Sorry today’s blog post is a little later than normal. I returned last night from a trip to the Netherlands and decided to change my post for today.

I was in the Netherlands to attend a conference (ICCM Europe 2015) unrelated to gaming or my freelance work, yet gaming became a large part of my trip. During the trip, I spent many evenings playing games with friends from around the world who spoke many languages, and I visited three great game stores which carried Dutch, German, English, and language independent games.

It was the visit to Spellenwinkel De Betovering Doetinchem that really got me thinking about this topic of language and games. The ladies who own the store were so interested in speaking with a native English speaker, especially an American. They had some new games that had just arrived that had English words that they did not understand, both on the back of the box and in the rules. One of the words was émigré, an obscure word for even me to understand. That word is not commonly used in English conversation.

émigré [em-i-greyz]
noun – an emigrant, especially a person who flees from his or her native land because of political conditions.

More common words for this context would be would be “emigrant” or “expatriate.” As a freelance proofreader/editor, it would be my responsibility to discuss the use of a word like émigré with the game publisher/developer/writer to be sure it is depicting the subject of the game properly

As game publishers design games and as we work on these game projects as freelancers, we need to remain aware of the international aspects of games and the languages of the intended audience. I have lost track of how many times I have read a board game rule book or an rpg manual and found odd word choices and grammar, especially in games produced in countries where English is not the native language.  My recent work on Mutant: Year Zero and a current project are examples of multilingual freelance projects. In both of these projects, I was hired to proofread the text that was translated into English by non-native English speakers. Beyond normal proofreading, I am also editing these documents to make the appropriate vocabulary and and grammar translation recommendations for the translation.

As freelancers, we need to be sensitive to the languages and cultures of the games we work on and the intended audience.

What projects have you worked on recently that had language or cultural implications? How did you proceed with the project?

Multilingual – Remember Tabletop Games Are International

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4 thoughts on “Multilingual – Remember Tabletop Games Are International

  1. It is definitely frustrating when a rule book is written in your native tongue and it includes words that aren’t super clear. What do you recommend publishers do to fix this, keeping in mind added costs for freelancers?

    1. Jacob – I understand that frustration and have experienced it myself. I am much more sensitive to it now that I am doing freelance proofreading, noticing the text and formatting errors in books and manuals I am reading. I recommend publishers either have an on staff proofreader who is a native speaker of the expected language of publication or hire a freelance proofreader who is. Hiring a freelance proofreader is quite affordable based on industry average rates.

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