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Language Issues!

6 replies [Last post]
Joined: 01/31/2015

Hallo everyone!
I have created a trivia game, which is now being playtested again and again. I’m doing small corrections, working a bit on the artwork, but the game is pretty-much finished.
The problem is that the game is written in English, I am not a native English speaker, and nor are my playtesting groups. Until now I organize playing groups with people I know, people I don’t know, people I find in the street, etc, I do not participate, I sit next to them, pick up the cards and do an instant translation of the questions, trying to be just and accurate and not to interfere. I can find descent English-speaking players, but, playing a trivia game in a foreign language can be a problem and spoil the fun… I want to proceed in full blind play testing, but how can that happen without a translator? Do you think that translating questions to a group of people that have never seen me before counts as blind testing?
A second question is about the text proofing. I would like to have professional proofing on the texts but in a trivia game, that is A LOT of money that I’m not willing to spend. I am not going to self –publish, so I think text correction (same as final artwork) is a detail that concerns the publisher and not me…Right? On the other hand, I guess I will have to produce a prototype pretty soon. Spending 200-300 Euros in a prototype that has spelling or grammar mistakes is not a clever idea…
I am thinking to find some *friendly help* and some software that can do basic text corrections and prototype a *descent* version of my game, but, in order to be fully professional, some additional corrections will have to be done by the publisher… What do you think?
And another thing: my game is designed for European audience. That means all the metric systems, some spelling, some names and titles differ from Americans. But I found some American publishers that I would like to approach as well. That stuff can easily change and be adjusted if required – so I guess I am telling that to the publishers too, right…?
I thank you in advance for your responses! I will come back with more questions soon :)

Soulfinger's picture
Joined: 01/06/2015
As far as spelling goes, poor

As far as spelling goes, poor translation is one of the largest hurdles for European games entering the U.S. market. Many of the translations that I've seen have been absolutely dreadful, particularly with crowdsourced games, which leads to customer dissatisfaction. "Great game, too bad the instructions are almost unreadable" sums up several reviews that I've seen in recent years. I see this as a particular problem for something like a trivia game, which requires a colloquial knowledge of the language. Text can easily end up garbled or stiltedly formal, which detracts from the fun.

One of the problems with you translating for playtesters is that you'll never know if there are inherent problems with the card texts themselves. People also tend to be more forgiving with someone looking over their shoulder, doing the work for them, as they don't want to hurt your feelings. You'll need professional proofing at some point. As far as whether the publisher would be willing to accrue such an expense probably depends on sales in your own country and whether your game could compete with the hundreds of other trivia games on the market. Even games with nearly flawless English will need professional editing before going to market, so I expect that a poorly translated game is just as desirable as the many submissions they receive from native speakers that are rife with typos and grammatical errors -- which is not at all. Good editors get paid more than authors are paid for writing.

You mention another issue in your last paragraph, cultural differences. Have you played any U.S. trivia games? Off-hand, I would guess that trivia games on this side of the pond are a pretty solid middle-class, middle-aged entertainment. Outside of Trivial Pursuit, the "classic" that many people feel obliged to own, they are usually disposable mass market titles with little replay or resale value. Many target niche markets, like fans of a particular movie or television franchise. In my experience, the most enthusiastic players I've seen are strong conformists who enjoy trivia for its utility as water cooler conversation material but have a narrow range of personal experience, which leaves them unreceptive to new concepts. I feel that a game being too "European" would be an obstacle in this market. Of course, much of this is mere conjecture based on observation. The best course of action for a European trivia game, in my opinion, would be to play up the continental aspect and target the hipster demographic.

All-in-all, my experience has been that you don't make work for the publisher, unless you have already demonstrated your worth and have a preexisting relationship with them. If you are just going door-to-door with your hat in hand then it is far better to show that dealing with you is easier than anyone else. Nobody wants a Prima Donna.

Joined: 01/23/2015
Hey noobienoob, just as a

Hey noobienoob,

just as a little hint: whereever you live, there likely is a university in your vicinity. Make a notice on their public boards to search for anglistics students wanting to earn a few bucks by correcting your cards.

The outcome will not be perfect, but for little money you will certainly get an okay result to maybe show publishers. Maybe you should even hire more than one of them so that they can iterate on each other's works. Just see what they want to be paid for the job; it won't be that much I recon.

Josh 'Dagar'

radioactivemouse's picture
Joined: 07/08/2013
Wait a sec...

So let me get this straight.

You're creating a game using extrinsic information (information that has to be obtained outside of game) in English, where English isn't your primary language and neither is your play test group? But for some reason, you want to make the game in a language that's not your own?

I think the answer is simple. Just make the game in your native language. If the game is good in your own language, finding support for English should be easier.

I don't want to sound like I'm slamming you; I'm not. I'm just thinking it would be so much easier to do it in your own language so you can worry more about the game itself instead of concentrating too much about how it's written.

Joined: 01/31/2015
Thank you for your instant

Thank you for your instant responses!
My game is not translated in English, it is written in English, from the beginning. I don’t intent to mess with my country at all and I aim mainly at British publishers and audience. I may approach some American publishers too.
I am a certified English language teacher myself, (I even practise it from time to time :) ) and I also had some additional *friendly help* from other semi-pros, so it is not THAT bad. But, textproofing is beyond my reach; it has to do with spacing, punctuating and small details, that even in my native language I wouldn’t trust my own knowledge in order to be fully professional…..
With a first look, professional text proofing will probably cost me about 3.000 Euros (It is out of the question!!).
I just found some groups in facebook, so I guess they can help me with the highlights….

Soulfinger's picture
Joined: 01/06/2015
One difficulty is not knowing

One difficulty is not knowing where you are from or what sort of trivia your game deals with. If you are targeting the British market then are you familiar with their vernacular and culture? Their speech is just as rife, if not more so, with idioms than American English. If your game is trivia about the Roman Empire then all of that hardly matters, but contemporary trivia is built on cultural inside references.

To give you an idea of what your game would need editing-wise, I'll offer up a quick proofread of your post (I do this professionally). Were I to do the same revision for an English audience then the wording would be different, as would the grammar (no comma before "and," for example, commas outside of quotations, etc.). This is just to demonstrate the "before" and "after" with editing and changes for easier colloquial reading.

"Thank you for your quick replies!

I am not translating my game into English. It was written in English to begin with. I don’t intend to bother with my own country. My efforts are directed toward a British audience, but I may approach some American publishers too.

I am a certified English language teacher and even practice it from time-to-time. I also had some additional *friendly help* from other semi-pros, so it is not THAT bad. Proofreading is beyond my reach though, as it has to do with spacing, punctuation, and small details that I don't wholly grasp, even in my native language. At a glance, professional proofreading would cost about 3,000 Euros, which is out of the question. However, I just found some groups on Facebook, so I guess that they can help . . ."

Joined: 01/31/2015
Thank you for

Thank you for demonstrating!
I was lucky to find some friendly, semi- professional help this week. I still have problems targeting my language in British or American audience though... (I try to be as neutral as possible). My game is a themed, speciality game, and is not designed for everyone. I target a small, universal audience, so I guess that a potential publisher could show some understanding on those issues...

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