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How to Become a Game Translator: Tips & Tricks

One cannot start researching how to become a game translator without a passion for video games. While localization process includes multiple streams such as social media localization or marketing campaigns, one’s genuine interest and good background anyway make an outcome much better. Gamers may also think that working on game creating is as fun as playing. Is it true?

What Does Being Video Game Translator Mean?

This development stage is as important as others because translating allows distributing the product among more players worldwide, contributing to higher income. Main task is to convert everything from one language to another, which means not a mere translation of dialogues, descriptions, user interface but also working with relevant documentation and marketing materials.

Another challenge that language experts need to deal with while working on such complex projects is cultural localization. Every culture is unique, so you need good background knowledge to reflect all local peculiarities properly. This aspect often requires changing content to make it understandable for target audience. That’s why translation is accompanied by rewriting in many cases.

Skills Required for Translating Games

While the gaming industry is comparatively new, involved professionals should demonstrate appropriate skills and knowledge just like in pharmaceutical or any other translation field.

Languages

As usual, being fluent in at least two languages is an essential requirement for the localization process. You should have perfect command of your native language. It embraces not just linguistic skills but background cultural knowledge as well. Knowing more languages will be beneficial for career opportunities as well as open localization tasks.

Gaming knowledge

Being familiar with the industry is obligatory since if you can’t tell the difference between RPG and MMORPG, he or she doesn’t share developers’ love and passion for gaming. There are many specific terms, concepts, jargon words, and other peculiarities that make people working on a project, not just mere colleagues but friends with a shared perception of the world. Remember how genuine interest and even obsession with the game’s world helped the main protagonist in the Ready Player One movie? A true professional is always deeply engaged in their chosen knowledge area. 

Research skills

Modern videogames offer open worlds, quests, and content that take hundreds of hours for players to get acquainted with everything. Diversity, ideas, events, references, as well as many other things, require substantial background knowledge from a localization team. Researching and self-education are required in media localization jobs just like in any other complex translation task. Broad common knowledge and understanding of what is going on in the historical, political, social, and cultural spheres of target countries are needed for successful localization. 

Methodology

Only obtaining all available information from developers will allow understanding context properly. Appropriate localization is the result of diligence and readiness to eliminate the lack of information. Don’t be afraid when you need clarifications, double-checking, and contextualizing are always better than ignorance and inappropriate translations. 

Translation tools

Being a translator, you should have already mastered Microsoft Office tools as well as some computer-assisted translation software such as Trados. These solutions are your primary instruments whether you are a linguist with a specialization in microbiology or a game translator for Android platform. Knowing programming languages is not obligatory. Though, having some background will help you understand the game development process better. 

Creativity

Many games include fictional locations, names, even scientific concepts. This specific vocabulary might require a more creative approach than regular translation. It is a good opportunity that allows merging translation tasks with some level of design work so that it will be suitable for the target audience.

Team-player

If you are a person who worked as “one’s own boss” before, you will have to develop cooperation along with teamwork skills as localization usually cannot be completed by one person. Project management, back conversion as well as constant quality checks are inseparable parts of work in a localization team. 

You do not need many tools specific to the industry as job peculiarities are in the job itself. It does require specific background knowledge, but there is nothing a true professional could not cope with.

Be Aware: Main Problems

The main problem of translating games is complexity and long-term perspective. Many specialists are involved in the process so that you should not think all work will be assigned to you. That would have been the major issue since a successful game’s launch on the global market is possible when all team members are cooperating.

Long Process

It is not only about the translation process itself. Specialists need all content gathered and distributed among all team members. The translation process itself has several stages with subsequent editing and final proofreading that precede back conversion. Once all translated texts are embedded into their original files, the final quality check starts. 

Obligatory Changes

Translators must be ready for situations when some in-game texts appear incomprehensible or simply inappropriate for a certain audience due to political or sociocultural reasons. In this case, you need to demonstrate a proactive approach and explain why content changes are required. Simply translating wordplay, idioms, or specific cultural references may ruin the intended effect and vice versa, adding some local flavor, dialects, or jargon could be beneficial in terms of immersion along with enjoying the playing process. 

Specialization

A professional game translator should demonstrate cultural background, language skills, and acquaintance with software. It is a narrow field that has specific terminology and peculiarities even if the final product is for kids and has no complex vocabulary. Every experienced game translator develops a certain specialization just like all other translators do as it allows them to keep focus.

How to Get Started as a Freelance Game Translator?

One’s path into a profession is always unique since game development is a comparatively new field, and even though multiple courses constantly emerge, there are no specifically designed educational programs. Those who intend to enter the localization sphere can try using one of these pathways:

  • Find an entry-level position in a videogame developing company and start working on perspective. You may get promoted to the desired position quite soon, and then you may start negotiating working conditions and freelance mode of work. 
  • Obtain a degree in translation studies and start applying for jobs provided by localization companies or game developers directly.
  • A proper answer to the question “how do I translate a game?” would be starting translating a game – whether it is a small indie project made by several enthusiasts or a mod for some bigger  videogame. Developing such a portfolio item could be the hardest but also the most rewarding way. The creator of large content mod “Falskaar” for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim developed this project entirely from scratch, from dialogues to locations and quests, aiming at getting a job in Bethesda Game Studios. Such examples are truly inspiring! If developers or game designers can achieve the desired result this way, diligent game translators will succeed as well.

The question of where should you seek game localization jobs is still open. In this case, a general approach should be the one to start with: start browsing general and local job sites, specialized portals for developers, check forums and communities, review job offers on translation portals. You can get relevant offers upon updating a personal LinkedIn profile or receive an offline referral, so don’t forget to ask your friends whether they have some useful information.

A prospective translator should also remember that networking is essential. The gaming community is united by a common passion. Attend conferences, game festivals, meetings, and other industry-related activities to meet and talk with potential employers and clients so that one day you may receive the desired job offer.

The Most Popular Languages in Industry

Game localization still presupposes increasing global audience and income from sales resulting from adding a new target audience. That is why games are usually supporting more than just a few languages. Cyberpunk 2077, one of the most wanted games in 2020, supports 10 languages with subtitles along with full voiceovers and 18 with subtitles only. Most games also support these popular options:

  • English
  • Spanish
  • Portuguese (or Brazilian Portuguese) 
  • German
  • French
  • Italian
  • Russian
  • Chinese (usually Simplified though subtitles can be provided for Traditional as well)
  • Japanese
  • Arabic

So, if you know Japanese and are curious regarding how to translate a game from Japanese to English, you should start looking for specialized localization companies or freelance jobs. Any of these language pairs are in high demand. 

Other supported languages that provide subtitles only are good sources for jobs as well since only the voiceover part is omitted while all in-game texts still should be translated. Whether you know Turkish, Polish, Korean, Hungarian, or Hindi, available options do exist. All you have to do is to grab the opportunity.

Freelancing in This Sphere: Pros and Cons

The modern world has changed, and work-from-home mode is now part of many people’s lives. Working on a translation of games on a freelance basis is not an exquisite option or privilege, it is part of the working routine. Some benefits and negative aspects are predetermined by this sphere’s peculiarities.

Pros

  • Flexibility and freedom as you can work whenever it is convenient for you as well as choose a place where you can work with the best productivity.
  • Better security once you have established workload since you are not dependent on one employee only so that you can work on several projects simultaneously
  • Income control possibility as you can work more when you need and take a smaller number of tasks when you need some time for other things.

Cons

  • Substantial self-discipline is required as keeping track of your files, tasks, and deadlines. More people depend on your timely work in the game localization industry.
  • Cooperation with your team is harder since freelance mode requires more effort to connect and collaborate on such complex projects and avoid bad video game translations.
  • It takes time to develop reputation, specialization, and clientele in this specific sphere. It is not an easy task in general, but game development is even more competitive.

Final Thoughts

Working on the localization of AAA-level projects will be an unforgettable experience, no doubt. This is long-term involvement in the development of something unique and as entertaining as Marvel movies. Give yourself a chance of getting such a job by developing your proficiency in the game translation sphere. All you need is translation job experience, passion for games, and a desire to grow as a professional so that you will sometimes turn a monotonous translating job into a translation game. Who said that work cannot be fun?