press start to translate is about the time Clyde "Tomato" Mandelin Google-Translated all of Final Fantasy IV. As expected, the computer's translation made almost zero sense. This book chronicles the worst and most hilarious translation mistakes, all while trying to explain why the machine translator made the choices it did.
You don’t need to be a fan of Final Fantasy to enjoy it – the focus is on all of the silly translations and what went wrong.
What makes things especially interesting is that Clyde did this project just as Google was updating its translation system to use fancy neural network A.I. By sheer luck, he wound up with two separate translations of the game: one before the Google update and one after. Both translations are covered in the book.
- 224 full color pages
- 9" x 6" Paperback
- Dialogue, cutscene, and name mistranslations + what caused them
- The history and original purpose of the project
- The technical development process and the challenges behind the project
- All the real-life surprises that happened after the project went public
- What happens when other games and media get this same treatment
I'm a big fan of both Final Fantasy IV and Legends of Localization, so I really got my hopes up for this book. It did not disappoint! Using Google's neural network, author Clyde Mandelin makes a strong case why auto-translators won't be replacing humans anytime soon. The translation software prioritizes grammar and sentence structure (good) but not the accuracy of the actual words, nuances, and context of the story. As a result, the plot of Final Fantasy IV becomes a mess of gibberish. However, we get a look behind the translation curtain to see what the software was *trying* to do, where it succeeded, and how it failed.
I assume Japanese > English is going to be one of the most challenging language translations for software—heck, it's still challenging for humans. The book is fun and insightful. At times, the translations are bizarre and bawdy, as a result of the software aiming for sentence structure over sentence meaning. Highly recommended for fans of translation, Final Fantasy, and basketball enemas.
I laughed almost constantly while reading this book, and not only did I laugh, but I learned a lot about language and artificial intelligence along the way. An excellent read for anyone interested in translation and how the industry is changing (and not changing). I have already recommended it to others and will continue to recommend it. My only complaint would be: as someone who understands Japanese, I would have really liked to see the original Japanese underneath the intended translation of each screenshot. The author does mention specific Japanese words throughout the book, and the strange translation choices that the machine made for those specific words, but it would have been cool to see entire phrases.