Monday, August 4, 2008

"Engrish" tanslations in Memoir'44

Memoir' 44 is a great game, and generally speaking I've like what Days of Wonder have done with it. It's not a rigorous simulation, it's true, but it's a good light wargame and a great introduction to military history, too.

That said, it's therefore distressing when avoidable errors creep into the production process, especially because there's obviously been a lot of thought given to making the presentation attractive. On more than one occasion, though, the effect is marred because what's so nicely presented is a mistake. A pretty mistake is still a mistake.

In this global era there's a lot of incentive to offer products in multiple languages and to likewise take advantage of the global community to add rich content. Many of the euro-influenced wargames of late have made a point of including content and ad copy in one of more languages besides English. Notable examples include Wings of War. War of the Ring, Commands & Colors: Ancients and Axis & Allies: Miniatures.

One necessary step that some company's skip is making sure that some native speaker proofreads the copy to make sure it's right. I would be surprised if this is a problem confined to English language content, but it's the language I'm able to comment on.

A good example of this is the "Po Valley" scenario (Med 8) contained in the handsome Air Pack rules and scenario book.

Evidently the scenario was designed in a language other than English and translated. But just as clearly it wasn't proofread properly.

In some parts the wording is merely awkward. For example reading "919 meters over the sea level" which isn't the usual expression in English: "919 meters above sea level"

In some cases the wrong word is used: "morphology" when the word wanted is "topography"

And in other cases it's simply factually incorrect, such as when it calls the Brazilian troops involved the "Brazilian Shipment Unit?!" This is perilously close to being "Engrish" and is evidently a literal but bad translation of the actual name of the unit. Oddly, the correct translation is easy to see right there on the page, as it's not a big leap from Forca Expedicionaria Brasileria to "Brazilian Expeditionary Force!"

Indeed, a note should be sent to all would-be translators into English: The term "Unit" as part of a proper name is almost never correct. In military English, "Unit" is a generic and general term that can be applied to almost any sized force, especially smaller ones. Divisions, brigades, regiments, companies, platoons and squads are all "units." So the 14th German Infantry Unit is an incorrect designation. As a matter of fact, it was the German 14th Army.

It would be nice to see game companies take advantage of their international resources to make sure these kids of mistakes don't occur.

1 comment:

  1. Those wacky Engrish tanslations. I think your 'r' got a little lost in the tanslation. ;-)

    Most Euro gamers who've been in the hobby for ten years are pretty used to Babelfish translations of German or other language rules at this point, but I can understand how people who got into the hobby might find it a bit tricky. I actually played with a gentleman, a Sikh from India, no less, who was insulted that Honeybears wasn't translated into English. Insulted!

    As for bad translations, you should try looking at synthesizer manuals, most of which are written in Japanenglish. Nearly unreadable when you combine a poor translation effort with technical material. And most of these products cost many hundreds if not thousands of dollars!

    However, given that we have enough trouble getting native US-English speakers to write clear wargame rules, I figure a few bumps like this from Days of Wonder can be forgiven. Besides, everyone wants to think their unit is bigger than it is. ;-)