I registered for this site just to contribute a few of my thoughts in regard to this particular project. I'm afraid I might stir up a bit of controversy with some of my views on grammar and translation, but bear in mind that these are just
my personal feelings. I would not try to cram them down anyone's throat.
First of all, I think this is a really interesting idea. I always wondered why no one in the ROM-hacking community took much interest in messing with this game. Considering just how awful the English script is, FFVII is a perfect candidate for re-translation. (right beside FFTactics, which deserves an honorable mention)
Now, I'm not one of these guys who gets all cutthroat about literal accuracy. I do favor translators like Alexander Smith, who uses an artistic license in order to give game scripts an era-specific feel. My biggest gripe is with inconsistencies in grammar. English is a very diverse language, and I don't think everyone can agree on a single system of orthography, nor a specific dialect. What bugs me most is when people from all sorts of backgrounds start to collaborate on a project, and the result reads like a Wikipedia page with mixed U.S. / U.K. spelling and grammar. Real localization departments focus on whatever orthographic choices are the norm within whatever region they're bringing the game to. There is some exception to PAL games, as lazy localization teams might simply recycle the U.S. script without making any changes. Final Fantasy games have probably done this on a number of occasions.
If you've read this far, you've probably gathered from my own spelling that I'm from the U.S. This brings me to the controversial part. I don't particularly like U.K. orthography. The idea that U.K. orthography is "proper English" is very much nonsense. You have to understand that English is a Germanic language, but it eventually married in Latin, then other etymologies. U.K. English in particular bases a good bit of its orthography on French. This is where I have a problem. I have nothing against the French language, but I don't think it has any business marrying into English. Yes, a lot of the vocabulary in Modern English was borrowed from French, but that doesn't mean we need to retain their orthography as well. That just taxes English-speakers with yet another set of orthographic rules to remember, and our language is desperately inconsistent as it is. The idea behind many of the reforms that took place in U.S. English was that we would truncate some of the excrescence in our orthography; thus words like "analogue" would be spelled "analog," because the -ue
is not pronounced. The -ue
would indicate something when read / written in actual French, but we're not speaking French - we're speaking English. The various oddities in their orthography have no grammatical purpose in English, and that's all that matters.
Rules like this are technically supposedly to be leveled all throughout U.S. English. This means, for instance, that we would would have the following word variations: Demagog, synagog, analog, prolog, epilog, dialog, and so forth. Few of these would actually be recognized by dictionaries. Unfortunately, few people would bother to level this rule, or even be aware of it. When I write something, I do level my grammar. Some people have complained that it looks awkward, but I'm very technical about these details. I believe that the more we can simplify and organize English, the easier it will be for future generations to deal with language acquisition, and for English to be learned on a secondary basis. With current dialectal differences, it's just too messy. When people are exposed to multiple dialects and orthographic rules, they tend to confuse usage, believing that different rules actually have some kind of context-specific usage aside one another. Maybe that's another subject entirely, though...
Next, we have to consider dialectal differences themselves. I don't mean calling a room an apartment
versus calling it a flat
, but differences that are a bit more tedious. To throw out a few examples:
- In the U.K., it's common for speakers to level which
as a relative pronoun, even though it's incorrect
. The historical usage rule is thus: that
is used for restrictive clauses, and which
is used for non-restrictive clauses. (with a few exceptions) If you're not sure what I'm talking about, I can elaborate further the next time I reply.
- In the U.K., it's also common to refer to some group names with plural indicatives. This is also incorrect. The name of a group generally acts as a singular noun, unless it's clearly plural. Consider a couple of examples: "The Beatles are a musical group" would be fine, but "Aerosmith are a musical group" would not. The latter would require the singular indicative is
. In the interest of leveling this rule consistently, we may even want to say, "The Beatles is a musical group." I propose this because we would also use the singular indicative in the same sense as, "A group of musicians is about to begin a concert." (is
refers to the group - a singular noun; "The Beatles" is also a singular noun, referring to the group as a single entity)
- The god-awful excrescence that appears in words like whilst, amongst, amidst, midst,
etc. It's typical in U.K. dialects, but you'll occasionally hear it in U.S. English and abroad. The -st
is a form of excrescence that resulted from confusion with superlatives, (don't even ask me how anyone confused superlatives with prepositions) and serves no function at all. The correct variations are: While
, (both as a conjunction and
a noun) among
, and amid
is a bit complicated. While excrescent, there isn't really a grammatical version of it. Instead of saying midst
, I would just say, "in the middle of." I can never talk anyone out of this one. People who elect to use excrescent words seem to insist that they're perfectly viable, even though they sound incredibly ridiculous and pollute our vocabulary with even more pointless variations of the same things. When it comes to translations, I avoid them at all costs.
- The less odious but still excrescent variations: Towards, backwards, forwards, upwards, onwards, anyways
, etc. The -ward words are all taken from the same etymology, and absolutely are NOT supposed to be suffixed with the -s
. I realize that backwards
is especially common all throughout English, but I promise that it is also incorrect. You will, again, encounter these more often in U.K. English than U.S. English.
- All right
. This one has a complicated history. Authors would typically insist that you use all right
, but many people (or even professional translations) occasionally use alright
. All right
is something of an unspoken rule when it comes to passing oneself off as a professional writer. If you defy it, some people will actually dismiss you as being just plain lousy. I don't get onto anyone's case for using alright
, but I do admit that it bugs me, simply because I get OCD about these things.
- More debate on French orthography appearing in English: The French LL versus the U.S. L - traveller
, etc. The extra L doesn't serve any grammatical function in English. How about cheque
? There are quite a lot of these to take into consideration. Do you really want characters in FFVII to be spouting any of this? Is your target audience going to raise a few brows?
My suggestion is to pick a single dialect and take it to the absolute extreme. It's going to be the most comfortable for your audience. If you think FFVII is best approached with U.S. grammar, then level every single usage rule without any inconsistencies. If you produce something that looks like a Wikipedia collaboration, then it's probably going to garner criticism for poor translation. Japanese localization teams get enough heat because of perceived "Engrish" based on these very same inconsistencies. In FFIV, for instance, you have a largely U.S. script, but with little oddities like defence
instead of defense
. Let's please not repeat any of that.
EDIT: Let me also point out that there are some glaring issues in having an amateur translation team. English is a difficult language to wield, and too many native speakers misunderstand some of its intricacies unless they're backed by a good college education. A fine example is the subjunctive mood. Your typical English speaker (no matter where they're from) is only going to get this right about 60% of the time. Some people may not understand why it's odd to have sentences like, "What if I was?" instead of, "What if I were?" but it can make all the difference in being taken seriously. Another example is the usage of relative pronouns. Again, some people may not find it odd to say, "The person that..." instead of "The person who..." but it can make all the difference. Using these interchangeably is sometimes crucial in establishing a character's unique manner of speaking. A character like Barret would probably use a lot of incorrect subjunctives, relative pronouns, and is-leveling
to reflect his rough background. Characters like Vincent would probably be more counteractive, using proper subjunctives and the like. I would suggest having someone who understands this stuff in your editing team.