The following article has been written by English to Italian translator Valentina Ambrogio
The use of Italian accents and/or dialects in games is quite tricky, if you ask me, as the association with certain stereotypes is almost inevitable. In general, southern Italy is portrayed as a poorer and more ignorant part of the country (not to mention the mafia situation), whereas northern Italy is generally considered richer, and therefore posh and educated. I come from southern Italy, and I know that this is absolutely not true, at least there’s more to it than that. That is to say that the use of certain regional accents/dialects in Italian may cause an undesired comic effect, which some players may actually see as racist or purposely offensive.
I have never used dialects in my translations, at least not yet. The kind of games I usually translate are set in fantasy worlds, with magic and monsters, wizards and evil overlords. We all know that a game localiser has to recreate the same feel as the original game, but to me it is paramount first of all to respect the context and the imagery of the game, and the geography and the environment of the game world. I would never find a fairy or a dwarf speaking with an Italian regional accent – say, Calabrian, my dialect – believable, because it would create a link to my reality which just doesn’t work, it would feel out of key.
Another reason I would never use dialects is that, in Italy, regional dialects are kind of standalone languages. I cannot speak Neapolitan, other than the odd words I learnt on television. I live in Rome, but I cannot speak whatever they speak here, and, when I try, it usually comes across as a total mockery of them – I am not believable, it is not part of my language identity. I know that should I attempt to translate and use a Neapolitan dialect, I would for sure end up creating a stereotypical character, with all the implications this may have. I would rather use bad grammar for an illiterate character, particular sentence structures and made-up vocabulary for – for instance – ‘alien’ characters, foreign accents, and other similar solutions, rather than using a regional Italian accent – unless of course the game has a neutral context, or the story is set in Italy, or has elements of our tradition and history.
The use of English accents is a totally different story – again – to me. The sort of implications that I just listed do not really apply to an Italian audience, simply because there is no or little link to our reality. They simply do not thrust the gamer out of the game’s context.
I think that accents and dialogues have their own place in certain settings and situations, so their use has to be carefully weighed up. I try to walk in both the localiser’s and the gamer’s shoes and decide accordingly. Would I feel offended? Would I find it disruptive? If the answer is yes, then I don’t need to look for answers any further.
Thank you for your contribution, Valentina!
Do you agree with Valentina? Let us know in the comments!