He was also incredibly boring. To remedy this, I channeled my inner jerk and made him INCREDIBLY abrasive and abusive to those around him. However, I also played with how the other characters in the game react to him. To boil it down, those around him see Zelos as cute, like a Chihuahua pretending to be a Mastiff.


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I know I promised real examples and a journey through the recording process, but as this little outburst is now the length of short story, I will have to cut off here. However, in the next and possibly last entry, I will go into the recording process as well as any random things I might have missed. Oh, and feel free to ask questions in the comment section. I will try my best to answer, either in the next entry or by commenting on my own.


Oh, and to those who don’t know the meaning behind “Spoon!”, I weep for your unshriven souls.


Text Monkey
Aksys Games

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