‘Dear Esther’ Causes Controversy In Its Italian Translation

Dear Esther
Dear Esther

Dear Esther has been revered for its poetic nature, both in words and images or more a combination of these perhaps. The Italian translation of the game has caused a bit of a stir though as it’s claimed to take poetics beyond feasibility.

Not being an Italian speaker, Dan Pinchbeck of thechineseroom organized for Rostagno Giaiero Paul, the founder of indies4indies, to translate Dear Esther into Italian, which was then introduced via a patch. As you will know from playing Dear Esther, the language used in the game is quite flowery, poetic if you will, so Dan and Rostagno agreed to attempt to portray that in the translation.

The translation that was delivered has caused a few people to speak up and complain, calling it a bad translation and one that does not often match with standard grammar. The problem is simply that to convey Dear Esther as it is intended, the translation uses obsolete and archaic Italian words – an equivalent would be using Shakespearian language to tell the story.

Of course, not everyone finds it to be a problem, but there are a number of people calling it out according to Ars Ludica. Most games that are translated to Italian use a fairly common and “flat” version of Italian for clarity, which causes the Nords of Skyrim, the soldiers in Call of Duty and the aliens in Mass Effect to speak in the exact same style.

Dear Esther

It seems that those who are making complaints may be missing the point of the translation and indeed the game itself. They skip over the point of the stylistic choices in the translation and approach the text from a literal perspective, not picking up the implications held in the language. The biggest problem is that people are claiming that they cannot even speak the archaic language even though the ancient text is commonly studied in schools.

It’s certainly an interesting debate that isn’t usually explored – surely a translation should aim to convey the style of the game as the original language did? The creators of Dear Esther certainly wanted that, maybe another translation that aims more for clarity should be provided, but would that lose some of the sense of the game?

You can find more information on Dear Esther over on the official website.

Thanks Indievault!




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  1. an_italian_guy

    I’m italian, and I can say that I would be quite surprised by finding that sort of writing style in a videogame: I have not played it yet but the translation quality itself seems estremely good (as the whole game). However, the language used is quite odd, noone speak in this way anymore, and I’m not even sure anyone ever did. I think it’s the language style that can be  found in early 20th century writers like Verga or Pirandello, and this could be annoying for someone who is not used to it.

  2. Go play CoD instead, kids!

    I’m Italian too. This is the best translation ever appeared in any video game to date. For many, but not for all.

  3. Giovanni

    As an Italian mothertongue, I have to say I was impressed to see such an unusual but effective translation. There is a hint of humour in translating the “mouse” with an Italian word meaning the animal, which has caused some controversy. However all in all I find the game to be exceedingly well represented, if one can forgive the translator’s abundancy of accents. Also, it has certainly got people talking about the game… whether that was intentional or not is an interesting question. 

  4. Tiny Colossus

    That’s the whole point of the controversy: the wording may be well-made, but the TRANSLATION is not. There is this archaic style which, as nice as it looks, was added specifically in the italian translation and this is something that modifies the feel of the game.

    I think it’s not the right choice. People claim that the translation is not official, and it’s true, but it’s also the only italian translation available so it kinda becomes official.

    (italian native speaker here as well)


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