The Linguist

The Linguist 53,1

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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I n the past 20 years or so, video games have become a multibillion dollar industry, with enormous sales and an exceptional growth in popularity among people young and old. English and Japanese are the main languages in which games are developed, but the success of the industry also lies in marked international sales. With games translated into more than 15 languages, the area of video game localisation is increasingly important. Video game localisation is the process of translating a game and adapting it in order to sell it in a different market. Unlike traditional translation, localisation usually implies a wide range of modification and adaptation procedures that can transform the original into quite a different finished product. This is because audiovisual material, such as films and video games, are mainly conceived as products to be sold and 'consumed', and therefore have to adapt to the taste and expectations of the receiving market. Game translators are generally allowed to change, adapt and even delete any content that could negatively interfere with the target player's experience. This implies the choice of an idiomatic and vivid linguistic style, which does not make the player aware that they are using a translated version. Humorous content, such as puns and jokes, plays a fundamental role: it makes games more realistic, helps relieve the stress of playing, sustains the player's interest in the game and, of course, entertains them with something funny and unexpected. When attempting a translation, such material has to be tackled carefully, resulting in a product that is appealing for players and as enjoyable and fun to play as the original. Animal Crossing: Wild world, one of the best-selling Nintendo games to date, is a valuable example of successful humour localisation. It has been praised by critics for its humorous tones and light-hearted nature – not only in the original Japanese version, but also in several translations, including those into Italian and Spanish, which were translated from the English. In the game, which is the second of a series of four, the player assumes the role of a human character, either male or female, who moves to a rural village populated by anthropomorphic animals. There, the player performs many tasks, such as socialising with the animal residents, planting trees and flowers, collecting furniture, fishing, catching bugs and digging up fossils. Examples of humour are to be found in almost every aspect: FEATURES Localising humour and video games is notoriously hard. Isabella Dal Santo on a successful transcreation animals engage the player in amusing conversations, loaded with puns, while the character names cleverly play on words and meanings. An encounter with a sheep named Baabara or pig called Rasher is likely to make the player smile, or even laugh out loud. However, a pun or joke in one language is not necessarily perceived as humorous when transferred to a different cultural context. Target readers may not share the same knowledge, assumptions and cultural background, and could either not understand the joke or not find it funny. A player in Italy, for instance, is unlikely to perceive any irony behind a duck villager named Pate, as duck liver pâté is not a common dish there. To make sure that none of the humorous content in Animal Crossing was lost in translation, much work had to be done by the localisation teams. The main three options for tackling humour are: 1 Retention of the source humour. When the joke or wordplay used in the original version works and is as funny in the target language, translators can find an equivalent that preserves the source meaning and form. If a close translation that sounds funny for the target player is not possible, the joke is adapted or shifted but not deleted. 2 Deletion of the source humour. The form and content of a joke is maintained but loses its humorous connotation in translation. Alternatively, the funny element is changed but without creating a new humorous load in the target language. Strategies that involve the deletion of humour are generally avoided as they could compromise the playing experience. When necessary, translators try to It's a funny game

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