Fan Translator Says The World Ends With You's Italian Text Looks A Lot Like His Work

Screenshot: Robin64

After learning that The World Ends With You was going to have an official Italian translation, the person who made a well-known Italian fan translation tuned in to a stream to check out how they handled the translation problems he struggled with. While watching, he started to notice that it looked familiar. Much of it looked identical to his own work.

Francesco, who also goes by Mewster online, is a 25-year-old game developer in Italy. He told Kotaku over Discord private messages that he started translating The World Ends With You when he was 16.

“I decided to approach it only because I really loved The World Ends With You and I wanted to keep ‘living in its world’, and in the same time, do something to let others who couldn’t understand its language play this game,” he said. “I found out that I liked translation, and being able to change a word and see the edit ‘in real time’ on the final game was really satisfying.”

Although Francesco worked on two other fan translations, The World Ends With You was the only project where he worked solo on the majority of it. His partner in the project, who goes by Mentz, worked largely on the cutscenes, and Francesco did everything else.

Francesco said that he was eager to check out the Switch port of The World Ends With You, which would have an official Italian translation, and tuned in to the first streamer he could find streaming the game in Italian.

It didn’t take him long to recognise what he says are undeniable similarities to his own work. Francesco said that some phrases were cleaned up and translated in a different way, but he recognised the majority of the work as identical to his own translations, right down to where the Switch port version had placed line breaks in the word balloons.

Although Francesco hasn’t seen the whole game, he said that “according to what I had seen I could say that 90% was a possible estimate” in terms of how much of his work he believes they used.

Kotaku reached out to Square-Enix for comment but had not received a reply at time of writing.

Francesco said that he isn’t looking for compensation. He knows that fan translation exists in a legal grey area. “Now I’m only amused to discover I worked (unknowingly) for the game I loved,” he said. “This is something I probably will add to my CV, and I’m not interested in making someone pay for something I made so many years ago.”

In a best case scenario, Francesco said that he’d get an acknowledgement from Square-Enix that they used the fan translation he worked on. “The best I could hope for is an official acknowledgement of what happened, but I’m happy just in seeing my translation in the official game,” he said. “I hope it will remain in the game after all. It means they liked 90% of my translation.”


Comments

    Good attitude. Hope he gets some acknowledgement if it turns out they plagiarized his work to save some cash

    Square Enix probably may not be aware of this, ir able to verify these claims, if they contracted out the localisation work and nothing to do with it by sign the cheque. But I wouldnt be surprised

    The legal grey area is that the translation is a derivative work of the original text: that means it can only be distributed with Square Enix's permission. With that said, Francesco also owns a copyright interest in his translation, so SE would need his permission to distribute it.

    I suspect what actually happened is that SE outsourced the translation job to a third party and that company ripped off the fan translation.

    Knowing that most video games have their translation contracted out i imagine Square are pretty interested to learn this and will be having some pretty serious talks with the contractor about it.

    There is only so many ways to translate phrases from one language to another, so you'd expect to see similarities. I don't believe that an official localization should have to choose different wording over a fan translation if they both come down the same path, especially if its unknowingly. If they did use his as a basis, then an acknowledgement would be nice, but thats all it would need since it was a passion project on his part.

    Its not like a series of video game reviews where you're expecting it to actually be creatively different.

      I've never actually gotten very good at a second language so a lot of this is conjecture but I don't actually think it's really that easy. I have been reading a lot of fan and officially translated material lately so it's been on my mind, but for a simple example think about how you might introduce yourself.

      My name is Zimmy.

      I'm Zimmy.

      You can call me Zimmy.

      I could probably go on like this for quite a while with subtly different ways of saying the same sentence. Maybe for a romance language that has a lot of similar roots you may be able to find one to one grammatical and syntactical sentences most of the time but often it may be open to interpretation.

      That's before we even look at things like idioms, tone or phrasing that can be approached very differently.

      That said, you're right that if it was unknowingly done then there's no harm in a similar product being created. However I do think that reproducing a nearly identical translation without every looking at it seems very unlikely.

      There's more than one way to say something in English, and the same goes for other languages. When you throw in idiomatic language and puns, it often requires some creativity on the part of the translator to get something that has the same meaning to readers as the original.

      Sure, you'd expect some similarities between independent translations. But if it is at the level alleged in this article, then it most likely indicates copying.

      There's actually a lot of very different ways to translate between languages. It's not just a one to one translation between two languages

    I don't know how I feel. On the one hand I know that translation companies are prone to plagiarism in order to fulfill contracts cheaply. On the other hand, it's a little presumptuous to think that you are the only person who would ever solve a translation problem in a particular way. He even admits that parts are different so it could just be two people coming up with similar solutions.

    The line spacing is somewhat questionable to claim as being plagiarised though as I would think that's more to do with the rendering method choosing how to break up lines than explicit translations.

      That's assuming the rendering method is what breaks up the text. The implication I got from the article was that it was a deliberately entered newline to break up the text so that it didn't exceed the background border.

        That's exactly the case. TWEWY didn't automatically put new lines in long sentences.

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