This guest post was written by ProZ.com professional member Seweryn Kułak for aspiring game translators in Poland. He has translated it into English for publishing at ProZ.com.
The "gaming" industry is gaining momentum every year and is becoming more and more popular. New technologies and software and many others have significantly improved this process - On Steam alone in 2018, 9050 games were released (for comparison, in 2008 it was only 183).
We can easily see that computer games are gaining popularity every year. Unfortunately, most of them are published in English (for obvious reasons).
And this is where the computer games translator comes in. For people who know foreign languages and spend a few hours a day in front of the monitor screen, it would seem like a dream job.
So how do you start a career as a translator in this industry? What skills are required to become a good game translator? Freelancer or full-time? We will answer all these questions in today's article.
Freelance or full time?
Let's start from the beginning. Most (if not everyone) ask "Is it better to work as a freelancer or full-time? Both "full-time" work and being a freelancer have its pros and cons:
These are just some of the most popular benefits that I give to both being a freelancer and a full-time employee. We must decide for ourselves which path suits us better. An important factor, I think, will be our place of residence here.
In Warsaw, Wroclaw or e.g. Gdańsk there are many companies responsible for the computer games localization, so if you live in a larger city or are ready to relocate, full-time seems a really good option. On the other hand, if the localization industry in your region is not very developed (as in my case, for example) then a great way to enter the industry is to become a freelancer. You have to decide for yourself what you like better.
What skills are required to become a game translator?
You will probably think "Well, I know English, and Polish is my native language, so what else do I need?”. Well, unfortunately it is not as easy as it seems. Let's write down all the skills that are required in this interesting and increasingly popular industry:
- Excellent knowledge of the native language - "Must-have" when it comes to localization industries. And no, I'm not talking about writing essays in high school. We must really master the native language at the highest possible level, because we translate into this language. I met with the statement someday, that the localization of games consists of translation, but in such a way that the player felt that the game was originally written in the native language (in my case it is Polish). How to learn? First of all - read. Ideally fantasy or science fiction. In addition, if there is such a possibility, it is worth setting up dialogues and text in English, and subtitles in Polish and analyzing everything thoroughly. It is also worth knowing the trends that prevail on the Polish Internet. Example? “Mięsny jeż” from Diablo III or “Daj Kamienia” from Days Gone.
- Knowledge of a foreign language - It is rather not much to write down here. Knowledge of a foreign language helps in understanding the source text and correctly translating it into the target language.
- Knowledge of CAT (Computer-Assisted-Translation) tools - this is nothing but software that significantly speeds up and supports translation. No, this is not Google Translator. "Cats" help, among other things, maintain consistency during translation and significantly accelerate its process, thanks to the so-called Translation Memory. What is this all about? A simple example: If we translate "Settings" as "Ustawienia", the program will automatically complete the translation field the next time the term "Settings" appears. Most localization companies require very good knowledge of one of these programs. The most popular of them are: SDL Trados Studio, memoQ or XTM.
- Passion for computer games / being an active player - In theory, we don't have to be a player to be a great translator. Practically, it significantly helps in the work of the translator. What to play? Literally everything. Seriously. Localization of games is probably the most interesting specialization when it comes to translation. Once, we translate an extensive RPG which action takes place in a fantastic land, and once a strategy based on the events of World War II. A variety of orders in the industry is on the agenda, but this makes this job really interesting.
How to start a translator career?
You know this vicious circle, "We require 15 years of experience and preferably 18 years old?" Unfortunately, this is also popular in this industry. There is nothing to be discouraged, just take matters into your own hands. So how do you get experience in the industry? Here are some options:
- Steam Translation Platform: Wait, what?. Yes you see it clearly. Gaben and company have their own platform for translators who volunteer to translate reviews, news and sometimes even official games published by Valve. Below you will find a link where you can apply. To get started, you'll get the test and if you pass it, you'll become full members of the Steam translation platform. Here is the link
- "Fan" translations: The situation is similar to the one in No 1. There are several groups / pages to which we owe the brilliant localization of a given title, which often does not have a budget for a professional localization. You can report your help to GrajPoPolsku or GameSub.
- Translation of independent games: As I mentioned above - Indie Games do not always have a budget for a professional localization. And here you enter - Facebook groups like this are a great option to offer your help in translation, initially for references (usually in the form of placing in the so-called Credits of the game). Once you gain experience in translation and build a portfolio, you can even try to earn something. Minus? Lack of verification and correction of translation, which is associated with duplicate errors in the future.
- Practice / Internship in a localization company: Of all the above-mentioned, a practice in a localization company is the best option possible to efficiently enter the world of game localization. Working under the guidance of experts who help you every step of the way, advise you and improve your translations is the best way to gain valuable industry experience.
- Work as a game tester: Contrary to appearances, working as a tester is as good a career path as a practice in a localization company. Testers are often responsible for language validation in the game, so it's the perfect place to start your adventure with translating games.
- Courses: Online courses are a good way to gain first experience in localizing computer games. In Poland, this topic is still quite niche, but there are courses that I highly recommend (I finished it not long ago), i.e. a game localization course from Punkty Many. In addition, we can master the basics on the proz.com website where there is a great course for beginners "Introduction to Game localization".
Localization of games is by far the best specialization in the translation industry (for me at least), which is distinguished primarily by a variety of orders, but also a high level of difficulty. Players are a very demanding target group that pays attention to every little detail. Remember one thing: be patient and strive for the goal, and one day the satisfaction you get when you see your translation in a high-budget title will be worth the whole thing. I keep my fingers crossed for you and wish you good luck in this interesting and dynamically developing industry.
This article was originally published in Polish at TESTERGIER.PL.
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