Let’s talk about blogs for a bit. I came across a post where some folks were, essentially, saying “hahaha, people still suggest that you create a blog in order to find translation work, what bobos, hahaha.”
Now, I can’t fault them for having this belief, I think that the concepts and goals behind content marketing aren’t usually communicated, or at least not communicated clearly, and that makes it seem silly. However, and before I get too far into this, I would like to say that we’re not blogging in the typical sense of the word. We’re not writing about our daily lives, our pets, or anything like that, we’re writing professional articles with specific audiences in mind and giving them a clear call to action. So, in an effort to explain why you should have a website and blog if you want to grow your business online, I present the following:
What the frack is Content Marketing?!
Content Marketing is the idea of creating a relationship with your client by creating articles, videos, or whatever that contains information that they consider valuable and helps to establish you as an expert, or at least someone that has a good idea of what they’re talking about.
Pro Tip: it helps if you really are an expert or have some idea of what you’re talking about.
This content is then presented or made available to your target audience, typically on a website, where they can engage with it, comment on it, and, most importantly, complete the Call to Action. The call to action, or CTA, is the task that you want your reader to perform after interacting with your content.
A good example would be a video game trailer. Think about it, they show you this cool video with scenes from the game, maybe a voice over telling you all about it, trying to make it look cool, and at the end, they say something like “pre-order now at GameStop” or whatever. They’re showing you content that you find interesting, the game footage, which they’ve adapted for a specific audience, like, imagine a CoD style video for a game like Candy Crush, with the call to action at the end “give us money now!” That’s a very simple example, but you could also look at something like an AMA with the devs, a behind-the-scenes interview or something, as long as it has that call to action.
So, how do we do that with translation? The easiest path would be to create something about how companies in your industry are benefiting from translation and then invite the reader to contact you for a consultation where you offer them translation services. However, you can write about challenges in your industry, new tools, techniques, or trends, or even people. Just remember what your website’s goal is and focus your content on that goal.
Now, let’s talk about Google for a minute (most search engines work in the same way, it’s just easier to type “Google” than “most search engines”). The first thing that you should know about Google is that people use it to find things by performing what we in the industry call a “search.” These “searches” usually denote some sort of intent on the part of the “searcher” to acquire information provided by the “searchee” … maybe I’ve been translating too many legal documents lately.
So, your customer, a game developer, hops on Google and does a search for “video game translator” (180 average searches per month). Google then goes to its index, which is a list of all the websites on the internet, or at least the public ones, and tries to determine which of those websites provides the best information about “video game translator.” I like to compare this to a robot trying to find the best can of corn in a pantry full of tin cans. There are 1,220,000 results for “video game translator,” so we’re talking about over 1.2 million cans of corn. Robots can’t eat corn (that I’m aware of), and so it can’t really judge on its own which corn is the best. What it can do is read the label, the ingredients, look at the picture, open it up and look inside, and see what other people that ordered the same thing have done in the past.
Your article and your entire website are a can of corn. Make sure that your article title is the main keyword (search term) that you want to target, that any tags you use are relevant to your content and that your post is actually about corn! If Google places your post in its search results and people click on it and then spend time reading it, Google will notice and think, “Hey! This is great stuff! People really like this! I’m going to recommend it again the next time someone uses that search term.” And your post will start to appear higher and higher in the search results. Higher rankings mean more traffic, and more traffic means more clients. If your content is really good then people will share it, they’ll mention it on their own websites, and argue about it on Twitter. Every time a link to your post is placed on another website or shared on certain social media platforms it creates something called a backlink. Google sees it and goes, “whoa, people really like this, I need to promote it even more!”
Don’t be fooled, Google is a Synth
And that’s basically how Google works. If you pick a good search term, people will be able to find your content and clients will find you. You can do the same thing with videos, images, and even maps. For more competitive search terms, you’re going to need some extra help. It’s a bit more complicated and you’re probably going to benefit most from simply hiring an SEO Ninja to work on your site.
Other Website Benefits
- While the main idea behind building a website, and adding a steady stream of new content to it is to capture that organic traffic, there are some side benefits to it as well.
- You can use your website as an online business card and portfolio.
- If you handle any type of document that’s fairly consistent, you can have clients pay you in advance for those translations. I do this for immigration paperwork.
- As backlinks are created for one of your articles, it strengthens your site’s overall metrics so that other articles will rank higher by default. You can also include links to those other articles and promote them as well.
- You get your own professional emails! No more firstname.lastname@example.org!
- Email lists! I’ll dedicate a whole post to email lists for translators. In short, it was one of the easiest ways to fill my schedule with new projects. Your CTA can be to sign up for a newsletter and you can capture emails addresses that way.
I hope that clarifies why we recommend blogging. It’s simply another way to help clients find you by creating valuable, shareable, and searchable content. You may notice that this blog is very similar to what I’ve talked about here. My target audience is the freelance translator that’s trying to find more work, especially those in video game localization. My CTA is typically for you to sign up for the email list, or in this case, I want you guys to start thinking about creating a blog. I have some follow-up posts that will explore the technical aspects in a bit more detail, but I want you to be able to make your own website or have someone make it for you, and find clients.
Here’s your call to action, folks. I have three options for you:
If you want a professional to build your website for you, sign up for my wife’s Websites for Translators beta tester program by clicking here: http://eepurl.com/cLj73v
If you want a super simple blog to see if you like it, check out my tutorial on Blogger here:
Or if you want an easy to use, drag and drop, website builder like what I used for my first blog, check out Weebly and my tutorials here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLgAqFoQC3_lOfabdwJOrGleLDH2ETm8Vz
I also have a review of HostGator, my favorite website hosting provider, that you can check out.
Ok, you now know what to do, why you should do it, and how. Get to work.
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Here’s another reply to a question about how to find paid work translating on YouTube that turned into a long response (can you tell that get paid per word?).
What normally happens on YouTube when someone translates one of your videos is that you receive a notification saying, “this person just translated your subtitles” and they ask you to confirm the translation before it goes live. So, they know who provided the service. You can sometimes put a little snippet at the end of the video or description saying something like “Spanish translation provided by Triston Goodwin http://www.opl10nt9n.com” – just make sure it’s ok with the channel owner first. They’ll say yes, but it’s a good idea to ask.
Now, for smaller channels, the best bet is to find them and talk to them as a group. I personally joined a few Facebook groups and find a project or two a week, but they’re small channels with small budgets. You’ll also want to look at Reddit. Another option is to create your own channel and join a Multi-Channel Network (MCN) so that you can have access to creator forums. You could even offer a discount to all the channels in the MCN and become their preferred translator – thousands of clients! Again, all of this is intended to build relationships with your clients. Talk to them, learn about them, and subtlety offer your services – like in your forum signature. We want to provide value. We hear that a lot, but what it means is that we want to be a benefit for those around us, to make their lives easier. When they trust you, they’ll come to you for paid help. I would personally recommend looking for larger channels, those with between 100,000 and 500,000 channels are good options because that’s usually where they start receiving more offers for sponsorships and affiliate deals. They also tend to start growing faster at this point so they’re hungrier for more.
How YouTubers Make Money
I think it’s important to understand how a YouTube channel makes money in order to understand our role as translators and how we facilitate their growth and income. Prior to the “Ad-pocalypse” (which is occurring right now), a YouTube channel would make between $2 and $10 per thousand views (CPM). So, a tech channel, which is usually on the higher end of the CPM scale, can invest $200 in a translation as long as they get more 20,000 views on their videos from viewers in that language. They’ll make even more if they’re monetizing the video in any other way, like sponsorships or affiliate offers (like Amazon). These are especially common with gaming channels since the CPM is a bit lower, but you’re able to get significantly more views. But some viewers are worth more than others. Let’s say I upload a video and it gets 5,000 views. CPM on my own channel is a little north of the middle, so I make $30 from YouTube ad revenue. However, I also have an affiliate offer from a hosting company that’ll pay me $50 per new customer. If I have horrible conversions and only manage to convince 1% of people to buy hosting, that’s 50 people, I just made $2,500. Now, if I translate the title, description, tags, and subtitles of the video and I’m able to double that traffic, I could potentially double my revenue from that one video. For gaming, I could be getting paid per view by a developer, so more views mean more money, especially if those viewers become subscribers and I can bring them back for future videos. I could have an affiliate offer to purchase the game through a platform like the Microsoft Store. I probably won’t make $2,500 from 5,000 views as a gamer, but I’ll still make some money if I know how to monetize correctly.
I even have an example that I can show you. I made a video about cheap cell phones for Pokemon go. The video is almost a year old and has a little over 10,000 views and I made about $20 from ad revenue (though the system here estimates that I made $15).
But, if you look in the description, you’ll find several links to Amazon for the phone, some comparable phones, and accessories that you’d need and/or want in order to enjoy playing the game (highlighted in blue).
I made $20 from ads, but I also sold 20 cellphones, 40 cases, and 10 chargers from that one video. I made about $400. There’s a new tool out that suggests prices for shout outs (a brief mention of a company in your videos) and dedicated review videos. For this channel, they recommend that I charge $25 per shout out and $100 for a review. That means that I can make $20 from ads, $100 for the review, and another $400 from my affiliates over the course of the year. Now, how much would I need to spend to subtitle a 6-minute video with about 250 words between the title, description (183 words), and tags? Keep in mind that this is a small channel. I have 138 subscribers with around 4,500 views per month and it makes sense, financially, for me to pay for translation. Unfortunately, most smaller YouTube channels don’t know how to monetize like that, so focus on the mid-sized ones to get started.
How to Make Money Translating on YouTube
Those are the numbers behind the translation and why it’s valuable. Like I mentioned before, when the channel owner sees the notification from you and the increase in traffic and revenue because of it, they’ll want more. This is especially true for mid-sized channels (100,000-500,000 subscribers). Another option is to look at the translation agencies that have been added to the platform by YouTube (still in beta). Just doing a quick check, to subtitle a 45-minute live stream, translate the title, description, and tags, and get the subtitles in Spanish, I’m looking at between $875.09 and $1,018.71 coming from Tomedes, Latinlingua, Translated Srl, and Sfera Studios. I’ve only worked with Tomedes, so I can’t comment on the others, but I didn’t hate working with Tomedes. So, if you wanted to go the agency route, get in touch with them and show them a few of your examples, and make some money.
You could also simply make a page on your website dedicated to subtitling video game YouTube channels and get organic traffic. Or a blog post. I know some have been critical of the idea that blogging will find you customers, but the idea isn’t that the blog generates money, it’s that you’re constantly adding more content to your website in order to capture organic traffic from search engines, to capture people looking for a certain service that you just happen to offer. A blog is just an easy way to do that. I think that will require its own post. The important thing to look at is whether or not your clients are using search engines to find your services.
Here’s a quick look at the average monthly search volume for YouTube transcription: 730 searches per month
And video translator: 3,000 searches per month
It might be time for me to make a website for those keywords and outsource all the work… Anyways, it’s clear that there are companies and channels out there looking for this service.
A YouTube channel, which you can already see that a video appears on the first page of the search results for both search terms, is another great option. I’ll write another post on how blogs, websites, and even YouTube can and should be used to find new customers. I might even make it into a full tutorial and show how to make one from start to finish.
I hope that answers the question of how to find paid translation work on YouTube for you all. Let me know if you have any questions!
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This is a short follow-up to my last post on video game translation trends for 2017. Jane Davis had an interesting question about finding work as a video game translator that I thought would try to answer. She says:
I saw this as an opportunity to cause some trouble, so here we go!
There are some languages that are going to be harder to work in than others. Being an ES>EN translator myself, I’d put myself somewhere closer to the “developers throw money at me” than the “I’m pretty sure I’m the only person that speaks my language” side of the scale. There are some very skilled Spanish speaking developers out there, but most of them already speak a good deal of English (thanks a lot, CS:GO and LoL…) and only occasionally need a full translation of their game. So, how do you make money when the developers already speak your language? You speak it better 😉
Or you cheat.
First off, editing or adapting game text for certain regions can bring in some decent work and a good editor is always appreciated. In fact, that’s where most my income came from (before I started messing around with search engine optimization). I was also “randomly” invited to a TON of early access games, like The Elder Scrolls Online, a few World of Warcraft expansions (I might even be a NPC!), WildStar, and Star Wars: The Old Republic (I work on a lot of MMORPGs).
Now, for translation, I typically charge between $0.15 and $0.30 per word. For editing like this, I charge around $0.06 per word. While that’s significantly less money per unit, I can get through a text four or five times faster than I can with a translation – depending on the quality of the material. In the end, I still make money and the client has a clean translation for their game. So, that’s one way to get around source language problems as long as there’s enough demand for gaming in your target language.
Horror Story from the Battlefield
I was once working on editing a good-sized MMORPG from Korea. The NPCs often referred to another NPC, but the translators kept switching their pronouns around. In one sentence the character was male, then female, then back to male. Sometimes in the same sentence! Now, I don’t speak Korean, so the source text, even if I’d had access to it, wouldn’t have helped. I emailed my client and asked if they had any sort of directory or guide to the game that would identify the character’s sex. They didn’t. They asked the developer, never heard back from them. So, they paid me an extra three days’ worth of work to play through the game, find the NPC, and look at the character model to identify its sex. It was female, just in case you were wondering. I’m just glad that it was a human character or this story would be even longer! Praise the sun!
They also kept using “penetrate” instead of “infiltrate” whenever they had to sneak into an enemy base. Silly Korean translators.
Finding this kind of work is very similar to normal translation work – it’s all about building relationships with the developers. If you have a relationship with your developer, and they need help or know someone else that needs help, you’ll be at the top of their list. It’s just a question of having enough relationships with the right developers. You’ll also become one of the experts in your field, so clients will naturally come to you.
I would suggest making an account on gamasutra.com (don’t misspell that), which is a neat resource for those looking for work in the gaming industry and mention it in your LinkedIn profiles and website. Don’t forget to keep your eyes on the Facebook groups, either.
Now, to cause trouble…
I think it’s ok to translate into a language that isn’t your native language.
This baby is the funniest meme on the internet.
Now, I think that there are some very specific things that need to happen before this, so let me explain:
As I’ve mentioned in other posts, to be a good translator, and especially a good video game translator, you need to be able to understand two languages and communicate in two others. One pair is your source and target language, that one’s obvious. The second is your industry lingo in your source and target languages. We often criticize those that thing that simply speaking two languages is enough to qualify them as a translator. The same can happen here. Just because someone is a native speaker of the target language doesn’t necessarily mean that they are better qualified to translate something. An industry expert working in his or her 2nd language is almost always going to be better than a native that has no idea what they’re talking about. Like me trying to work on any medical texts. Additionally, I think that there are cases where having a deeper understanding of source text, its nuances, allegories, and so on, like a native speaker would have, leads to a better translation. I have translated games into Spanish. I also always have a native speaker editor double check everything for me. Heck, I do that with English translations, too.
In my opinion, the ideal setup for a translation would be to have two translators working on each project, a native speaker of the source to make it accurate, and a native speaker of the target to make it fluid and natural. You just miss out on too many opportunities otherwise. It’s also twice as expensive, so I understand why agencies don’t do it. My wife, from Argentina, used to work with me as a translator and together we were able to create some truly beautiful translations. Now she just wants to make websites for translators.
So, if you can only find work into your target language, find yourself a good editor that’s willing to help you out and make a team. Those projects can go both ways, too. Your partner edits your translation today, and tomorrow you do the same for them.
In regards the question about LocJam, while winning the competition is certainly a nice bit of bragging rights, I would argue that the most valuable part of the entire event is the experience that you obtain by translating an entire game. You don’t have to show your translations to your potential clients unless you want to, you can just tell them that you participate and talk about some of the things that you found interesting or how you overcame some challenge during the process.
I hope that helps, though. And I appreciate the question 😊
And, worst case scenario, we can always learn Korean and find work that way, right? I mean, how hard can it be?
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The objective of these posts is to share my predictions for how translators can get into video game localization in the current year. I’m a little late with my Video Game Translation in 2017 entry, but I have some ideas that I think will be very valuable for those trying to get into the localization industry this year. If you like this kind of article, or if you want to receive notifications of new posts, sign up for our email list here.
How to become a video game translator is 2017
Building your Portfolio
As we’ve mentioned many, many times now, the hardest part of becoming a video game translator is finding work and experience. Luckily, this is becoming significantly easier than it ever has been. The first thing that I would suggest that any gaming translator do is sign up for LocJam. It starts in just a week, but it’s an incredibly educational and valuable experience. Being able to tell a potential client that you actually took part in a translation competition is not something that many others can say. Especially if you win. Not only do you get bragging rights, but the experience that comes from actually translating a video game like this, from start to finish, is something that will help you decide whether or not this whole ordeal of localization is worth your time and energy.
The next thing that I would recommend is that you look into translating subtitles on YouTube, especially for game development, tech, and gaming channels. Again, the goal here is to show that you know the language – both the actual language as well as the lingo – that your target audience actually uses. I’ve been playing a TON of Diablo 3 over the last couple of years and we talk about drop rates, item stats (crit. chance and damage, attack speed, and so on), character builds, and the math that goes into deciding which piece of gear or skill is better than the other. Not to mention the vast list of different items that you can pick up in-game. All of those are terms that you probably won’t use in, say, a racing game. By working on these videos, you are getting used to the lingo, the way that the players actually talk, and you’re putting your translations in front of hundreds, sometimes even millions, of players. That’s a scary thought, but if you expect to translate for any major developer, and even many small and mid-sized developers, that’s something that you’re going to have to get comfortable with. The other nice thing about translating these YouTube videos is that you have something to add to your portfolio. It’s something that a client can easily find online and when they see those numbers, your skills start looking more valuable. Did I mention that larger channels pay their translators? I haven’t been able to get $0.30 per word, but you can supplement your normal income with these projects. I’ve noticed smaller channels that want to get their content translated as well since it helps them to reach larger audiences.
I would also recommend that you look into blogging. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy, but if you follow any gaming news site, you can take articles that interest you and translate/rewrite them (we want to avoid any copyright issues, so make sure to give them your own voice), and post them online. Being a published translator is another great thing to have on your portfolio and website. We are currently working on a project that would allow translators and bloggers to share content to a website specifically for this purpose. Think of it like theopenmic.co for gaming. I just need to find the time to build that site and get some content on there. I’ll keep you guys updated on it as new news comes in. It may be a bit much for many translators, we tend to have trouble with being outgoing, but if you’re able to do it, look into starting a translator vlog on a platform like YouTube. There’s more interest in the subject matter than you’d think and it’s an easy way to show that you know what you’re talking about. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, talk about the learning process. You would be surprised how much confidence that kind of content can generate in your client. Plus, you’d be famous!
Aside from all of that, I still recommend the things that I’ve mentioned in previous years. Go to Steam and look for indie games that need localization and do whatever you’re comfortable with (like translating games for free in exchange for credit/portfolio fodder). Also, go to Curseforge and translate addons and mods for popular games. That was how I found my first client. I translated a bunch of addons for World of Warcraft and then sent links to them in a proposal. They were so impressed, that I not only landed the job but I worked with the company for many years and on many large projects – including game development software. Imagine talking to a developer and they ask if you know anything about X platform and you reply that you translated it. It’s a great feeling.
Video Game Platforms to Focus on in 2017
While PC gaming is still strong in 2017, mobile gaming continues growing by leaps and bounds. Since that majority of projects will be coming from smaller and indie developers, and they tend to focus on those two platforms, I would familiarize myself with current trends related to them. Look at your app store and see what kind of games are at the top of the charts. You can bet that there will be a dozen clones within the next month or two, so contact those developers and offer your services. Adding more languages to a game makes it available to more players and that means more money for the developer. I’ve found the clone makers to be the most open to translation. They’re primarily there to make money and know how important reach is.
Consoles continue to be a challenge for most developers. That’s not to say that there isn’t any work there, but it will be more difficult to find it. It’s simply a smaller pool. To date, I don’t recall ever translating a console game.
Finding Video Game Translation Work in 2017
I have seen more and more developers moving to freelance platforms to find translators. The problem with working on those platforms is that the rates are usually garbage. One approach is to offer a special price for first-time clients on those platforms and then charge a normal rate for any follow-up work with that client. It’s not ideal, but if you’re just getting started and you’re still building up a client base, it’s a quick and easy way to start making contacts in the gaming industry.
One resource that not enough translators are taking advantage of are their clients. What we would do is send out a customer satisfaction survey after our first project with a client. Obviously, we asked if they were satisfied, but we also asked if they would recommend us to other developers. We found that if we asked that question, they would actually recommend us afterward! The same worked across all the industries that we translated in, but it was very consistent. We would get maybe one or two referrals every six months from clients, but when they confirmed that they would recommend us, we received referrals every month. You can, and should, directly ask them if they know anyone else that might need help with localization. Developers talk to and spend time with other developers. Just like how translators spend time with and talk to other translators. So, if you ask me if I know a good English to French video game translator, you bet your cola that I know one and would be happy to recommend her.
Another thing that we did, which was very helpful in keeping us busy, was to email all our clients at the beginning of the week and let them know what days we were available for work. We did this with Mailchimp. We would book 2-3 projects every time we sent out that email. Each job was worth a couple hundred dollars – from projects that we just simply asked for. You would be surprised how much you can receive if you just ask for it.
Aside from that, the best thing that you can do is simply put yourself out there. Build your portfolio like I talked about above. Go to events. Buy a t-shirt with your company name and something like “level 78 ES<>EN Translator” on it. Actually, that’s a great idea. I’m going to make a bunch of those and you guys can buy them! Let me know your language pairs in the comments! Build an awesome website and actually WORK to send traffic to it – we’ll talk more about that in a minute. I think that too many translators have this “if you build it, they will come” attitude towards their translation businesses. And make no mistake, you are a business owner when you’re a freelance translator. Then, when they don’t get the results that they want, they complain about how the industry is dying. Of course it’s dying for you if you’re just sitting there and won’t do anything to stay alive… ugh!
I would also recommend that you look for any game developer groups, classes, or meetups in your area and start spending time there. Learn about the problems that your clients are facing and find ways to fix those problems for them. Build relationships. Stay alive!
Translator Websites in 2017
Ok, I know that many translators aren’t super tech savvy. Sure, we can wrestle with Across and make Trados do all kinds of weird stuff, but when it comes to designing and building a website, many falter. I plan to create some tutorials for different website building platforms that are easy to use and inexpensive. I would advise that you avoid any free platforms, aside from Facebook and LinkedIn, for business profiles. You want to have control over your website and may provide bonus features that you would normally have to purchase. I personally host my domains on HostGator, which has servers all over the world so they’re usually a safe choice, and NameCheap, because they’re cheap. To actually build my websites, I’m becoming more open to WordPress. You’ll also have success with Weebly and Wix, both of which are very easy to use, even for novices. This particular website was made in WordPress, but if you saw the older version, it was Weebly. The website where I sell SEO and digital marketing services was made using a program called Adobe Muse. I’ll cover each of those platforms and then go over some search engine optimization techniques and tools that you can use to help get traffic to your sites organically. Organic traffic is free advertising and is awesome, it just takes work to earn it.
Your website fulfills a couple of important roles:
- It’s your face.
- It’s your portfolio.
- It’s your storefront.
- It’s your recommendations.
- It’s how people contact you.
- It’s proof that you’re a real professional
Most older translators will disagree with that last point, especially when they’ve been working without a website for 40 years; but when dealing with younger clients that are used to Googling everything, if you don’t have a website, it’s almost like you don’t exist. Your website doesn’t have to be anything crazy with parallax scrolling and flash animations, but it does need to be visually appealing and easy to navigate. If you want to hire a designer, you certain can and that’s typically a good investment.
We will go much deeper into translator websites in future posts and a few videos.
Other Tidbits of Advice
I have a few other things to mention before closing up this post:
- Marketing your business doesn’t mean placing ads on Google or hanging flyers. That’s advertising. Marketing means building relationships with people that can become your clients or that can help you find new clients. Focus on building a relationship. Talk to people, get to know them. Ask them questions. Find ways to fix their problems.
- If you have access to a mid-large developer locally, try getting an informational interview with them. Tell them that you’re working on an article for a website (like your blog!) and you want to talk to whoever is in charge of localization for half an hour. The goal here is to see what specific needs they have, what they look for in a translator, and then become the perfect candidate. Don’t go in there looking for a job, if you try to sell yourself during this interview, you will screw up your chances of working with them. IF you think that you’re a perfect fit, tell them that you might be able to help out and that you’ll email them some information after the interview. If you go in asking for information and end up asking for a job, it looks unprofessional and dishonest.
- If you see an opportunity to grow your network, business, or experience, take it.
- Imperfect action is better than waiting for perfection.
- If you intend to make video game localization your full-time career, you can’t afford to be shy or afraid. This is your life that you’re putting at risk because you’re too afraid to talk to someone. If it’s not important enough for you to put any effort into it, don’t expect others to do it for you.
This is far from an exhaustive list of what you need to do to get started in video game translation in 2017, but this should at least get you off on the right foot. I made my living off this kind of translation for nine years. I only stopped because I found a way for me to help more people – which has always been my end goal. I believe in this, and I believe in your ability to reach your dreams. But don’t expect it to be easy. The best things in life never are.
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How to break into video game translation
The great “Catch-22”
The most common questions that I receive are about how to break into video game translation. Translation is a strange animal (as are translators). Getting into translation is difficult in and of itself, but becoming qualified to work in a particular field is even more difficult. I’m not going to go into great detail on how to start translating, nor am I going to talk about the different certifications that you may need (and those will vary by country). This post is directed specifically towards those that are already translating professionally.
To those who are interested in translating professionally, I would advise you to read any of the hundreds of blogs out there, looking specifically for those in your country and language pair. Proz.com’s forums are another great resource, just make sure to read everything before posting. They don’t like repeated content…
As many of you already know, it can be hard to start out as a translator. Everyone wants a minimum of three years of experience, but you can’t get any experience because you don’t have any to begin with! This is equally applicable to video game localization. My goal here is to provide some steps and tools to help you get that entry level experience in the field so that you can pick up the big projects later on.
First, you must learn the language…
Alpha and Beta Testing –
One of the easiest ways to start is by reviewing translations during the beta and alpha stages of a game’s release. Most games will have an open beta that anyone can participate in, though you can pay for early access to others. Check out Steampowered.com and visit the early access section to find a list of these along with their admission requirements.
Once you’re in, start reviewing the translation. Whenever you find an error or bug, make sure to fill out a bug report and send it to the developer. Provide all the information that you can: where the bug is located in the game, the nature of the bug, a correction for the text, and your contact information.
Often times they will correct the error quickly and, if you ask them for it, they can provide you with a reference or credit for your work.
I have done this on a few different games. Most notably, with World of Warcraft. Their translation team is generally pretty awesome though, so don’t expect to find a lot in their franchises. Other games, however, don’t always have a team of experts and a large budget to pay for them. MMOs have a lot more text to go through, so that would be a good place to start.
My only other advice for this portion is to be very careful with your bug reports. If you report something that isn’t actually a mistake (as is prone to happen with overzealous proofreaders and editors in our profession), they will completely disregard your future input. If you do it right, they will ask you to come back for their next game.
Mods and addons –
Mods and addons are programs that modify gameplay. Minecraft and World of Warcraft come to mind again. These developers are almost always independent programmers that are just trying to improve a game that they are passionate about. Some use the addons as parts of their programming portfolio when looking for full-time work. That means that they don’t have money to pay for the translation of their program. As an industry, we don’t typically appreciate working for free. I look at this as something similar to volunteering for Translators Without Borders (Gamers Without Borders?) – this is a chance to improve the lives of gamers all over the world. The developer will be grateful, and they’ll remember who translated their project so artistically when they start working with the major developers.
Not only that, but you will almost always be credited with the translation in the addon/mod credits. I have about a dozen World of Warcraft and Minecraft mods/addons that I’ve worked on. They’ve been great tools and I actually enjoy doing them whenever I have free time.
The best site that I know of for this kind of work is www.curseforge.com.
Indy Projects –
So my very first video game translation was about 7 years ago. I had just moved to Argentina where I was serving as a missionary. Part of my work there included language teaching, interpreting, and some light translation. One day, a fine gentleman asked me to help him with a computer program that he was having trouble with (I had recently received my PC tech certificate), so I happily agreed.
When we reached his home, and he opened the “program” that he was having trouble with, I was delighted to see that it was Resident Evil 2 – a game that had given me nightmares as a young lad. He couldn’t figure out how to save his game since everything was in English. So I explained what he needed to do and translated the guide book that came with the game.
Find a game that you love, and start translating. Translate guides, wikis, lore, and anything else that you can find to build up your portfolio. As with other fields, such as legal translation, video games are broken into smaller subsections (RPGs, MMOs, FPSs, etc), pick the genre that you’re most passionate about and start there. I don’t really like racing or fighting games, so I don’t work on them.
So, to answer the question: How to Break into Video Game Translation, I would tell you to start building a portfolio and gain some experience in the industry through volunteer work. If you can find paid work, that’s even better, but it’s not always an option. It’s a great feeling when you’re talking to a potential client and they mention a game that you worked on, or when you can use another project as an example of overcoming a certain challenge your developer is facing.
Leave a comment below with any questions that you have, any advice that you would like to share, or games that you’ve worked on.
I’ve been thinking that once we get a large enough following, we should start some in-game guilds. We could be something cool, like, “Broken Typewriters,” “Screw Your online CAT,” “I Got Your Character Limits Right Here” or “Polygoat” ^_^
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What do Agencies look for in Translators?
A couple of days ago I posted an entry about how to get experience in video game translation and it would appear that people really liked it, given that it was retweeted about a billion times and I actually made a little bit of money off of it thanks to my spiffy new adds. Was surprised me the most was that I actually received a couple of job offers. One was a translation job for a video game website. They want their games translated into a few different languages, so I went through my list of contacts and started filling out the needed positions. Since my last post gave some ideas on actually getting experience so that you could be considered for this kind of work, I thought that it would be neat to talk about an actual project that we’re working on.
The first part was the initial contact with the end client. I’ve started another entry on how to get in contact with video game developers, which I will finish and upload as soon as I can, that goes into greater detail on how to actually find clients. In this case, the client contacted me. Through facebook, if you can believe it. It was pretty simple and direct. The client asked if I could bid on a translation project, I sent them my bid and project history, they sent me a sample of the text to translate, and I assigned the languages that I couldn’t handle to some of my trusted colleagues.
There were a couple of languages that I didn’t have connections for, specifically Arabic and German. For those two languages, I went to Proz.com to find suitable translators to fill in. I received about 25 bids within a couple of hours. I was specifically looking for experience with video game translation.
Video games are an interesting subject area to work in. On the one hand, we have game texts that vary in complexity from something like Skyrim or World of Warcraft, where the text drives the story and is crucial in understanding what you are supposed to next, to something like Flappy Bird or Minecraft. Some games are directed towards little kids, while other deal with very adult subjects. All in all, video games present a lot of unique challenges. So when the time came to find translators, I looked for people that had translated games similar to the one that we would be working on. This is one more reason to picking a good niche or genre, and focusing on it.
The next step was negotiating rates. Now, I bid on the high end of the average rate for our language pairs and include independent review of the translated text. One thing that you will hear a lot when you first start translating is to not charge less because you’re new. Allow me to repeat myself, DO NOT CHARGE LESS BECAUSE YOU’RE NEW! There are a couple of reasons for this, but can be summed up by saying that it’s really hard to increase that rate later (I’ve never done it successfully) and because it actually drives down the overall rates of the entire industry.
I am currently waiting for a meeting this evening with the client to discuss the details of the project and hopefully get a confirmation. I have another project that I’ve picked up, which is one that I’m taking care of by myself. The text has already been translated into English, and I am supposed to review the translation and make sure that it is consistent with what they have already published (this is part of an expansion, I believe) and that the text is clear and interesting. One thing that I like to do in these cases is play through the game as much as possible in order really get a good feel for the game and its attitude. I am planning on doing a youtube video of one of these research sessions. I can’t use the game I’m supposed to work on because of my NDA, but I’ll find a F2P in the same genre (it’s a MMORPG, shouldn’t be too hard to find one, right?).
I plan to go over what I look for and how I record that information. If that’s something you would be interested in seeing, leave me a comment below. If you’d like to play along, I would love to get your impressions and thoughts on the language and gameplay. Shoot me an email and I’ll send you more information. Since this is just a dummy run, we’ll save all the text that we collect and add it to the dictionary that’s sitting there under Resources. I’ll probably stream it to twitch as well (www.twitch.tv/quebranto).
**Post originally shared in 2014**
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