For many years, video games used to be considered something nerdy and childish. It was common for gamers to be frowned upon and ridiculed for their hobby. This still happens sometimes, admittedly, but things have definitely changed a lot in the last 20 years.
Video games have now become mainstream. Playing them is no longer a weird, nerdy or immature thing to do. It’s now widely considered a normal, fun activity, just like watching TV or going to the cinema. More and more people agree that video games should be considered an art form.
When you hear the word “gamer”, what image pops into your mind? If it’s a teenage boy or a younger child, you’re in for a big surprise: the average gamer is actually 33 years old! Here’s another surprising statistic: adult women represent a greater portion of the video game-playing population (33%) than boys under 18 (17%).
Due to this shift, games are now often targeted at adults who have their own money to spend—and they spend a lot. Gaming has become a huge hobby and, as a result, it’s now also a gigantic global industry with a rapidly growing revenue.
Here are some numbers to back this up:
There are 2.6 billion gamers in the world (that’s a third of the world’s entire population!).
Games can cost hundreds of millions of dollars to develop—for example, Grand Theft Auto V’s total development and marketing costs are estimated at $265 million.
The gaming industry generated almost $135 billion in 2018, and the revenues are expected to reach $180 billion in 2021. To put this in perspective, the global film industry’s revenue was $136 billion in 2018.
Just in the US, the annual consumer spend on video games has increased from $17.5 billion in 2010 to $29.1 billion in 2017, and it keeps growing.
The mobile gaming market is the largest part of the industry—almost 50%. 72.3% of mobile users in the U.S. are mobile phone gamers.
Gamers are now everywhere. This widespread popularisation has also created the need for games to be translated into a variety of languages to make them more accessible to international audiences.
Video game localisation is not easy, though. Gamers as a whole are very demanding and have particular tastes. Translation errors in video games can cause drastic drops in their sales. Gamers have very high expectations and share every issue they encounter with a global community of like-minded individuals. And there are a lot of them—probably way more than you expected. To meet their expectations, developers and publishers need the help of professional translators and proofreaders.
I think it should be clear now that video games are a huge industry that should not be underestimated as a “niche hobby” anymore. 😉
Gry wideo i gry komputerowe były przez wiele lat uważane za coś dziecinnego i niepoważnego. Gracze często byli lekceważeni, a nawet wyśmiewani z powodu swojego hobby. Tak, wciąż jeszcze ma to miejsce, przyznaję, ale w ciągu ostatnich 20 lat sytuacja uległa diametralnej zmianie.
Gry dołączyły oficjalnie do mainstreamu. Granie nie jest już uważane za coś dziwnego, dziecinnego czy śmiesznego. Dziś to powszechne, normalne zajęcie, traktowane właściwie na równi z oglądaniem telewizji czy chodzeniem do kina. Coraz więcej osób uważa gry za formę sztuki.
Gdy słyszysz słowo „gracz”, kogo widzisz oczami wyobraźni? Jeśli jest to nastolatek lub jeszcze młodsze dziecko, to czeka Cię teraz spora niespodzianka: obecnie średni wiek graczy to 33 lata. A teraz kolejna zaskakująca statystyka: dorosłe kobiety stanowią większą część społeczności graczy (33%) niż chłopcy w wieku poniżej 18 lat (17%).
W rezultacie tych zmian gry są często kierowane do dorosłych odbiorców, którzy dysponują własnymi pieniędzmi — i wydają ich całkiem sporo. Granie stało się niezwykle popularnym hobby, a także gigantyczną, światową branżą o zyskach szybko rosnących z roku na rok.
Oto trochę statystyk na potwierdzenie powyższego stwierdzenia:
Na świecie jest około 2,6 miliarda graczy (to jedna trzecia całej populacji naszej planety!).
Tworzenie gier może kosztować setki milionów dolarów — np. łączny koszt produkcji i promocji gry Grand Theft Auto V wyniósł około 265 milionów dolarów.
Branża gier wygenerowała blisko 135 miliardów dolarów przychodu w 2018 roku; prognozuje się, że w 2021 roku wartość ta wzrośnie do 180 miliardów. Dla porównania przychody światowej branży filmowej w 2018 roku wyniosły 136 miliardów dolarów.
W samych Stanach Zjednoczonych roczne wydatki konsumentów na gry wideo wzrosły z 17,5 miliarda dolarów w 2010 roku do 29,1 miliarda dolarów w 2017 roku (i nadal rosną).
Rynek gier mobilnych to największa gałąź branży — stanowi blisko 50% całości. 72,3% amerykańskich posiadaczy smartfonów używa ich również do gier.
Gracze są teraz wszędzie. Ogromna popularyzacja tego hobby stworzyła również potrzebę tłumaczenia gier na różne języki, aby zwiększyć ich dostępność na rynkach zagranicznych.
Lokalizacja gier wideo to niełatwe zadanie. Gracze to bardzo wymagająca grupa konsumentów o szczególnych gustach. Błędy w tłumaczeniach w grach mogą prowadzić do drastycznych spadków sprzedaży. Gracze mają bardzo duże oczekiwania, a wszystkimi zauważonymi błędami i problemami dzielą się z innymi graczami z całego świata. A jest ich przecież bardzo wielu — mogę się założyć, że o wielu więcej, niż podejrzewaliście. Aby sprostać oczekiwaniom graczy, developerzy i wydawcy muszą korzystać z pomocy profesjonalnych tłumaczy i korektorów.
Myślę, że sprawa jest jasna: gry stały się gigantyczną branżą i lepiej już nie lekceważyć ich jako „niszowego hobby”. 😉
Six months ago, I became a professional translator. I work with the Polish-English language pair. I’m still a rookie, but over these past few months I have already learned a ton of new things. I’ll describe my first experiences — what really surprised me and what I think is important to focus on as a new translator.
What surprised me:
My own ignorance of the rules of my native language. That’s right. Guilty as charged. I was really amazed at how much I didn’t know about Polish and how many language errors I have been repeating since forever only because no one’s ever pointed them out to me. I was using certain phrases incorrectly, I was confusing some abbreviations, etc. I think this particular experience is going to be different for each beginner translator, but there’s always going to be something that you’ve been doing wrong your whole life or didn’t even know of. There can be lots of such surprises when you’re first starting out in this job. Make sure to take all this new information to heart!
Hyphens and dashes. I had no idea there even was something beyond the regular dash you get by pressing the dash key on the keyboard. And that’s not even a “dash”, either: it’s a hyphen (-) and must not be confused with the en dash (–) or the em dash (—). To use those punctuation marks, you have to type in special Alt codes — another thing I learned about. Alt codes are actually extremely useful for anyone because they let you include all kinds of characters in your writing. If you’re learning about them just now, I highly recommend checking them out yourself. Super helpful!
Commas. Now this is a big one. Commas are used incorrectly by pretty much everyone. I’m still learning about all the specific rules at the moment of writing this article. The most difficult part are the differences between Polish and English — you use commas very differently in those two languages. This can be very confusing, so you have to stay sharp and keep practicing!
Translation Memories (TMs). Absolutely indispensable, brilliant tools. Everything you translate gets stored in a translation memory (TM) for later use. This makes your work a lot easier and less time-consuming. It’s a good idea to develop the habit of committing absolutely everything you translate to a TM and, perhaps even more importantly, looking up things in the TM before you translate anything. That’s because customers usually store previous translations in their TMs and you do not want to introduce any confusion by changing their approved terminology or existing names (e.g. changing a department’s name).Furthermore, preferred translations of the exact same terms and words can differ per customer, so you should always be checking the TM before you write anything.
The working pace. You have to work at a much faster pace than I anticipated. More on this later.
My typos and writing shortcomings. I used to think I was pretty good in this regard. Wrong again! It quickly came to light that I actually used to make a lot of typos and similar errors. I was even messing up the grammar sometimes. What’s worse, I couldn’t even see those mistakes as I was making them or while reviewing my own texts later on! I have improved a lot since then, but I still mess up here and there. A good translator must always be vigilant and never succumb to overconfidence in their own writing. Be extra careful when scanning for your own errors — we have a tendency to not even notice those!
What’s important to focus on:
Pace. The working pace expected of you is a lot faster than you might think. This may seem daunting early on, but don’t worry: your speed will improve naturally over time. If you feel like you should try practicing your typing, you can try some special tools for that (I highly recommend checking out 10fastfingers.com). However, when you’re just starting out (and also when you’re already experienced), it’s much more important to focus on…
Quality. Here are the top 3 things to always keep in mind:
1. Always work diligently so you have no regrets. Always give it your all. Don’t be sloppy.
2. Think as you type. Does the sentence you just translated actually make sense? If the text is about electrical devices, the word “earth” most likely does not refer to our planet. Many mistranslations come from entering this “mindless” state of just typing away, copying the source word-for-word, never stopping to actually read and think.
3. Review your own work carefully once you’re done. There’s always something: a typo you missed, an idea for a better translation, etc.
Accurate translation of source text. You should never change the meaning of source material. I have an interesting example for you. Consider these words: enclosure, package, housing, bolster, body, shell, casing. Did you know that for all those different words, there is just one single word in Polish? It’s “obudowa” and it covers all of those meanings (and more!). So what do you do when you have to translate “obudowa” to English? You must look it up and use the correct word in that specific context. Always double-check if you’re using the correct terms in your translation.
Tags. Tiny components that play a huge role. Tags appear in many translatable documents and you must pay special attention to them. Do not omit a single tag! Every one of them has to be copied to the translation. The “transcheck” function available in most translation software comes in handy here — it automatically checks for missing tags.
Don’t make things up. This is crucial. If you’re not sure of a sentence’s meaning and you can’t find an explanation anywhere, don’t just give up and pull a “best guess” translation from thin air. You should politely notify your employer or client about the issue and ask for additional context or explanation of the unclear sentence.
And last but not least…
Humility. No one likes to be criticised. It’s normal to feel slightly offended when someone points out your mistakes. But, as a translator, you must swallow your pride and be grateful for constructive criticism. Remember each error you make (write them down!) and try your best to never repeat it again. There is no point in getting angry. The person that points out your error is most likely not trying to offend you. It’s all about continuously improving your writing. You can only benefit from that! 🙂
Machine translation keeps getting better. You might think that its development poses a threat to professional translators. I believe that translators of the Polish language have nothing to worry about: automatic translation mechanisms still cannot handle the Polish language.
Want to see some examples that support my claim? Here you go:
Children are so pig-headed nowadays. –> Dzieci mają teraz takie świńskie głowy.
An automatic translation mechanism translates everything literally, word after word. Here, it completely failed to properly translate “pig-headed”. The equivalent Polish expression has nothing to do with pigs or heads – it’s “uparty jak osioł”, which translates to “stubborn as a donkey”. So the translation should actually look like this: „Dzieci są teraz uparte jak osły.” Completely different!
What in tarnation? –> Co w tarnation?
This expression used in the Southern U.S. should be translated as “Co do diabła?” (“What the devil?”). This is an excellent proof that machine translation mechanisms do not recognise dialect or slang and don’t even attempt to translate words that they don’t understand. The incorrect automatic translation could be interpreted as “What is happening in the town of Tarnation?”
I reckon you ain’t from these parts. –> Myślę, że nie jesteś z tych części.
Another “cowboy” expression from the South. Surprisingly enough, the machine translation mechanism handled the “I reckon” part correctly (even though I think that “wydaje mi się” sounds better here), but it completely failed at “these parts”. The Polish word “części” means e.g. mechanical parts, not the surrounding area – that would be “okolica”. So the translation should look like this: “Wydaje mi się, że nie jesteś z tej okolicy”.
I bet you ten thousand dollars he’s laughing his ass off right now. –> Założę się, że dziesięć tysięcy dolarów śmieje się teraz z jego tyłka.
And I’m laughing at this failed translation attempt. The proper translation should look like this: „Założę się z Tobą o dziesięć tysięcy dolarów, że śmieje się teraz do łez.” See how different that is from the machine translation? That’s because the translation algorithm completely failed to recognise the “to laugh one’s ass off” expression and tried to translate it literally. Not only that, it actually managed to twist the grammar around, too. The automatic translation reads: “I bet you that ten thousand dollars are laughing at his ass right now.” Hilariously inaccurate.
Don’t get your knickers in a twist –> Nie daj się skręcić majtkom
A ridiculous mistranslation of this British saying. It should be transcreated as “Nie wściekaj się tak” (“Don’t get so worked up”). Instead, what we got here is a pile of hilarious nonsense: “Don’t let the knickers twist you”. Idioms and local sayings truly are the Achilles’ heel of machine translation.
Mobile app stores are veritable goldmines of failed machine translations. Each automatically translated app description has something hilarious to offer. Here are just two examples among many (app names withheld to protect the innocent):
Train! – Used as a verb, but the machine translation algorithm did not catch that. Context is something that only human translators can take into account reliably. So, what did the algorithm come up with instead? „Pociąg!” Problem is, that’s the Polish word for train, the vehicle that runs on tracks. The app in question had nothing to do with trains – it was a fitness ap. The proper translation would be “Trenuj!”
Enter the Arena! – This should be translated as „Wejdź na Arenę!” (“Step into the Arena!”), „Walcz na Arenie!” (“Fight on the Arena!”), or something similar. Notice how “Arena” becomes “Arenę” or “Arenie” — that’s Polish declension, one of the biggest obstacles that machine translation still cannot overcome. And in this case it also proved too much to handle, for the automatic translator decided to go with “Wprowadź Arena!” which sounds absurd (roughly translates as “Introduce the Arena!”) and is not grammatically correct.
Many people unfamiliar with the Polish language may think that since machine translation is pretty good (although far from excellent) at translating to Spanish or Italian, they might as well use it to translate their texts to Polish, too. However, this method does not work with the Polish language at all. It is just too complicated and nuanced for even the best machine translation mechanisms. The Polish language has complicated declension, distinct and unavoidable genders, as well as tons of other complex rules that machine translation algorithms still cannot handle to this day. And it’s definitely going to stay that way for a good while. That is why investing in the services of professional translators is always a great idea.
Sometimes, we are commissioned to translate Microsoft Powerpoint presentations. Usually, customers don’t realise that translating texts used in such a presentation may not be enough. Differences between particular languages come to light causing some more or less serious issues.
Let me explain that based on an example. Let’s have a look at this slide:
This is the original version. Everything seems to be just fine. The customer delivers the text for translation, we upload it to a CAT tool and translate, then export it, and send the finished version back to them. The customer opens the file and a problem emerges, as the translation looks like this:
Exactly. This is a classic example of huge differences in character count and word count between English and Polish. Everything is messed up, the text at the top overlaps the image, and text in navy blue is so long that it doesn’t fit the slide (the translation in full is far longer than the source text: “Pamiętajcie, aby zawsze zgłaszać wszystkie obawy związane z politykami firmy specjaliście ds. zgodności z przepisami o godz. 15:00 lub na koniec zmiany, w zależności od tego, który z tych momentów wypada wcześniej”). Another problem is the lack of Polish diacritical characters in some of the fonts used here – the characters are there, but from a different font, which does not look good.
This is an extreme example, as it comprises English terms or phrases such as “insider training” or “whichever is earlier” that do not have their counterparts in Polish, and due to that they need to be described rather than translated. However, similar situations occur on a daily basis.
The example above shows that apart from the translation, such tasks require a fair amount of additional work to adjust the layout – the images, fonts, placement, text size, etc. This is particularly important when translating presentations or PDF documents, where we are expected to maintain the original layout and design of the source materials.
The part of work aimed at adjusting the layout of the document is out of the scope of a translation job, so some customers decide to do that on their own, while others prefer to pay extra for this additional work to be done for them. This work is really arduous and time-consuming, and I hope that after reading this more people will appreciate it.
Is the process of translation creative or not? There is no obvious answer to this question.
On the one hand, you could argue that translation is not creative since a translator does not literally create new content from scratch. Their work is always based on the work of others. Some might even claim that translators should always strive to retain the original text’s form and content as much as possible and should not attempt to embellish it in any way.
On the other hand, translation cannot be completely uncreative – if you take that approach, you simply end up with a text that sounds horrible in target language. A translator must know the differences between the languages (and related cultures) that they specialise in. Word-for-word translations should absolutely be avoided. Therefore, some changes are a necessity. Sometimes, translators have to introduce words that don’t appear in the source, and that’s definitely a creative process. Translators must know, for instance, which fragments must be translated, which ones should be left unchanged, what to revise or remove, and pick a writing style and stick to it throughout the entire text.
But where do you draw the line? How much creative freedom is allowed? How far can a translator stray for the source? There seems to be no general consensus on this topic. There is a good example of different approaches to translation in Poland: two well-known translations of The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. Most Polish Tolkien fans regards Maria Skibniewska’s translation as the best – and sometimes even as the only right – translation of this novel. Skibniewska tried her best to stay true to the original. However, some readers think that somewhere along the way she lost the atmosphere of Tolkien’s world and as a result her translation comes off as somewhat pompous and pretentious. The other well-known translation – by Jerzy Łoziński – is highly controversial. In fact, it is so universally disliked that most readers probably wouldn’t want to touch it with a ten-foot pole. Łoziński took a much more lenient approach while translating Tolkien’s work and drastically changed – or transcreated – most names (including character names), diverging significantly from the source. This was met with a wave of criticism and ultimately even forced Łoziński to change his translation a little bit. Despite all this, there are still some Tolkien fans that prefer his version over Skibniewska’s because they believe Łoziński’s unconventional translation better conveys the unique atmosphere of Tolkien’s world. In the end, this is a matter of preference – but the majority does seem to prefer sticking close to source material.
This example shows that a translated text’s reception can change drastically depending on the method chosen by its translator. Choosing the right register and style is especially important when translating novels and other works of fiction. Those texts must be translated with some flair.
But what about technical translations, such as user manuals? And what about official texts, for example company policies or agreements? You might be inclined to immediately proclaim that there is no room for the creative approach in those cases and translators absolutely must stick as close as possible to that kind of source material. And you would be right – to some extent. It is true that those texts don’t leave much room for using one’s imagination and diverging from the source. That could have serious consequences. But staying close to the source generally only applies to the elements that no reasonable, experienced translator would ever attempt to modify. Those are established component and software names, position names within a company, existing documents, approved terms, etc. Note that I used the following words: established, existing, approved. That is the crucial detail here. Those elements are either standard terms always used within an industry or terms approved from the top down for a specific job. However, translating technical and official documents is not done automatically. After all, it’s not like those texts consist only of approved terms, proper names, or established expressions. Each such text contains tons of elements that translators must modify, re-arrange, and sometimes even rewrite almost completely in order to convey their meaning in a way that sounds natural in the target language. Of course, there is much less room for creative freedom, but translators must still demonstrate creativeness and language proficiency. Sometimes, there are no existing, approved translations for certain elements (e.g. UI elements). In those cases, it is the translator that decides their names. Therefore, it would definitely be unfair to say that translating e.g. a user’s manual is uncreative work. It is creative, same as when translating a novel – just more restricted.
I believe the answer to my initial question lies somewhere in the middle. Translation is both creative and uncreative at the same time. The whole trick is finding the right balance. And that is a skill honed over many years.
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