From The Battle for Wesnoth Wiki

Very well then, I'll write something here.

Who, me?

I'm tephlon, or rather, that's my nick. Why tephlon? Well, my wife seems to think that no problems ever stick on me, so she calls me "teflonmannen", which is "the teflon man" in Swedish. My own interpretation is that I have a non-stick memory. The "ph" instead of "f" is just... Well, I don't know. Leet? Whatever.

From September (3-ish) 2004 to December 13 2007 I was the maintainer of the Swedish translation. More on that below. I live in Göteborg -- which is "Gothenburg" in, at least, English-speaking countries -- in Sweden, which really is called Sverige. And that's not Switzerland. But you knew that. I hope.

In 2004 I started my fourth year as a PhD student, and had for some time been really fed up with it. At some point during late spring/early summer I was looking through the games at, and I found Wesnoth. (Well, evidently I first saw Wesnoth June 15 that year. I found an old post of mine on from June 17 where I mentioned that I found Wesnoth "two days ago" :)) I liked it a lot from the start and recommended it to my girlfriend (now my wife :)), who, to my great astonishment, didn't hate computers so much that she couldn't appreciate a good game. So we started playing.

In August the same year, I looked into the Translations forum and noticed that the translation was pretty much unmaintained, and since I by then couldn't care less about my PhD project I decided to try and do something about the translation. In a short time, the Swedish translation team, which basically consisted of me and Sanna, managed to do some great work on the translation. In fact, the Swedish translation was the first translation at 100%, and on September 11 we could proudly announce the 0.8.4 release in Swedish.

Late in December 2004 I quit my grad student position due to complete disinterest, and was without a job. During the unemployment period, which lasted for 8 months from the beginning of 2005, there was of course lots of time for the translation work.

In October 2005 I started working at an IT security company, and since then, life has not quite been the same. In April 2006, me and my girlfriend got married. She was pregnant (no, we did not marry because of that, we married because we wanted to), and in August our daughter was born.

On December 13th 2007 I decided to resign as a maintainer of the Swedish translation. From being a very active translation team in the beginning, we have gradually lost translator interest and thus pace, and the last year the translation has mostly been a one-man effort. After 1.2 was released I started thinking about when it would be a suitable time to quit, but since there were noone to take over the maintainership I remained. As time went by, my enthusiasm for the translation dropped more and more, but I still wasn't sure it was time to let go. Then I realised that it made no sense to aim for a 100% translation for 1.4 and then leave; it would be better to leave and let someone else do the rest and leave their imprint on the 1.4 translation, while I would continue supporting the 1.2 version until 1.4 was released (and 1.2 was discontinued).

Up til now, I have seen no signs of someone wanting to take over, so it seems that 1.4 will be released without a Swedish translation. It saddens me a bit since I can't help but thinking that the Swedish translation will pass into a completely useless state and all the effort from all who have participated the last years will be made into nothing. It is my firm belief that the translation is of a very good quality (even though the lack of error reports might mean that most Swedes run the game in English), and I sincerely hope that it eventually will end up in capable hands.

tephlon, signing off, 13 January 2008

Thoughts on Translations

I've been meaning to put down my thoughts on translating a game such as this, but this seems a bit harder than I thought.

From the start, I've wanted the translation to be consistent throughout all the text domains. This might seem obvious, but it's harder than it sounds. The msgids in the po-files often come ouf of context, and when playing through a campaign it's not uncommon to stumble over some dialog which sounds really strange. So, I've come to view the translation process as three intertwined phases, or maybe sub-processes; bulk translation, proof-reading, and consistency checking.

Bulk translation

First, there is the work of getting the "bulk text" down. Choosing the word "bulk" might seem a bit condescending, but it's really not, it's just what it is. This is the hardest part. One can feel that the translation never is finished, going through one string after another. It is often during this phase that the "tone" of the translation is established. It is important to get this right; when going through an existing translation, such as during proof-reading, it is difficult to break out of a "tone" that has been struck during this phase. The most important thing during this phase is to keep in context, even though it can be difficult to see the context in the separate msgids.


The second part is the proof-reading. Everything which is committed has been proofread at least once. This can be pretty quick, but sometimes one just get stuck on some odd passage. At times it can be weeks before a translation of a single sentence, or even word, is finished, because of the three criteria a msgstr has to fulfill:

  • It has to have the same meaning as the msgid.
  • It has to sound good.
  • It has to be consistent with the translation as a whole.

The first point can be discussed forever; is a more or less literal translation the best, or a complete rewrite which in the end conveys the same message? The Swedish translation goes something in between, and is really dependent on the second point. If a literal translation sounds good, it ought to be used. Sometimes this is not possible, however, so the passage translated has to be reorganized. Then this has to sound good.

What does "sound good" mean, then? Well, firstly, the translation has to use expressions which are actually used in the language one is translating to. Secondly, it has to be written in a way which displays the "rhythm" in what is actually written or perhaps rather -- if it is a dialog -- spoken. If it is a translation of a dialog between two or more characters, the translation has to sound like someone's actually talking.

Let me elaborate...
One thing, which I have to stress -- and this is extremely important -- is that one has to reflect on how people in general express themselves. One has to ask oneself, do people really talk this way? For instance, in English (or at least in Wesnoth campaigns :)) it is quite common to write passages like "this land", "this village", and so on. In Swedish, this would be literally translated as "detta land" and "denna by". In a campaign narrative this is okay, but, BUT, do people talk this way? No, people say "det här landet", "den här byn". Here one also has to think about how the people in a campaign talk. The Elvish Lord might say "detta land", but the average soldier would not.
However, one mustn't take this too far. The passages must still be readable, and one should still use correct language. There are some things that I have avoided at all costs, even though people "talk" this way. Take, for instance, the nominative "they" and the accusitive/dative "them". This is "de" and "dem" in Swedish. (Roughly at least, there might be exceptions, but I can't think of any at the moment.) However, people always say "dom" when they talk, for both these words. Which of cause leads to that people can't distinguish between the two forms. Well, here's a trick for the Swedes: replace "de" with "vi" and "dem" with "oss", and taste the sentence. How does it sound?
Other examples are the Swedish accusative and dative forms "mig" (Eng. "me") and "dig" (Eng. "you"). This could also be written "mej" and "dej". This, we don't do in the Swedish translation; we use "mig" and "dig".
However, there are exceptions. Of course :) Swedish "ska"/"skall", "sådan"/"sån", "någon"/"nåt". Here I have choosen the form that most suits the person talking.
Ah yes, one more thing. When someone says "I will yada yada", I have often seen this translated as "Jag kommer att yada yada". In the majority of cases it is more appropriate to translate this as "Jag ska(ll) yada yada".
Now, back to the matter at hand...

Consistency checking

The third point is more administrative, since it is basically just to look up how a certain string (for instance unit names) has been translated before. At times this too can be quite troublesome, for instance when it comes to words like Guard, Guardsman, Warder and Sentinel, since Swedish has a hard time distinguishing between these.

Lather, rince, repeat

As I'm sure you understand, these three phases don't come linearly. They have to be mixed, minced and reiterated. The perfect translation is the one where you can't tell what is the original text and what is the translation; when you can hear a dialog as though someone is speaking inside your head; when you don't even think about it; when you don't notice what you read; when it effortlessly brings an image to mind, and enhances your own imagination of what is actually happening.

This page was last edited on 22 December 2008, at 01:28.