Balancing the Client’s Vision and Localization’s Intricacies

The work of localization happens at a crossroads between creativity and clear requirements. The main goal is to find the perfect balance between them so players get as much enjoyment as possible out of a game. Our team is always striving to strike a balance: accounting for the developer’s vision while fitting it into the framework of the intricacies of languages and an established style guide.

In this article, we’ll use concrete examples to show how we find the golden mean in localization: what the revision process looks like, what editors pay attention to in a translation, and why linguistic nuances sometimes take precedence over a developer’s wishes.

Types of Revisions and Ways of Working with Them

Language is a tool that is flexible yet structured. We come across certain nuances when translating into Japanese and entirely different ones in English. It’s important to keep a language’s rules in mind during all stages when working on a text, from the main translation phase to making edits sent by the developer. This is the only way to achieve a localization that is correct, natural, and understandable to players from the new region.
Sometimes it is easy to implement a developer’s requests during the revision stage. This is the case when, for example, the change involves context and the meaning intended by the text’s narrative designers.

Thanks to this edit, we were able to correct a semantic component of the text. Now the sentence is factually accurate, fits the context better, and correctly reflects the narrative designers’ intent. At the same time, some suggestions may negatively affect the quality of the localization. This happens, for example, when a change does not account for the particularities of a language and may impact how native-speaking players perceive the text.

As a result of the edit, the Japanese word ショップ (literally, a transliteration of the word “shop”) acquires the meaning “store” in the sense of a “retail outlet,” but it can only sell things, not produce anything. In English, on the contrary, “shop” can also be used to mean “a place of production.” So, in pursuit of literalism, the translation now makes less sense.

The Developer’s Vision vs. Linguistic Features

When translating, a localizer’s main task is to follow all the rules of a language and achieve a natural and accurate translation. In some instances, an edit may look logical in terms of the source language but is less effective in the translation. Our job is to highlight any parts that may affect how the new players will perceive the text and inform the developer about them. In this section, we will look at specific examples of the types of nuances we might encounter while making revisions and how they can impact the text.

Literal Translations

Literal translations tend to seem clumsy and dry, especially in creative texts and dialogues. Generally, this kind of translation does not take into account colloquialisms or fixed expressions. These factors affect the player’s perception of the text and make it feel less “alive.” At times, literalism can warp the meaning of a text and, as a result, native speakers won’t be able to understand it correctly.

Though “beautiful” and “seen” work in context, these edits do not change the meaning of the sentence. The proposed tense change is ungrammatical in English, and the syntax is awkward. The suggestion is too literal, which makes it look like a bad machine translation. It would be hard for a player to understand this translation.

Emotional Coloring

This type of correction is similar to the last one, but it more often applies to marketing and other creative texts. Emotionally charged phrases make a text “sell” to its audience. If such formulations are avoided, the text will become dry and official-sounding. For materials that are supposed to motivate their audience to act, this is a negative.

As a result, the text has lost a great deal of emotional shading and doesn’t motivate the audience or sell the idea as powerfully.

Lexical and Cultural Features

Some suggested edits are the result of not speaking the target language at a sufficient level. In such cases, the translation that was chosen may seem strange or outside the norm familiar to the person proposing the change. But when we dig deeper, it turns out that the initial translation is not an error.

The client’s version offers a literal translation of the adjective (драгоценный in Russian). But, for native English speakers, the word “precious” is less commonly used than “dear,” especially in reference to a person.

The Chinese phrase 早上好 can literally be translated as “good morning,” which has the same meaning as “Mornin’” in colloquial English. The client did not know this when suggesting the edit and saw the absence of the word 好 (good, nice) as a mistake.

How Inlingo’s Linguists Find Balance

At Inlingo, we accord equal attention to all proposed revisions. Every one of them is important. Some edits clearly improve the text and do not need to be discussed, while others can be thorny because of linguistic intricacies or a style guide discrepancy. Whatever the case, they offer a great opportunity to confirm the vision for the project and, if needed, adjust the way we are working. Revisions help us better understand each other and achieve a quality result.

First, the editor and translator on Inlingo’s team assess an edit’s validity by checking it in context and looking at neighboring strings, the glossary, and the style guide. If the edit is open to debate and negatively affects how the text will be perceived, the project manager explains this to the client using detailed arguments and suggests the change be discussed. At Inlingo, we always treat revisions as a constructive dialogue.

Sometimes the suggested edit offers an ineffective translation that does not take linguistic features into account and impairs the quality of the text. When this happens, a native speaker offers the client another option that is in line with their wishes but still sounds authentic. If the client rejects the recommendations, then their version is adopted and added to the glossary or style guide. From then on, all similar translations will be executed with this new information in mind.

When working with edits, all the participants have one goal: try to improve the text so players can understand it and get immersed in the context. For this reason, we are happy to discuss questions that clients may have during the localization process. We strive to create an environment where it is easy and safe to raise these questions, both inside the company and when working with clients.

Because we view our relationship with clients as a partnership, the end result matters just as much to us as it does to developers. This is why it is so important to coordinate with the vendor regarding revisions that are made to the text.

If we overlook this stage, linguists will be compelled to defend their translation and convince us that the changes are not necessary in all cases. One example is when intentional misspellings or malapropisms in a character’s speech are taken to be errors. This way of working demotivates both the vendor and the client and forces everyone to do twice the work. If we omitted an open discussion of changes to the translation from the workflow, we risk allowing a variety of inaccuracies that would affect players’ impression of the project. 

It would be more convenient for all involved if the client performed testing or quality assessment, sent the vendor the file with edits, and invited them to accept or reject them with comments. In this case, it will be easier for the vendor to understand the client’s wishes and deliver a text that complies with them. Our team prioritizes this kind of teamwork.

Dmitriy Chernykh, QA Specialist at Inlingo