An ancient language and one of the most popular video games of the past year have collided with the launch of the official Irish localization of Among Us. The hugely popular sci-fi whodunnit game is now available to play in the Irish language as of this month.
The project was spearheaded by Úna-Minh Kavanagh, a fluent Irish speaker, writer, content creator, and Twitch streamer from Kerry in the southwest of Ireland. After her Twitter callout for an official version was met with an enthusiastic response, she was approached by Callum Underwood from Robot Teddy, the consulting firm supporting Innersloth developer Among Us. Kavanagh and a team of translators from across the globe got to work to turn their Irish modded version into an official localization.
“During the pandemic, naturally, many people flocked to an outlet to keep them occupied and connected with their friends, and for me, one of those outlets was Among Us,” she explains. “Before Among Us was even on the cards, though, I had joined a group of translating enthusiasts, and we were diving into some large-scale projects and translations. What drew us in was that [Among Us] was significantly smaller than the games that we had been attempting to translate, and it was a timely game currently in use.”
Over the past five months, localization QA manager Michaël Lelièvre from Lockit QA worked with the team on the mammoth task of translating, editing, and testing the hundreds of phrases that needed to be inserted into the game.
“Four of us worked on the translation; myself and Cormac Cinnsealach are both Irish, Brian C. Mac Giolla Mhuire is Canadian but based in Norway, and Mike Drinkwater is in New Zealand. Three of us were in relatively close time zones, so all in all, it was just about making sure we got the translations done, checked, rechecked, and of course tested, too,” Lelièvre says. “It was of utmost importance for us to not only get the translation to be as accurate as possible with a high standard but also that it was really localized and made sense.”
To perfect the final version, a sprinkling of creative license was required, even for the all-important “sus” (something like “ciontach” meaning guilty, as Kavanagh explained in Irish to an inquisitor on Twitter).
“Not all of the terms were available in the dictionary, so we did have to think of what would be a suitable equivalent. For the QuickChat function, it’s built really for those who cannot use their keyboards to type and thus uses a set amount of words that can be used with the click of the button,” explains Kavanagh. “This caused a few issues with Irish because we have a specific grammatical structure that uses VSO (verb, subject, object). English uses SVO as does French, German, Chinese, Italian, Spanish, and Russian, for example. We also don’t have ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in Irish. Instead, the verb reflects the positive or the negative, so things like that certainly gave us pause for reflection!”
In Ireland, where the language is a compulsory subject at school but often criticized for the uninspiring, outdated way that it’s taught, the introduction of games in Irish opens a world of possibilities for more enthusiastic uptake. “Games provide an enjoyable way to learn languages. Players have to intake information that they then have to react to and interactivity facilitates faster learning,” says Drinkwater. “And games are fun, so it’s not a drag.”
Only 4.2 percent of Irish people claim to speak their national language daily outside of the education system, so Kavanagh believes the normalization of Irish outside the classroom is key. “For those to continue to want to enjoy the language and immerse yourself in it, it needs to be outside of that. You won’t realize how much is sinking in as you play, you get really into the zone,” she says.
While not the first time a major game has been translated into Irish — Mac Giolla Mhuire previously worked on an Irish version of PUBG — this is a huge win for a minority language. “Irish is a language with a large and growing minority, but it’s ignored in current affairs, especially in the case of technology and modern media,” says Cinnsealach. “The translation of Among Us is arguably the first significant translation ever made in Irish for a very popular game. It is a cultural victory for the Irish community.”
Kavanagh concurs: “Not just [in] games, but it’s important in general to have modern things available to us in the Irish language. We have a phrase ‘ar son na cúise,’ which means ‘for the cause / to the cause,’ and that’s why we do it. We can’t rely on the government to decide to change things. You’ve just got to go for it.”
Among Us is only the beginning for the Irish language in the gaming world, and Kavanagh already has her sights set on further projects. “I would be over the moon to see a game like Skyrim be translated,” she says. “But to be honest, that would require more than just four people. The game is huge with tons of lore, context, and dialectal differences that if we were to do it, we probably should have started on it 10 years ago!”