Three Top Tips For Tremendous Translations

When it comes to translating a voice-over or script into other languages, several hurdles need to be clambered over.

It was a major issue in the past, particularly in the video games industry to see exceptionally poor, literal translations of games into other languages.

Even games that have since become hugely successful such as The Witcher famously needed a second translation once the game became a surprise hit and it became clear how literal the initial translation was.

Getting it wrong can have major consequences, ranging from mild amusement to confusion and even potentially offending.

A professional voice-over company can often help to sense check voice over scripts, but here are five top tips for amazing translations.


Don’t Be Too Literal

The first, and most obvious philosophy companies take when translating a script or piece of media is to look up each word in a translation dictionary and change it across.

This is a literal translation and is often the basis for machine translation services. It also isn’t always very good.

There are countless examples of websites and games where a literal translation not only appears odd but can be downright unusable.

Focus more on ensuring that the meaning and intention of your script is clear rather than directly translated.

One of the most infamous examples of this was the otherwise obscure video game Zero Wing, which featured possibly the worst 90 seconds of translation in the history of language in its introduction.

It was so bad, “All your base are belong to us.” became the go-to line for bad translation.


Be Careful With Idioms

Idioms, metaphors, turns of phrases, old sayings. These are unique quirks found in every single language, and often require knowing not only the language but the culture of a country that speaks it.

For example, the saying, “it’s raining cats and dogs” is one that simply does not make sense in many languages when translated literally, and having a script featuring the saying in it might lead to some raised eyebrows.

That said, whilst the sayings do not exist, the sentiment often does, and as you are attempting to translate meaning rather than words, check to see if a similar saying in your target language exists.


Be Creative

There are plenty of ways to handle a complex translation project, and the most successful concept to use is to allow for creativity with localising a script.

This can allow for a script that relies on clever wordplay to work in other languages. One of the earliest examples of a translator that did this was Ted Woolsey, who worked on a range of translations from Japanese to English.

He went with the philosophy of focussing more on conveying the meaning and adding character rather than accuracy in translation.

This led to lines of dialogue that would translate into profanities in English being turned into lines such as “You spoony bard!” or “Son of a Submariner!”, which ended up being endearingly known as Woolseyisms.

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