Friday, January 6, 2012


I'm going to talk about localization in general today. 

Localization is the second part of translation that turns a good translated script into a great one.  When you translate, you first translate something literally.  "The vodka is good but the meat is rotten" is a well known example of a literal translation of "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak".  What localization does is smooth the words over to give accurate translations.   Almost every word we use has an alternate and more specific meaning, or what about context?  "Steal" vs "lift" mean the same thing, but have very different contexts. 

This is where localization comes into play.  They look at the word, it's context, and make sure that they have the best word that fits the scenario.  Check some examples out here.

Other problems of localization include slang or references to local events.  "Spastic" means excited in the US, but it's horribly insulting elsewhere.  Meanwhile, the Ace Attorney games have "Lotta Heart" who speaks in a particular Japanese dialect.  The implications of that dialect wouldn't transfer over to the US, so they made her southern instead.
Localization is what makes games more enjoyable.  "YOU SPOONY BARD!" was put in because English lacked a current word that expressed what the Japanese said.  It's now an iconic line.  (For the record, the literal translation is somewhere along the lines of 'you lovesick bastard')   Maya's noodles were replaced by hamburgers, Final Fantasy VI's heroine is called either "Tina" or "Terra"  (the point was to make it sound exotic to the player's ears. "Tina" isn't exotic in the west)  and Pokemon's names are often changed to get the pun or idea across. 

Literal isn't always better.  There are some things readers just won't get, either due to cultural differences, language subtleties, or a mix of the too.  Some things that okay in one language or culture  are very insulting in another.  Localization sees these problems and fixes them. 

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