S2EP4 – Ft. Santiago de Miguel

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Episode Transcription

LARA: Hi, everyone! Welcome to another episode of Open World. Hi, Ale. Hi, Meli. Hi, Santi. Today we have a very special guest with us. Santiago started teaching memoQ back in 2017, and now he’s a Solution Engineer in memoQ’s Gaming Hub. He’s also a video game translator and has helped localize dozens of games. As a Solution Engineer, his main job is to help memoQ’s clients make the most of the software by providing training and work for consultancy sessions, as well as to present the full range of products to game developers, publishers, and localization agencies. So if you’re a translator, if you work with a localization company, you probably know memoQ, right?

ALEXIS: And you probably know Santi as well.


LARA: Santi is like, yeah, like memoQ’s rockstar. We love him.

SANTIAGO: Oh, no, come on, guys. You’re making me blush already.

MELISA: Thank you so much for joining us, Santi. And can you start telling us something about yourself, your story, how you became a Gaming Solution Engineer for memoQ?

SANTIAGO: Sure, my origin story first. Let me get in focus. Here you go. Okay, so… First, thank you so much for having me here. I’m so happy to talk to you, to talk about games, to talk about memoQ. That’s always something that makes me excited. As you said, I’m also a video game translator, and I started working at memoQ later, okay? So let me tell you a little bit about that. First of all, as a translator, I didn’t learn about game localization at university. I don’t know what was your cases or…

LARA: Same. Yeah.

SANTIAGO: Yeah. I had no idea. I mean, I played games. I suppose I should’ve known that those games got translated by translators, but for some reason, I didn’t make that connection, you know? Until I joined the talk on video game localization organized by my local association, and I said, “Aha! Maybe that’s what I should be doing, because I love that.” So that was a crazy moment, an eye-opening moment for me. I was actually a technical translator before that, I was translating documents on environmental conservation, which has nothing to do with games. So even though I enjoyed it, that wasn’t really my passion, right? So, once I learned about game localization, I just went all in on that, started learning, taking courses, reading, playing more in Spanish, because I’m an English into Spanish translator. And yeah, I finally got my first localization gig. Actually, it was quite simple. I answered to a job post, I was sent a test, I passed it, and I started working on my first couple of games, which are actually probably the biggest titles in my CV at the moment. I cannot really mention them because of NDAs.

LARA: Oh, we know. Yeah, don’t worry.

ALEXIS: Yeah, we know how it is.

LARA: We also would like to make a shout-out to include translators in the credits. Please! Like, this is long overdue already.

ALEXIS: Yes, so this sort of thing doesn’t happen anymore.

SANTIAGO: Yeah, the trend is changing, fortunately. But well, that wasn’t the case when I started out a couple… No, not a couple, more than a couple of years ago. But things started changing rapidly very recently. So yeah, nowadays I work directly with developers as a translator mostly, but I mostly translate mobile games right now. Lots of Chinese clients, I enjoy working with them. I have direct contact, so that’s also very nice. And when it comes to memoQ, as you said, I started teaching it back in 2017, more or less, but I was just an independent trainer. I enjoyed the tool, so I said why not, let’s start sharing it with other people. And it was funny because I slowly started getting closer to the company. I was first approached by the marketing team because I was bugging them on Twitter every time I was mentioning memoQ, so they said, “Okay, let’s organize something with this guy.” They were looking for someone to deliver webinars in Spanish, and I was there like, “Hey! I speak Spanish. Let’s do this.”

ALEXIS: The right time, the right place.

LARA: “I’m already doing this.”

SANTIAGO: But it’s crazy. I mean, everything started thanks to Twitter, actually.


LARA: Yeah, thanks to Twitter and you putting yourself out there, too, right? It’s just…

ALEXIS: Yeah, that’s crucial.

SANTIAGO: Yeah, a little bit of both.

ALEXIS: Did the things that you were doing before jumping into video game localization and then on to memoQ… did it help in any way? Or in what different ways did it help you?

SANTIAGO: Oh, yeah, of course. I mean, industry knowledge. I think that’s super useful. That’s key to being… or at least to getting into the localization industry in general, and then into memoQ. I mean, I’m always telling students that anything you know and you love in your life right now, any hobbies can be useful for your future translator. As a professional translator. So yeah, of course, even if I was translating technical documents, I was already working as an in-house linguist for an agency, so I was inevitably learning about business management systems which now integrate with memoQ. So thanks to that, now I know how, let’s say, Plunet works. So, of course, everything is useful as a linguist and now as a Solution Engineer.

LARA: I’m going to make a question here to, like, for the audience that maybe it’s just starting in the localization field, that wants to go in, but doesn’t know the difference, for example, between machine translation, CAT tools, and what is a TMS, right? So, you are the expert, I will let you speak. Please, enlighten us.

SANTIAGO: Okay, “expert” is a huge word. I’m just a guy that knows a little bit about this. Okay, let’s see. We have three acronyms, right? TMS, CAT, and MT. Let’s start with CAT, which is probably the well-known term for translator students. A CAT tool is a Computer Assisted Translation tool, or Computer Aided Translation tool, which is basically a piece of software that helps you translate, okay? As a translator. So you open the tool, you have a translation grid, source, target, and you translate. That’s basically it. Then you have a TMS, which is a Translation Management System, which is like an environment that was built on top of a CAT tool, all right? So memoQ, it was originally a CAT tool and now became a TMS because it’s a, let’s say, a big collaboration tool, okay? That helps you manage all your projects in the cloud, and makes linguists work in collaboration together. So, in a TMS, you not only translate, but you manage all the translations, you add resources to those projects, like the well-known translation memories and term bases, and more. But that’s why it’s called a TMS at the moment. So, just FYI, a translation memory is like a huge database of translations, so everything that linguists translate is stored in the translation memory, and then that information is leveraged and reused in the future. So that’s like the brain of a TMS in a way. And, on the opposite side of things, you have machine translation, which is automatic translation. So everything I’ve mentioned before is human, okay? It’s just the result of human work. So as a translator, I translate, that is stored in the translation memory and then reused. However, all TMSs in general can be integrated with machine translation engines. A machine translation engine is something like Google Translate or DeepL. Those are like well-known, just like out-of-the-box engines, but there are many, many more. And you can actually train your own custom machine translation modules, which is a great thing that is getting more and more popular. And I think it could be especially useful for the gaming industry because, as we know, every game is different, terminology is completely made up sometimes, so being able to train a machine translation model with your own previous translations and translation memories, I think that could be a big plus. Because sometimes all these, like, commercial, out-of-the-box engines don’t work very well with games, but custom ones can be better, of course. I don’t know if it was clear.

MELISA: Yes, so clear. Thank you so much. And is this, like, the transition from a CAT tool to a TMS was also part of being able to integrate the machine translation engines? Was that part of the process, you know?

SANTIAGO: Yeah, of course. I mean, the base CAT tool is just usually a TM, a translation memory, and a glossary. So the more things were added to it, the more complex the software became, and yeah, when you add collaboration in it, I think that’s when things start getting into the TMS territory. But of course, yeah, adding MT engines is also an evolution of the CAT tool in a way.

LARA: Yeah, and… I’m just thinking here as a gamer, as a video game consumer, right? I’ve played some games that developers have only used machine translation, and… Dear God, I…

ALEXIS: Yeah, it misses the mark. It misses the mark.

LARA: Like, I think it’s a good thing for some cases, but I don’t think the machine translation or artificial intelligence is, like, well developed to deal with some creative issues like you can find in some video games, right? For example. I mean, that’s my opinion in the subject of machine translation. That’s why I’m scared, but not as a translator, as a consumer.

ALEXIS: As a consumer. Yeah, I think that… Again, as a gamer, I’m scared, because I think that, at least nowadays, it misses the mark on so many things that make a game its heart, right? But it may be a tool at some point in time for translators to implement and to use, I think, that…

LARA: Also maybe, yeah, if you train, like, MT to do all the legal stuff and everything, that’s a plus right there. But when you’re dealing with, like, creative issues, just like training a translator to work with memoQ and to express their creativity is key. For me, at least.

SANTIAGO: Yeah. I completely agree. In general, machines are not very funny, so creativity is lost.

MELISA: Humor is definitely one of the things that are still, like, nowadays is one of the things that AI can’t really tackle very well.

SANTIAGO: Yeah, but you can clearly see a trend here… Oh, look at the little cat!

ALEXIS: Yeah. We mention CAT tools, and Fermín appears.

SANTIAGO: You can see a trend in, like, more, probably, more technical fields, in which MT is more popular, but the more creative fields still don’t have really MT being the standard. I don’t know, I’m thinking about literature, I’m thinking about marketing, you know? Very… Those texts that are client-facing, they need an eye for detail. And the same thing happens with games, especially when you don’t have the context, which is one of the main challenges of translating games.

LARA: Oh, my God. Yeah.

SANTIAGO: So, without context, it’s hard for us, you know, human translators that can think. Imagine how hard it will be for a machine. They have no idea what’s going on.

ALEXIS: No idea what’s going on. And it shows. It shows on the final product.

MELISA: We’re talking 2023, so we’ll see in a few years how we feel about this. And going back to the video game localization, Santi, what would you say, like, how can a TMS like memoQ help, you know, video game translation? What are the main challenges when translating a video game that, you know, memoQ could help?

SANTIAGO: Okay, okay. I could speak for a couple of hours maybe about challenges in game localization, but I’ll try to be brief. So, let’s see. I mean, I can think of many challenges as a translator, and I can now see many other challenges being a Solution Engineer at memoQ because I work with developers and translation and localization agencies. So they could be split in two. Let me try to identify a couple for each group. Let’s see, terminology. I think that terminology is a key word here. It’s a challenge for both the linguists, but also the companies, because you need to be consistent with terminology. And as I already said, sometimes terms are completely made up. We don’t have gaming dictionaries. I mean, there are some out there, but just for simple terms that come up in games, technical terms, but terminology…

LARA: Nothing specific. Yeah.

SANTIAGO: Yeah. You cannot really anticipate what’s going to be in a game when you’re translating. So that’s a big challenge. Fortunately, terminology management in memoQ is quite simple, but it’s also very comprehensive, you can add synonyms, you can add grammar information, and you can even add images for terms. So I think that’s a really nice thing with memoQ. I know it’s not as simple in other tools, so I’m always highlighting how memoQ manages terminology. And, well, for lack of context, we’re still not the best tool ever, but we offer LiveDocs, which is a nice feature. It’s like having a corpus or maybe even like a Dropbox folder embedded in the tool where you can add files, reference materials, images, and everything in there will be shared among the translators and linguists in general. So that’s a nice way of making up for the lack of context. So that can be good for the linguists, of course, but, as a result, for the gaming company, too.

LARA: Yeah.

ALEXIS: Right.

SANTIAGO: I can see a trend in tight deadlines, in general. I don’t know what’s your experience with that, but, you know, I still don’t think that localization is considered…

LARA: At the beginning.

SANTIAGO: Yeah, from the beginning. It’s really not a priority, and of course I understand why. But sometimes gaming companies remember about localization when it’s too late. So people need to work fast, that’s the truth. Fortunately, there are some really nice efficiency features for linguists in memoQ. For instance, I really enjoy using AutoPick and web search, for example. Those two features help me work quite a little bit faster. And, for instance, you can also customize shortcuts, you can use views… I don’t know, there are many little efficiency features that I enjoy as a linguist. Then, for gaming companies, again, or even agencies, file import can be a pain in the neck, because file formats in gaming companies or for games in general, they’re not always following the same standard, so they differ a lot, they need to customize how they get those files into memoQ. And I’m happy to say that filters in memoQ are highly customizable and very powerful. So with the right technical knowledge, you can easily make sure that the translatable content is imported in the tool, and whatever shouldn’t be translated is just left out or protected so that the linguists don’t make changes, let’s say, in the code or in placeholders or tags by mistake. Okay? So for doing that, there’s a nice feature called Regex Tagger in memoQ which uses regular expressions and will actually help you protect those placeholders and tags. They will turn into tokens so that the linguists cannot really delete them, let’s say, by mistake. Yeah, I mean, there are more. So speaking of regular expressions, if you are a little bit of a nerdy translator, you can use them. I like regular expressions, even though I’m a very basic user. But even knowing just a tiny bit of regular expressions can be very beneficial both for the linguists, but also for the gaming companies or agencies, because you can create custom filters with that, you can… I don’t know, create advanced find and replace rules as well. That’s also really useful. And yeah, I mean, getting into the enterprise side of things, there are a couple of nice things that memoQ offers, like integration with business or content management systems. I already talked about, let’s say, Plunet, but we can also integrate with Gridly for content management systems, and that’s very useful because people want to save time. So for saving time, you need integrations, you need automations, and then you have templates as well in memoQ. So yeah, I mean, the company is always looking for ways to help companies save time and just try to reduce manual work in general.

LARA: Yeah. Time is money.

ALEXIS: Time is money. Yeah. It’s very interesting to see how a TMS like memoQ can and does indeed help both the linguists and the companies as well. So that’s very interesting, to have like both perspectives, Santi. Thank you.

SANTIAGO: Yeah, I agree with you. And other tools don’t really think of linguists that much. I think that’s quite unique about memoQ, but you can clearly see why, because it was a company founded by linguists, actually.

ALEXIS: Right.

LARA: Yeah, and clearly, it’s like the go-to choice by all linguists. Like everyone I speak to, they were like, “No, yeah, I work with memoQ.”

ALEXIS: Especially in video game localization.

LARA: Same.

MELISA: Yeah, especially…

SANTIAGO: I agree.

ALEXIS: So in this spirit of a company built by linguists, how do you think that the localization field evolved over the years? And maybe the second part of this question is always, I wouldn’t say dangerous, but it’s always like mysterious, what do you think that the future holds for it?

SANTIAGO: That’s a very deep question. Let’s see.

ALEXIS: Let’s focus on the first half first, the easier one.

SANTIAGO: Yeah, well, we talked about crediting already. I think that’s an amazing positive change and trend. So, I cannot mention some of the games I’ve worked on maybe five years ago because this wasn’t a thing, but nowadays I see colleagues that are just starting out, they happen to work in a really big game, and they can freely mention it, and I’m so happy for them. I’m a little bit jealous, too, I have to say. But the popularity in crediting is an amazing thing that’s happening. So hopefully, that will just become the standard in the future. So, yeah, I’m very happy about that.

ALEXIS: People who put up the work.

SANTIAGO: Then we talked about…

ALEXIS: Sorry. It’s the people who put up the work for the game to be accessible for many, many people playing all over the world, so yeah.

SANTIAGO: Yeah, translators do a really, really hard job, so it’s just natural to credit them. For some people that may mean nothing, you know? “No one reads the credits.” I’ve seen that. But for you, it’s really a big thing. And also, it’s a nice way of justifying and showing your work and getting better clients in the future.

LARA: Absolutely. And I’m the person that, as soon as the game finishes, I will stay sitting reading the credits, because I think that’s like the “good job” moment, the clapping moment, like “Yes, thank you for this!” But yeah, I sit through the credits, and I’m not ashamed to say it.

SANTIAGO: That’s very nice of you, actually. It’s worth it already if one person reads the credits.

LARA: I will be reading yours, translators. Yeah.

SANTIAGO: Yeah. Okay, we also talked about machine translation. I don’t think that’s going anywhere. I think it’s actually going to be more and more popular in the future. We also said that it’s not perfect at the moment, I don’t think it will ever be perfect. It will always be needed. I mean, the linguists, at one point or another, there will be the need for someone to review that. But working now at memoQ and also as a linguist, I’m seeing more and more machine translation postediting requests. I don’t love that because I prefer to start translating from scratch myself, that’s when I’m more creative. Because when you read an existing translation, your mind is like locked on that, and you’re just trying to fix it instead of providing the best translation possible. At least that’s my experience with postediting.

ALEXIS: Yeah, I agree. I agree.

SANTIAGO: Yeah, but I also have to say that more and more companies are being interested in this, so, it’s not going anywhere. Especially with the popularity of AI lately and ChatGPT. All the clients seem to be asking about ChatGPT and what memoQ is doing about it and what’s the future of it. So this could be good, I mean, because new tools are always great. Of course, I work at a translation technology company, I’m all in for new technology advancements. But this will also create some, let’s say, some ideas. Some people seem to believe that AI will just make localization a two-day thing, you know, you can just localize a million words in a week because of AI. It will just make things super, super easy and fast. So both as a linguist and also as a Solution Engineer, I think I’m having more conversations about this that I would like to.

LARA: Yeah.

SANTIAGO: It’s hard sometimes to keep clients’ expectations, you know, at bay. Yeah, there’s… I mean, of course, gaming is a technology… a technological industry, so people know a lot about that, but sometimes they just don’t, and they have the wrong idea about what it can do and what it cannot do. So yeah, I mean…

LARA: Yeah. It’s about educating, too.

SANTIAGO: It’s not magic, but I think we will have to deal with it more and more. I don’t know… what’s your opinion about this, but…

LARA: Yeah. Yeah, I completely agree, like 100%. I wanna go back for the audience that’s starting or wants to go for the video game localization world, and I wanted to ask you, because this is something that I got asked a couple of weeks ago when I was giving a talk in my alma mater back in Córdoba, right? So what skills and qualities do you think are necessary for someone to succeed in the localization field? I want to know your opinion because, as I said earlier, I think you’re the expert here.

SANTIAGO: Okay, thank you. I really like talking about how to get into the industry with students or just newcomers. I think the priority is just to be a great translator, okay? Linguistic excellence. You’re going to be a translator, you’re not going to be playing games. So first and foremost, do your best to be the best translator. I think that should be number one, okay? Of course, if you’re a gamer, if you have a passion for games, you will be even better, then. But I know great translators who don’t play games and they translate games, and they’re great at it. So I think that should be the priority. I also know gamers that believe that they can be great gaming translators just because they play games, and again, it helps a lot, but it shouldn’t be the priority in my opinion. Of course, if you’re a great translator and you play games, then that will help you mostly make up for the lack of context that we mentioned over and over again. So let’s say you’re translating a mobile game. If you have no idea about mobiles, then you will run into random words that are thrown at you and maybe you won’t even know what that is, what that means, what a lane 27 is, you know? Specific concepts that are specific to those genres. So this works like any other industry, right? If you wanna translate medicine and you’re a doctor, you will be a much better translator than someone who knows nothing about medicine. And for us…

ALEXIS: It’s another field. It’s another field of work. You need your expertise.

SANTIAGO: Exactly. So knowing the subject matter will make you a better translator. So fortunately for us, that means playing, being up to date with industry news. It’s fun, right? To become a better gaming translator. So of course, that helps. And also having an eye for detail, that’s always useful for translators, especially, reviewers. But if you have that skill, you can also become, let’s say, QA manager, you can get into testing. There are so many things you can do in the gaming industry.

MELISA: Yeah, different roles.

SANTIAGO: Yeah. That’s amazing. I think there’s something for everyone. So let’s say you’re a people person, you’re very organized, you’re efficient… You can be a PM, you can work in sales, maybe, like you guys. There’s something for everyone. Of course, you can compensate with the translation knowledge, okay? So everything is combined in this industry. And finally, I think that getting technical is also a very good way of growing in the industry. For instance, working at memoQ, I talk to localization managers at huge gaming companies, and what they all have in common is that they know the tools that they use inside out, not only memoQ, but every single tool they use, but they also know about, let’s say, databases, SQL, scripting, coding, engineering. Of course, they don’t do that, probably, but they have some degree of knowledge. So, yeah, I mean, I think that’s saying something, definitely, getting more technical can help you land better jobs, maybe you can get into localization engineering, which is also a nice opportunity that it’s not explored a lot in university when you’re starting translation, but it’s also a good possibility. So there you have some ideas on how to get started.

MELISA: Thank you so much, Santi. That’s some great advice, I think, for everyone listening, and especially, you know, anyone who wants to start as a video game localizer and they have some maybe wrong ideas about how this works.

SANTIAGO: Yeah. I was trying to find some, you know, industry-specific recommendations, because of course, then you can just get into translation and the skills that you need are shared. But I think that the gaming industry can be very, very special.

MELISA: Absolutely. And talking about that, we have our final question for you, and this is going back to you. Thank you for all the recommendations, now we go back to you. We want to know what it is you enjoy the most about working in localization and what keeps you motivated in this field.

SANTIAGO: Well, I think that variety is the spice of life, in general. That’s what keeps me excited about things, in general, in my life. So you’ll find a lot of variety in games, both in localization or doing something else in the gaming industry. Again, maybe you’re working as a PM at a gaming company, development company, and one day you’re working on a mobile, then maybe you’re working on an FPS and things suddenly are very different. The same thing will happen to you as a linguist if you’re translating, especially if you’re a freelancer. You will work with different clients, different agencies, so every single game will be completely different. You know, as a translator, I’m sometimes translating games about World War 2, and then I’m translating a game about a witch that fixes houses, you know? So it’s super diverse, that keeps me excited, interested. But it’s also a challenge, of course, because you’re constantly having to come up with new translations, new words to research…

MELISA: Different styles.

SANTIAGO: Yeah, get used to different target audiences. Maybe you’re translating games for adults, then you’re translating games for children or translating technical games like, I don’t know, cars or sports, and then a fantasy world. So yeah, it’s very challenging, it’s very satisfying, and it can be a little bit stressful sometimes when you’re working on tight deadlines, but I think that’s what I like the most, actually. I don’t get bored. I mean, having worked in a more technical field in the past, I was doing the same thing every single day, and I ended up hating it, in a way. So right now, I don’t really get bored. I think that’s the best thing ever.

LARA: That’s awesome. That’s absolutely incredible. Thank you so much, Santi, for your time. Thank you for joining us. This is it, everyone. Thank you so much for tuning in for another episode of Open World. We’ll see you in the next one. Yeah. Thank you so much.

ALEXIS: Don’t forget to follow us on all our social media. We’ll leave Santiago’s social links as well…

LARA: Down below, everyone. Bye-bye! Thank you!

SANTIAGO: Thank you! Bye!

ALEXIS: Bye-bye!

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