I found a rather interesting article at the Writers Cabal Blog about writing dialogue for games with translation in mind. In this article, the author shares a few tips to take into account when writing dialogue that is going to be translated into French. These guidelines might as well be used when translating into Spanish and Italian.
We’re writing for a project with a unique mandate: make it easy to translate into french. This is a challenge because we do not know which gender the player will choose to play.
The cheat sheet includes tips such as:
- Avoid simple past tense and future perfect with gendered pronouns as direct objects.
- Avoid “etre” verbs in the simple past tense and future perfect when the subject is gender unknown.
- Avoid reflexive verbs in simple past or future perfect with the subject an unknown gender.
- Avoid adjectives describing your unknown gender. “You’re smart!” > Ok: “That was a smart thing you did.” >
- Watch for plural subjects with one gender unknown.
Ideally, the dialogue should be either duplicated (for male character and female character) or the tool used for localization should allow the translator to duplicate those lines that change depending on the gender of the character. Why is duplication better? Well, it sounds more natural to say “I’m stupid!” than to say “That was a stupid thing I did!”. Both the writer and the translator could use their skills to create a natural-sounding dialogue without thinking about gender issues…
However, when dialogue duplication is not an option, it certainly helps if the writers plan the dialogue in advance with translation in mind (and this means, foreseeing the challenges of localizing lines that can be said by or addressed to male or female characters. Basically, it will make our life easier and we, the translators, will feel like someone understand our problems!