As an agency that specializes in translation, localisation, and casting for everything from feature films, TV, video games and animations, its nice to enjoy a few perks; I mean, seriously, who else can attend Gamescom in Germany and write it off as a business expense?

Gregg and I had an absolute blast with people from all around the world, but before we dove into everything GDC and Gamescom, we spent some time in London where, to our great surprise, we got to see something fantastic and totally relevant to our world.

We headed to the British Museum. It’s one of the most fascinating places we’ve ever explored and mostly because we saw in real life things we’ve only encountered in games. From Mesopotamia to Ancient Egypt to Ancient Greece, it was truly a history buff’s dream. As gamers, we have battled the most famous wars in history and lived so many experiences and yet, there at the museum, we saw first hand what we had only experienced virtually before. I mean, there were real mummies and real Roman war attire!

While every exhibit was captivating, what had me pause – and what was particularly relevant to us – was The Rosetta Stone.

translation before localization

The beginning of localization

Used to decipher ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, The Rosetta Stone was the first key to truly understanding a language hidden behind a culture and way of life only known as mystery and science fiction. Finally, centuries after an entire language and culture had vanished, we could understand, interpret, and bring Ancient Egypt ‘back to life.’

Standing in front of the glass case, examining what is essentially a giant rock with text translations that I couldn’t make sense of, well, was almost a poetic experience; you know what you’re supposed to see, but all you actually see are letters and symbols. Were it not for the translation below the hieroglyphics, I wouldn’t have a clue what I was ‘reading.’ Thinking further, that’s exactly what we facilitate for our clients.

For a lot of our clients, trying to understand or conceptualize a translated script can be a similar experience to me standing in front of The Rosetta Stone. They know they want their script in various languages but putting each sentence through Google Translate does not a translation make. That’s where we step into the mix. We internalize the narrative, translate the text, and localize the script to ensure that the end product feels the same for an audience half way across the world interpreting it in their native language and culture.

When planning your translation, consider this:

  1. Great localizations require native colloquialisms and jargon: a pop-culture reference in once culture is not the same in another celebrity landscape.
  2. Translating text is not the same as localizing it or transforming it culturally: Thailand doesn’t use the term “Valley Girl”, so you can’t literally translate valley and girl because they won’t understand the reference.
  3. The best translations go far beyond localization, and dive deeper into culturalizations. The colour green means one thing in North America (ex. ‘green with envy,’ versus other cultures…

And that’s when it hit me: The Rosetta Stone is not merely a translation device; it is a key to understanding the words that skim the surface of a society and community. It allows us to glance through a looking glass into an entire culture that would otherwise be lost to time. Is it too far a stretch to say we’re like The Rosetta Stone? Maybe. Actually, yes definitely, though the concept remains the same:

We are not merely a translation service. On the contrary, we take words on a page and transform them into references that make sense to another person though they may not be native to you or me. It’s not always an easy task, but it is our passion.