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Ask the Experts: Translating Video Games

In the latest advice column from sister educational site GameCareerGuide, Game Localization Handbook author Heather Chandler explains basic information one ne
The latest installment of GameCareerGuide.com’s advice column, which is also being run on Gamasutra, explains basic information one needs to get a job translating video games into foreign languages. This week’s column was written by a special guest columnist, Heather M. Chandler, executive producer at Media Sunshine, Inc., and author of The Game Localization Handbook (Charles River Media, 2004). The column, “Ask the Experts,” appears biweekly on GameCareerGuide.com, Gamasutra’s sister web site for learning about game development. For more information for newcomers, see GameCareerGuide.com’s Getting Started section. Dear Experts, I am very interested in foreign languages and was wondering if there were jobs available for people looking to translate the text in games since many games are now from Korea and Japan, and other countries. If so, what steps would I need to take in order to become qualified for such a job? Thank you very much, Translation Sensation Dear Translation Sensation, When games are translated, the game companies want to use native speakers of the target language. For example, if you are interested in translating Japanese games into English, it is best if you are a native English speaker. If you are translating English games into German, then German should be your native language. You need to be fluent in the source language, too, and understand slang and idioms. It's helpful to be familiar with games, of course. This will give you a better understanding of the context you're working in. If you're interested in a career as a games translator, you need to first figure out the languages in which you will specialize. You will want to get at least a BA in the language you are learning, and the university will probably have courses that deal specifically with translating entertainment. In Europe, there are actually translation and localization programs you can take at a university level that prepare you for a career in translation. Some universities are offering programs that specialize in games translation. In this career, getting a degree is very important, as it is one way the companies can narrow down qualified applicants. You can also contact some localization houses and talk with someone in the HR department about the specific qualifications they look for in translators. You can also join the IGDA Localization Special Interest Group to meet other people who are involved in game translation and localization. For your portfolio, you can start by writing up translations for games you play. This is a great way to develop your language skills and show prospective employers that you can do high quality translations. Additionally, it's useful to be familiar with the customs and culture of the countries that speak the language into which you are translating. This way you can identify any areas in the game that may be culturally insensitive or may not translate well (for example, humor does not translate well sometimes). Good luck! Heather M. Chandler is an executive producer at Media Sunshine, Inc., and author of The Game Localization Handbook (Charles River Media, 2004). She is credited on having worked on more than 30 video games in her career. An excerpt from Heather M. Chandler's book is available on Gamasutra.com. Additionally, GameCareerGuide.com has available [PDF] a summary of a recent talk, "Games Localization Round Table," which was held during the Localization World June 9, 2008, in Berlin. The document is courtesy of Miguel Á. Bernal-Merino, a lecturer in media translation at Roehampton University London. If you have a question about working in video game development that you would like to see answered in the “Ask the Experts” column, send it to [email protected]

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