Here is a short recap of the round table the IGDA LocSIG held before TGS 2017. I will try to update this article with more details when time allows. I also apologize for the random order of topics, I wrote this as memories came back to me
1 hour, 20+ participants, 5 broad subjects (market trends, localization technology, career, etc.) with a few specific topics each, 2 moderators to swiftly move the conversation from a question to another.
We had a fair mix of translators (aspiring, freelance, in-house), project managers/agency representatives and people from the end client side.
I admit I was worried 1 hour wouldn’t be enough to cover all topics, but it turned out to be just perfect. You would usually hear 2 or 3 points of view for each topic (often translator vs. agency), clear and concise. Everything flowed naturally and there was no idle time. More insights in 1 hour than you’d hear in 1 day at many conferences.
Can non-native speakers be trusted for translation?
Several participants noted they knew or had heard of at least 1 non-native English speaker who could a really good job on Japanese to English translations (I know such a guy myself! He now works for a big Japanese dev, still does great work). Interestingly, Japanese to English was the only language pair for which we could think of such people.
Is it OK to refuse translation projects? How to do it?
Refusing jobs is OK. A few project managers present agreed that if they were happy with a translator, they wouldn’t give up on them easily. Actually, one person went as far as to mention that translators who accept all types of projects without hesitation, even difficult ones or ones with a very tight deadline, could be “suspicious”. You shouldn’t try too hard.
Refusing a project is fine, but do give a reason so things can move on, or it will sound like you don’t care. Common sense, but apparently not so common for some of our colleagues.
My 2 cents as a translator: try to negotiate when you can (if the issue is related to the rate, deadline, etc.) – if that’s not enough, decline politely and explain why. If you’re not comfortable with the topic (may that be for lack of familiarity with the topic or personal beliefs/ethics), just say it, your honesty will be appreciated. If you’re simply too busy, try to give your PM an idea of how long you won’t be able to accept new assignments.
Project managers appreciate open and transparent relationships with their translators. Quality is all that matters.
Project management tools (Plunet)
Project managers seem to like Plunet a lot. I can’t say I’m too fond of its interface (I prefer talking to human beings, too), but it seems to be here to stay. Well, my friends, machines may take over the jobs of project managers before ours. OK, enough for cheeky remarks.
Getting jobs: ProZ, LinkedIn, networking&word of mouth?
Networking and referrals still seem to be the strongest way to build a clientele. Online, some noted that power is slowly shifting from ProZ to LinkedIn. Speaking personally, I still get strong leads from both. Build a strong profile and keep promoting yourself. On LinkedIn, try to be active in industry groups
(note: ProZ is currently developing and promoting a new feature, expert pools, to help game localizers get more visibility. It will be interesting to see how this turns out)
How to control quality when you don’t know a thing about the target language?
During localization: Choose proven partners, have an independent and equally trusted party review the translation
Post-release: gather as much feedback as you can in the target market:
– Check what the gamer community says
– Read reviews and look for mentions of localization quality
– Ask local industry experts, for example game journalists
Using text-to-speech during the proofreading stage
Nice tip shared at some point: listening to your own translation will help you catch things your eye may have missed, also helps noticing flow/pacing issues
Do I need a degree in translation to get started? What is the trend?
Most people of the industry have learned on the field. But now that our industry has matured, there are more and more universities offering audiovisual translation courses. The proportion of vocational translators is increasing and should continue to do so.
Creative vs technical profiles
Interesting comment from a former PM. Some people excel at creative translations, others at drier texts that require more accuracy. Agencies should have this in mind when building up teams for their projects.
On amateur translations…
Mixed feelings from agency people. The lack of frame and quality control is an issue to make them a reliable experience. However, if translated titles are relevant to a particular project (say you fan translate visual novels and such a project comes in), it can move your name at the top of the CV pile.
Conclusion: use your best judgment. Get specific if you feel your experience is relevant for a particular project, otherwise consider including it in more general terms (“I have translated xxx words of game content”, etc.)
Something that was said a few times by PMs: in the end, all that really matters is the quality of your work and your professionalism. Having experience and qualifications can help fast-forward things, but ultimately everybody gets a chance to show their skills because agencies are always trying to renew their translator pools
On post editing machine translation…
Machine translation may be improving, but it’s simply not there yet. Post-editing itself is a pain, and it introduces errors you wouldn’t make otherwise. If you’re going to reduce rates because MT was applied, you should expect quality to be affected proportionally.
Do you have to be a gamer to translate games?
Things like UI and menus can be very hard to translate if you don’t play games. For narration & dialogs, non-gamers can do a perfectly fine job. Once again, it’s all about selecting the right person for the job at hand.
Speaking for the French market: when game translation was a new discipline, companies would often turn to literary translators. Some of them have done wonders.