Localising accents without voice acting

Most members of Final Fantasy IX’s Tantalus Theater Group speak with a specific way. They have their own accents, speech habits and sometimes dialects. When localising a video game for the European region, it mainly needs to be translated in German, French, Spanish and Italian. Other languages are rarely considered and games are retailed in American English in the other European countries.

In 2001, virtual characters still do not speak as such, hence the only way to transcribe their voices is to use text. Here is a review of how this was done in the languages mentioned above.

The leader of the group, Baku, was only given extra features in the Italian version. He speaks in a Sicilian dialect, which somehow gives him a mafioso attitude and was renamed Kalò. In the French version, Baku is called Bach.

Marcus tends to end most of his sentences with “und so” in German or with “ou quoi” in French. In Italian, he is given a German accent, while in the Spanish one he pronounces most “s” as “z”.

Cinna speaks in a very strong Bavarian accent in the German version and is keen on throwing the word “zefix” at the end of his sentences. In Italian, he was given a Roman accent while the Spanish version made him sound Andalusian. In French, Cinna – spelt Cina – has a speech impediment and  lisps.

The only female character of the group, Ruby, bears the name of Carmen in Italian and consequently speaks with Spanish accent. In Spanish however, she expresses herself with an Argentinian accent. She is one of the only character to speak in the English version slightly differently, which makes her sound like an American southern girl. The German localisation team were even more creative, making her pronounce words successively in Bavarian, Rhenish and Saxon to eventually make up her own type!

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About John Barré

English & German into French translator. Interested in languages, literature, video games, localisation & translation - among many other topics.
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2 Responses to Localising accents without voice acting

  1. Interesting article. Do you feel the English localization is the worst one in terms in bringing the characters to life with different accents / dialects? Are there any at all (never played the english version so far)?

    • John Barré says:

      It’s been a while since I played FFIX and it was in German. Can’t recall how the English localization was, but there certainly is a lot of potential in “writing” accents – English is one of the languages with the most varied dialects (Irish English, Canadian, American, Australian, Indian, etc.) and each of these have their own accents.

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