June 14, 2024


[MUSAI] Can NMT work for the game localization of the Korean language?



In the global L10n market, the NMT technology is growing year by year. The companies that have completed customization of MT engines are already using NMT for localization of actual products for major languages. If so, can NMT be applied to the game localization especially for the Korean language?


New aspect of the NMT market after EA’s attempt

Before talking about Korean, we should know that many people still have a negative view on the applicability of NMT to the game contents because the contents require creativity for localization no matter which language it is. However, Electronic Arts, one of the world biggest game publisher, has already been in the process of applying NMT to the game contents and it’s not difficult to guess that their attempt will bring a huge impact on the future of the NMT market. (https://magazine.multilingual.com/issue/mar-apr-2020sp/the-future-is-here/)


Then next question for the companies who consider the Korean gaming market and Korean localization will be followed like this; “can it be successful? then, is it possible for the Korean-language pairs of game content?” or “how does the Korean gaming industry look at NMT?” Here is our opinion as a Korean localization agency.


Major game companies’ lack of understanding of NMT

First, we should start how game developers generally think about NMT. The most important fact is that NMT is not just a matter of purchasing an NMT engine. It requires many steps of the management but most of game companies cannot fully understand it.

As can be seen from the EA case, applying NMT on the game contents required sufficient pre-planning. After that, the process should be like below.

  1. The steady feedback from the post-editor which means the effort by human is needed.
  2. MT engine is learning the feedback.
  3. Evaluation should be proceeded, and the feedback is applied again.
  4. Back to step A and keep the cycle of the process to meet the expectation of quality

It’s necessary to be aware of the need for the consistent management including the effort to get the post editors’ feedback, have MT engine learned the result and maintain it to improve the quality. As you know, the constant management always requires budget.


Prejudice against NMT

Furthermore, the negative perception regarding the quality of NMT has been widely spread in the Korean gaming market because ‘Google Translation’ for the game localization has been applied inappropriately. Some translators and game companies applied the raw output of Google MT to their game without post-editing or native review. Unfortunately, that was enough to make people think that NMT is not worth to try. Plus, since the prejudice about NMT has been common among the most of game companies, it is also difficult for the localization agencies to adopt NMT even if some agencies have a good customized solution and post-editing process.


The expectable difficulty of applying NMT on the Korean language

It cannot help but we should recognize that the quality of the raw output (which is the result translated by the engine directly) for the Korean language is worse than the other major languages. There are two backgrounds to explain it.

In the L10n market, there is a priority in languages. Thus, more investment has been encouraged for the major languages which are in the priority. In addition, some languages which have same word order with English have been reached in the high level in terms of the quality of the raw output by NMT. These languages can be applied to the actual products – there are differences depends on the contents type though – only after review and post-editing process.

On the other hand, Korean is counted as an important language within the localization industry but it is slightly subordinated to the major languages like Japanese, Chinese, German, French, and Spanish. Recently, it seems that the development of these major languages in terms of NMT technology has been almost done so the eyes are turning into Korean.


Who is going to be the leader of NMT in the Korean game localization?


  • Global game publishers

Currently, it is expected that large game companies such as EA will be the front runner of NMT to localize their titles even for the Korean language. If the EA’s attempt successes, some of global game publishers who keep a watch on them will be likely to follow their model.

  • Large Korean game companies

It seems that there are not many Korean game companies that recognize the importance of the NMT market and invest in it except one or two. Of course, the investment for the Korean language doesn’t need for them so their interest will head for the NMT of multilingual localization. Even in this case, customization according to the type of products and contents is still required and so constant investment and experiment seem to be needed.

  • Major language service provider

Many major LSP and consulting companies related NMT have provided the MT service. However, they still do not provide the service for the contents that requires creativity such as games and marketing materials. Therefore, if some gaming customers who would like to start NMT, there is a possibility for them to provide post-editing service as a first step. Nevertheless, the customers will need the customized engine for their contents and products in the end.


It’s really difficult to predict and there is no official data of the NMT market, especially for the Korean language. However, we do know that MT could make a huge change in the trend of the global localization industry. Korean also will be affected by this trend. The acceptance of NMT for the game content may happen slower than other industry but it seems to possibly happen someday in a soon.


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