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  1. #1
    Obscure Node ̣scar.'s Avatar
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    Localization: blessing or curse?

    I read this post in "the things you'll never understand thread" and felt compelled to try to make this guy understand why localization is not that bad as an idea/industry. This post is a specific answer to this guy but I'm making it a thread because I'd like to know what do you RPSers think about game localization since English is the mother tongue for most of you and I guess some of you could think as he does:

    So, why localization and dubbing still exist, when everybody seems to be ranting over them?

    When a developer/publisher wants some product to be translated/dubbed/localized, what it wants is to broaden marken opportunities in other countries. Let's face it: at least 51% of the people who purchase these "media" products (and you know it is actually a higher figure) don't do it so they can enjoy the background, accents and entonation of the original. They just want to enjoy a series, film, game or book. And they have the right to do so.

    While you can rant about bad translations/localizations/dubbings (and 90% times you'll be right), you don't have to be pretentious about that. You can show off your English (which due to globalization is -or was- the most popular language between the developed countries) and defend your anti-translation position but, can you speak French, German, Italian, Raetho-romance, Spanish and Portuguese?

    I guess you can't. Then, I guess you'll either a) learn all of the languages you need to read/watch/play all the world's media or b) only read and play media whose original version is in a language you can understand. Both positions would be so preposterous that I guess I don't even need to go further with this point.

    From a linguistic perspective, I can assure you that no dubbing and translation at all would also cause your mother tongue to degenerate severely. This has happened in my region with our local language (Catalan) which is both a) spoken by fewer people b) not spoken properly, mixing Catalan with Spanish words and grammar structures, etc.

    And btw, I really wonder why do you think localization keeps cultures apart. Have you ever stopped to think that -thank god- not all of the culture in the world has its original version in English? That's exactly where the globalization is leading us: to think that the American culture (and British, to a lesser extent) is the most important culture. I can't see how translation keeps cultures apart, but the very opposite of that: it lets us know other cultures.

    I encourage playing, reading and watching movies/series in their original version as long as we understand them, just as I encourage the learning of foreign languages but ffs, let's not be that close-minded to think that the most important media are in English.

    ps: I intend to work as a translator and I am quite Eurosceptic, so this could be not objective at all.
    Last edited by ̣scar.; 09-06-2011 at 04:15 PM.

  2. #2
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Malawi Frontier Guard's Avatar
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    Good answer.

  3. #3
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    I agree, but with the caveat that if you're not willing to do it well, don't do it at all. The translation on the Phoenix Wright games (text only) is astounding. Pathologic is so bad as to be nearly unplayable.

    The thing is, once you've paid for the translation, that's the bulk of the cost. But the next step is to hire an editor, preferably a native speaker of the language you're translating to, to clean it up. People not doing that make me sad. Even more so when they then get those horrid translations voiced, and the voice artists just go along with it!

  4. #4
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    In Quebec there is a full-time redub industry, but that only really covers film and TV. Video games, not so much. European versions turn up a fair bit, so there's that, but eurofrench is WEIRD.

    French, though, is a relatively widespread and influential language - though it is to the stereotypical frenchman's chagrin that it is not more so. I'd say it has the critical mass to be more or less culturally self-sufficient - there's plenty of native media, and there's enough of a market that quality dubs and localisations are worthwhile. To that end, too, it never hurts that France and Quebec are very well-off markets - West Africa not so much. I'm thinking Catalan isn't in the same situation. Which is a damn shame, because if it's anything like Occitan (Romance languages that are right beside each other ought to be similar, right?) it's a damn cool language.

    Here in NA it's only easy to find Japanese media regularly done with quality English subs/dubs. But (western) European media often ends up with a decent English (or, for some of us in Canada, French) version. I suppose in the south-western USA it's easy to find Spanish-language media, but I don't think much of that ever gets presented to an English-speaking audience.

    No one could EVER learn enough languages to enjoy all the world's media natively. Well, I shouldn't say never, but those who can learn the several dozen languages necessary would have to be a tiny, tiny minority.

  5. #5
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Rii's Avatar
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    English-speaking Australian here.

    Quote Originally Posted by ̣scar. View Post
    When a developer/publisher wants some product to be translated/dubbed/localized, what it wants is to broaden marken opportunities in other countries. Let's face it: at least 51% of the people who purchase these "media" products (and you know it is actually a higher figure) don't do it so they can enjoy the background, accents and entonation of the original. They just want to enjoy a series, film, game or book. And they have the right to do so.
    They have no such right. But there is certainly often a market incentive to perform localisations.

    While you can rant about bad translations/localizations/dubbings (and 90% times you'll be right), you don't have to be pretentious about that.
    If 90% of X is Y, it's hardly surprising that folks generalise to the effect that X is Y in informal contexts. It happens everywhere: I keep hearing that the Red Cross Blood Service doesn't accept blood from gay men, but that isn't true. Rather they don't accept donations from men who have sex with men. It's a fine distinction, but it's there. And nobody cares; it's always 'discrimination against gays.'

    You can show off your English (which due to globalization is -or was- the most popular language between the developed countries)
    Was? I don't think China actually qualifies as a developed nation yet.

    and defend your anti-translation position but, can you speak French, German, Italian, Raetho-romance, Spanish and Portuguese?

    I guess you can't. Then, I guess you'll either a) learn all of the languages you need to read/watch/play all the world's media or b) only read and play media whose original version is in a language you can understand. Both positions would be so preposterous that I guess I don't even need to go further with this point.
    I watch non-English films in their native language. Subtitled obviously. The thought of watching a dubbed version actually makes me slightly queasy. The idea of listening to K-POP in English simply makes me laugh.

    On the other hand I read translated books and play translated games. The difference is that in those cases little is lost (assuming it's done well) through the localisation process, if only in the case of games because the original script/line delivery is so reliably terrible (or at best unremarkable) anyway.

    And btw, I really wonder why do you think localization keeps cultures apart. Have you ever stopped to think that -thank god- not all of the culture in the world has its original version in English? That's exactly where the globalization is leading us: to think that the American culture (and British, to a lesser extent) is the most important culture. I can't see how translation keeps cultures apart, but the very opposite of that: it lets us know other cultures.
    The Anglosphere is in decline anyway. The question is whether it has enough momentum built up at this point so as to piggy-back on the rise of Asia and thereby become self-sustaining.

    Personally I hope I live long enough to see Hollywood produce its first motion picture in Mandarin.
    Last edited by Rii; 09-06-2011 at 04:48 PM.

  6. #6
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Tikey's Avatar
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    To be honest, localization is bad when it's the only option. I'm in Argentina and years ago, before de digital distribution, you might only get games that were dubbed. Now, this game were localized for SPAIN with spanish accents and mannerisms which usually don't sit well here. Playing Max Payne with spanish voice-overs was aweful to be honest. You usually lose a lot of the game with dubbing.
    But I do agree that there are people who like it and it's okay.
    In my opinion the best option is original language with subtitles.

  7. #7
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus President Weasel's Avatar
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    I heard that to South American (non-Brazilian) ears, Spanish dubs sound like a bunch of gay people going "eth eth eth" at each other; is this true?

  8. #8
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    First of all, I want to emphasize the fact that I did not say anything about books. While I'd avoid translations of English fantasy like rape, most literature, if done right, by translator that understands both cultures he's working with, will be fine. Let's remember that radical translation is not really possible, so you'll have to do some interpretation here and there. Something will always be lost in translation, so to speak.

    I was talking about movies and games. Also, I'm against dubbing non-English movies into English. Keep in mind I'm not British. Now, dubbing movies is bad for the following reasons:

    1) Your translation/interpretation will rarely be the correct one because you have to take into account the seconds in which the actor speaks. You'll have to choose an expression that fits into the time slot, rather than the accurate one. You lose more than you should.

    2)You infringe upon the creative vision of the original actor. No matter the language, you just cannot dub Al Pacino, Roberto Benigni, Alain Delon or Joan Capri and make the role better than they do. Bringing another actor that does not have the same understanding of the role as the one who's doing the film and having him only replace the voice is detrimental to both performances. Both will look awkward. You can have two actors do the same character in different languages and both can be great, but they need to do it in two different films/plays.

    3)Dubbing costs money, increases distribution costs and thus, you won't have the budget to hire the best actors. In the case of Romania, for example, we don't have that many good film actors and all of them are busy doing movies with the exceptional young generation of directors we have right now. Romania is a theatre focused culture and most schools of acting teach that. Bring a theatre actor to dub a movie and it will be horrid. The movie will be worse.

    There is a much more elegant solution and it's called subtitles. You'd be wrong if you though that I watch only English and Romanian movies. I've seen my share of films by Bergman, Tarkovski, Pasolini and other non-English and non-Romanian directors subtitled and they were great. Even if you don't understand the exact words the actors are saying, their performance does come through wonderfully. It probably has something to do with the fact that we're all human and experience roughly the same emotions..

    I've lived in Barcelona for six months and I know for a fact that both you guys and the Spanish seem to run at even the mention of subtitles and prefer to watch the poor dubbed versions that are distributed there (there are in fact 2 or 3 subtitles cinemas in Barcelona, though). I speak a bit of Spanish and understand Catalan quite well now and I've seen shows and movies dubbed in both and I was absolutely horrified. I watched a Romanian movie dubbed in Italian and it was horrid. Moreover, one of my Spanish friends did not understand what was the fuss with Futurama until he heard it in English. It even sound funnier. A German friend also confirmed for me that the German version of Futurama is horseshit as well. I don't even want to know how my ex-communist country would dub this show...

    On games, well.. think about the gain in atmosphere and immersion you get from playing STALKER or Metro 2033 with Russian voices or the better experience that the first Witcher is in Polish. I've hear Kratos in three languages and the English one is the best because that's the one the Jaffe himself probably saw the fittest for the character he created.

    Then, I guess you'll either a) learn all of the languages you need to read/watch/play all the world's media or b) only read and play media whose original version is in a language you can understand. Both positions would be so preposterous that I guess I don't even need to go further with this point.
    I don't take kindly of people building straw-men out of my arguments, but let's continue... I was just saying that you should strive to experience a work of art in it's native language if it is possible. Books have a different status (except Terry Pratchett, he's untranslatable) because the translator has time to find the correct formula that will bring the original work as close as possible to the language she's translating it too. Movie and games do not have the same luxury.

    From a linguistic perspective, I can assure you that no dubbing and translation at all would also cause your mother tongue to degenerate severely. This has happened in my region with our local language (Catalan) which is both a) spoken by fewer people b) not spoken properly, mixing Catalan with Spanish words and grammar structures, etc.
    Unfortunately for you, my friend, this is completely unsubstantiated. I do not understand this notion of "language degeneration". A natural language is, in a certain sense, a live organism, it changes to suit the needs of its speakers through-out time. Some words gain and lose meanings, words from other languages get added and other similar phenomena. Fearing this type of change is useless and primitive, it's how languages work. There isn't some entity out there "The Catalan/English/Spanish language" that exists separately of its speakers.

    And btw, I really wonder why do you think localization keeps cultures apart. Have you ever stopped to think that -thank god- not all of the culture in the world has its original version in English? That's exactly where the globalization is leading us: to think that the American culture (and British, to a lesser extent) is the most important culture. I can't see how translation keeps cultures apart, but the very opposite of that: it lets us know other cultures.
    This is also not entirely so. The English that I know, I know from undubbed and unsubtitled cartoons I saw when I was a child in post-communist Romania. The Spanish that my girlfriend excellently speaks has been learned from undubbed telenovelas that she watched with her grandmother in her childhood as well. I'm well used to be in contact with other cultures. What I've seen from my travels through Europe, in countries where everything is aggressively translated there is the general dislike of foreign cultures. If you are not used to hearing other languages (well, not you, you are a translator, but you get what I mean) and if you are not used to reading other languages, you will have trouble connecting with other cultures. Only from hearing bits and pieces of Catalan at the beginning of my stay in Barcelona I could hear many words that are exactly the same in Romanian. My Catalan room-mates were unable to do the same, mainly because they hadn't even thought to listen, they weren't even interested and they hadn't even conceived such a possibility. They were quite amazed when they heard the extent of the similarities between our two languages. If multiculturalism has failed, as our idiot leaders bullshit us, it is not the fault of the fucking immigrants, I'll tell you that.

    I encourage playing, reading and watching movies/series in their original version as long as we understand them, just as I encourage the learning of foreign languages but ffs, let's not be that close-minded to think that the most important media are in English.
    If that's what you understood from my little paragraph in that thread, I'll blame it on the brevity of what I said there. Hope what I've written above will clarify those statements more.

    TL;DR: Books can be read in a translated form, if done well. Movies and games should be experienced in the original language with subtitles. I completely disagree with him on the culture/language arguments he gives. Reasons in the wall of text.
    Last edited by Maykael; 09-06-2011 at 06:06 PM. Reason: added tl;dr

  9. #9
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Squiz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rii View Post
    On the other hand I read translated books and play translated games. The difference is that in those cases little is lost (assuming it's done well) through the localisation process, if only in the case of games because the original script/line delivery is so reliably terrible (or at best unremarkable) anyway.
    In my opinion, that is really only the case with games. Books often tend to loose a lot of their original character if they are translated (even if the translation is primarily well done), if the book in question is not non-fiction or doesn't contain wordplay. A good example for this are the Discworld books of Terry Pratchett, which really work best in English. The German translation made me cringe whenever I read a translated version, which - gladly - did not happen all too often.

  10. #10
    Lesser Hivemind Node westyfield's Avatar
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    I hate dubbing, the lack of lip-synchronisation makes the whole process really disorienting. I tried to watch an old spaghetti western movie that had been filmed in Italian, then had US English audio dubbed over. I couldn't stand more than about three lines of dialogue.
    I always, always prefer original language with English subtitles.
    Edit: regarding books, I have not read enough originally-non-English books to say anything with any authority, though the two that I remember (We, originally Russian, and The Count of Monte Cristo, originally French) both seemed like good translations and were easy to follow and understand.
    Last edited by westyfield; 09-06-2011 at 05:32 PM.

  11. #11
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Rii's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by squirrelfanatic View Post
    In my opinion, that is really only the case with games. Books often tend to loose a lot of their original character if they are translated (even if the translation is primarily well done), if the book in question is not non-fiction or doesn't contain wordplay. A good example for this are the Discworld books of Terry Pratchett, which really work best in English. The German translation made me cringe whenever I read a translated version, which - gladly - did not happen all too often.
    Come to think of it I haven't actually read much that wasn't originally written in English, and most of what I have has been non-fiction, so yeah, I can't really disagree with you on that score.

  12. #12
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Tikey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by President Weasel View Post
    I heard that to South American (non-Brazilian) ears, Spanish dubs sound like a bunch of gay people going "eth eth eth" at each other; is this true?
    Not really, but it does sound like there is just one guy doing all the voices.

  13. #13
    Obscure Node ̣scar.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maykael View Post
    wordy words
    Well, in the end we both agree except for the evolution of the language part. It is obvious that languages evolve naturally and that's how it's been over the history BUT the current globalization is pushing the boundaries on what could be a "natural evolution" and what is indeed a "contamination" (that's the word we Spaniards use in linguistics, i'm not trying to imply anything): if there's a new concept a word for which still doesn't exist in Spanish, we can use the English term (or spanish-ize it, we use to do this a lot). That's not a problem and it's indeed a symbol of which culture was the originary of that concept. See "cul-de-sac", "vintage", etc. The problem is when there's a word to refer to X concept in Spanish, and has existed for centuries, and then it comes a word in English to refer to that very X concept and people start using it just because it sounds "better". While this may sound stupid, it's something that happens and that makes me sick. Examples: parking (aparcamiento), footing (we understand this as "jogging"), etc.

    And yup, when I talked about the people who wants to do their stuff in their mother tongue, I have to admit that I was being Spain-centric because just as you said, people here cannot even read fucking English at the age of 18. But it's not only about the subtitles or original voicing you know, most Spaniards run at ANY cultural manifestation other than awful Spanish teenage TV series.

    Sorry for misunderstanding your words as English-centrism (if that even exists). It's just something that makes me really sick and has bloomed among hispters here in Spain and I brought it up out of nowhere :)

    conclusion: i love civilized discussions.

  14. #14
    Obscure Node ̣scar.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tikey View Post
    Not really, but it does sound like there is just one guy doing all the voices.
    That's funny. I've had lots of Argentinian friends and acquaintances (I can even do impressions of the Argentinian accent that deceive Argentinians) and when they first got here they laughed at how characters in films, etc., talked. They said it sounded so "soul-less", too "serious".

    But well, on the other hand, for me the Argentinian accent implies being a charming character. In Spanish TV series, there's almost always an Argentinian in the cast, and they always play hippie-esque characters. heh.

  15. #15
    Network Hub Dubbill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maykael View Post
    1) Your translation/interpretation will rarely be the correct one because you have to take into account the seconds in which the actor speaks. You'll have to choose an expression that fits into the time slot, rather than the accurate one. You lose more than you should.
    I always prefer to watch subtitles but it should be mentioned that the same problem arises with subs. In order to keep up with the dialogue subtitles can only be on the screen for a limited period of time and there's the added complication of giving viewers enough time to read it all. I grew up in France where they would tend to show English language films with subtitles and the interpretations were just as flawed as the dubbed films. I watched Spiral in French with English subs recently. I was expecting nuance and subtlety to be lost, but a fair chunk of dialogue was entirely skipped due to time constraints.
    Last edited by Dubbill; 09-06-2011 at 09:42 PM. Reason: comma mayhem

  16. #16
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Lukasz's Avatar
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    Few words from me about the subject:

    In Poland we don't often get dub movies excluding cartoons and movies for children. Years ago I saw an episode of frasier in full dub and there are occasionally other movies/tv series still being dubbed (extremely rare)
    Instead we get a guy who translates/summarizes what everyone is saying on top of the original audio (you can hear english or whatever language)

    Its awful!!

    Movies in cinemas on other hand are all subbed thank god (excluding movies for children)

    Like somebody else said: as long you get a choice does it really matter? Choose dub if you like it, choose only subtitles or watch the original version. Only that matters: what you enjoy the most.
    That it divides cultures, or harms the artistic value of the product or does some other evil...

    irrelevant. it is entertainment. so what makes the product more fun for you is the correct way.

    unless you like a guy who talks over original actors.
    that is silly...

  17. #17
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    It's very much a point of pride in Quebec that there are good dubs made. Clearly that's not the case elsewhere!

    I do think that with a skilled enough job almost nothing is lost in translation. "Skilled enough" being the hard part to find, then, naturally.

  18. #18
    Network Hub Mihkel's Avatar
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    I personally dislike dubbing but I'm okay with subtitles. For me dubbing takes out all the characters either in movies or games by sounding different and acting different from the regular version (as the developers or directors meant it).

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maykael View Post
    This is also not entirely so. The English that I know, I know from undubbed and unsubtitled cartoons I saw when I was a child in post-communist Romania.
    Heh, is there any 20 something year old now in romania that knows english but didn't learn it from cartoon network? I really doubt it. God bless that silly little tv station. Sorry to see they are dubbing it for quite some years now.

    I probably wouldn't have been here on this english forum had it not been for Cartoon Network.
    They probably didn't have any idea of the strong cultural effect they had on my mind. It pretty much opened up a new world for me. So yeah, screw dubbing and let's start learning other languages.

    On a side note: just a few more romanians and we can have our own RPS meetings!

  20. #20
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Tikey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ̣scar. View Post
    That's funny. I've had lots of Argentinian friends and acquaintances (I can even do impressions of the Argentinian accent that deceive Argentinians) and when they first got here they laughed at how characters in films, etc., talked. They said it sounded so "soul-less", too "serious".

    But well, on the other hand, for me the Argentinian accent implies being a charming character. In Spanish TV series, there's almost always an Argentinian in the cast, and they always play hippie-esque characters. heh.
    I didn't know that! It's quite interesting as I thought the impression the rest of the world have of Argentinians is quite different (and on occasion, well deserved)
    But there are lot of things with dubbing that's just getting used to. It doesn't bother watching the neutral spanish version of the Simpson as I grew up watching it. I can't watch the spanish version and It was a bit of a shock hearing the original version the first time.

    Now, what you said about accents got me thinking about another interesting thing with dubs. How do you translate an accent? I've seen horrible things (like a british character in south park (latin version) speaking with an spanish accent.
    Or other things like when the location is changed, as I believe it's done in the Phoenix Wright series.
    But maybe it could be said that it's just bad work.

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