It's May 15th 2011, and here's a hint what today's issue is about …

Aerial Faith Plate ... Catapult Platform

Yes, you guessed it, it's …


When Portal 2 came out not too long ago, I played through it like anyone having counted down the days until its release would: in one go, not being able to stop. The next day, I was naturally craving for more, and since my friends are not that much into gaming and I didn't want to waste the coop campaign on some stranger, I decided to just play through it once more — only this time in German, which is my native language.

I went into that experience fully aware that it's generally a bad idea to consume text based art in any language other than the original one, but for many people, this is the only way they are able to enjoy the text at all, so I was quite intrigued by the prospect of experiencing the game through their eyes (and ears). There is a long history of dubbing in German television, with the result that most people, while on a higher cognitive level certainly knowing they are consuming a translation, will nevertheless not be constantly aware of that fact (even in cases where the lip sync is atrocious). This makes it all the more interesting to see what their impression of the game might be, because most likely, they won't judge it as the tradeoff it is — if something doesn't sound right, this will much more likely be attributed to the game itself, rather than to a translator's mistake.

Now, in video games, this is often not that much of a problem, because in many cases, the writing isn't very subtle to begin with, which makes the translators' job pretty straightforward, and the resulting translation will perfectly convey the authors' intentions. This gives rise to a bit of a paradoxical situation: the more effort that has been put into the writing, the worse experience a large percentage of the audience will have.

What does that mean for Portal 2 and its translations? Basically, it's comedic writing, which is always very problematic — there are lots of subtleties that make a line funny, and it's very easy to neglectfully kill a joke in translation. Furthermore, one of the main characters is quite manipulative and passive-aggressive, and it should be pretty obvious how a character saying one thing while meaning something else can pose a problem to translators who don't have a firm grasp on the character's intentions. Those are the main problems that arise in almost every line of the German translation of the game.

To set this a bit into perspective: Compared to other translations inside and outside the video game industry, the German translation of Portal 2 isn't awful. There are no “all your base are belong to us” moments in there, since, obviously, professional translators with a firm grasp on the target language were hired to do the job. The point, though, is that, for some reason, most professional translations of both video games and movies/television programmes are not very good, and Portal 2 is no exception. One possible reason might be that the translators just don't care enough, because their clients are typically not in a position to judge the quality of their work. Another might be that the clients themselves don't care enough to provide the translators with all the information they need, because possibly they perceive the translations to be just a crutch anyway, or because the translations are commissioned by the publisher, who couldn't care less about the artistic vision behind the product.

Whatever the reason, my particular grudge with the Portal 2 translation is that Valve obviously cares a great deal about the quality of their products, and they are definitely in a position to apply that same high standard of quality control to the translations, which, here, sadly, they didn't.

Since it's a bit too easy to belittle other people's work without explaining why it is bad or how it might have been done better, I decided to do both. The rest of this article will consist of a detailed analysis of the German translation of Portal 2's second chapter. All the lines have been extracted from the subtitle file of the game, and each presented line will feature the original English version, the German translation, a double translation (the German translation translated back to English, so non-German speakers can follow the remarks), and a proposed German translation that tries to tackle some of the problems that have been found with the actual translation.

A few remarks on the translation quality rating system: “okay” is pretty self-explanatory; “meh” lines could have easily been done better, which most often means that some subtleties and jokes are lost; “bad” is reserved for lines whose translations completely miss the author's intention, or are completely out of character; “awful” won't be used unless the translators either had absolutely no idea what's actually going on in the original line, or made very stupid and amateurish mistakes.

Here we go:

Original:Sorry about the mess. I've really let the place go since you killed me. By the way, thanks for that.
Translation:Verzeih das Chaos. Ich habe meine Pflichten vernachlässigt seit du mich getötet hast. Danke übrigens.
Double translation:Forgive the chaos. I've neglected my duties since you killed me. Thanks, by the way.
Proposed translation:Entschuldige die Unordnung. Ich hab' den Laden wirklich verkommen lassen, seit du mich getötet hast. Übrigens, danke dafür.
Translation quality: “meh”

“Sorry about the mess” is a pretty usual thing to say when having someone over unexpectedly. More often than not it's not a real apology; what you mean is that you appreciate your guest enough that you would have taken the time to really clean up, had you known about their visit in advance, while also giving her a chance to say something nice in return (“Not at all, you have such a nice place”). Depending on how you say it, you can, of course, also convey a passive aggressive undertone: “That's what you get when you show up without prior notice.”

All of that needs to be preserved by the translation, because it's part of the joke: GLaDOS lets Chell know she's less than thrilled to have her roaming about in her facility again, and does so in a very understated, casual-polite way, as fits her character. The proposed translation (“Entschuldige die Unordnung”) conveys those meanings, the actual translation (“Verzeih das Chaos” - “Forgive the chaos”) does not.

“I've really let the place go since you killed me” continues in that same vein, building up to the sudden comedic break, where those previous pleasantries are set into perspective, which results in an absurdity. That absurdity is preserved well enough in the translation, but I don't like how “really let the place go” became “neglected my duties”, because the latter just isn't something you would say in a casual conversation. The tone is just too serious, which softens the impact of “since you killed me”, and thus makes the line much less funny. And, on a side note, it doesn't really get across the fact that GLaDOS is realizing just now the extent of the damages.

As for the sarcastic “thanks for that”: That's much more reproachful than the simple “thanks” in the translation. There's absolutely no reason to butcher lines like that, when the literal translation is perfectly good German and does a better job at conveying the tone.

Original:[beep] Sarcasm Self Test complete. [beep]
Translation:Sarkasmus-Selbsttest abgeschlossen.
Translation quality: “okay”

Just a literal translation. Not much to screw up here.

Original:Oh good, that's back online. I'll start getting everything else working while you perform this first simple test.
Translation:Oh, gut. Es ist wieder da. Ich bringe hier alles zum Laufen, und du machst diesen ersten, einfachen Test.
Double translation:Oh good, it's back. I'll get everything working, and you do this first simple test.
Proposed translation:Oh, gut, das geht auch wieder. Ich sehe zu, dass ich den Rest zum Laufen bringe, während du diesen ersten, einfachen Test durchführst.
Translation quality: “meh”

I don't like “it's back” for “that's back online”. It sounds like something has come back from physically being in another place, which is not what's happening here. Translating the word “online” can be tricky, because while it's probably best to just use the English word, which is generally understood in modern German, it does have a broader meaning in English. In my proposed translation I resorted to using “das geht auch wieder”, which literally means “that's working again”, and should convey meaning and tone of the original well enough.

I don't like how the translation of the next sentence sounds a bit like getting everything else working would be a matter of just a few minutes. In the original, GLaDOS does say, she'd *start* getting everything else working, and there is absolutely no reason to drop that piece of information.

“Perform a test” vs. “do a test” (or rather their German equivalents) is a minor issue, but I still want to point that out, because there is some fun in GLaDOS talking all sciency, while describing a rather weird test setup (cf. next line).

Original:Which involves deadly lasers and how test subjects react when locked in a room with deadly lasers.
Translation:Dabei geht es um die Reaktion von Testsubjekten in einem Raum voller tödlicher Laser.
Double translation:It's about the reaction of test subjects in a room full of deadly lasers.
Proposed translation:Dabei geht es um tödliche Laser und um das Verhalten von Testsubjekten in einem Raum voll tödlicher Laser.
Translation quality: “bad”

The basic meaning of that line (“this test chamber is about deadly lasers”) is hard to kill in translation, so that's still there, but pretty much everything else is off.

The most important thing that got slayed by the translators here is the repetitous flow of the sentence. That's what this line is basically about: GLaDOS is a computer, so if she explains something matter-of-factly, she will repeat words rather than use pronouns, which would result in a more natural, human conversational flow.

So, on one hand, this structure perfectly fits her character, and it *has* been pointed out in the commentary track of the original Portal game that both Ellen McLain (the English voice of GLaDOS) and post production put in quite some work to give recurring phrases the same inflection every time they came up. This is definitely part of the comedy (think “Aperture Science”, or “the operational end of the device” from the first game). The translators probably recalled from their evening classes that if your translation doesn't sound natural, you're doing it wrong, and thus decided to throw all that hard work right out of the window and give the line a natural human flow, which pretty much kills it. In a bad way.

Now, on the other hand, we do know that GLaDOS is capable of breaking that speech pattern and, while always maintaining a certain degree of subtlety, talk much less matter-of-factly and more emotionally on other occasions. So, this is a deliberate choice of a certain speech pattern (analytical, computery) that's in stark contrast to what's actually being said (“you are probably going to die now”). This contrast is, of course, a huge part of the joke, and the translation has no problem killing that one off cleanly, too.

That was my main grudge with the translation of that line, but there's something else going on here: GLaDOS is always talking about her tests, but it isn't all that clear what all those tests are actually about. This is why Aperture Science is such a fun concept; they don't use science for any reasonable real life application - everything they do is “for science” itself, or, alternatively, for the rather blurry “good of all of us” (“we do what we must, because we can”), which constitutes a general misunderstanding of what science is about, that is rooted deep in Aperture Science's history (“At Aperture we do all our science from scratch”). That said, the phrase “how test subjects react when locked in a room with deadly lasers” definitely makes the test sound like it's part of some sort of behavioural research, which makes “Reaktion” a much worse translation of “how they react” than “Verhalten”. “Reaktion” might be okay if GLaDOS was in fact implying some sort of chemical experiment (investigating how the human body reacts to being exposed to deadly lasers). The fact that she might have meant both (with the behavioral science angle being the basic statement, and the chemical experiment thing being some nice misanthropic subtext) is funny, but some subtleties will always be lost in translation, and this might very well be one of them.

Lastly, there's another joke in there: The wording of that line is the exact same you would use when changing “lasers” to the name of some dangerous animal. Even more, while the wording is perfect when substituting an animal, it's pretty absurd in the original “deadly lasers” version: While locking a test subject in a room with a deadly animal might yield some interesting scientific observations, locking them in a room with a laser most definitely doesn't; a stationary deadly laser isn't harmful at all, as long as you don't decide to walk right into it. This allusion, which results in an absurdity, is certainly funny, but it's hard to get all of that into the German translation, while preserving the general tone. It might be translated as “wenn sie zusammen mit tödlichen Lasern in einen Raum eingeschlossen werden”, which preserves that absurd image, but for my proposed translation, I decided it's much more important to reproduce the repetition at the end of the line than it is to make this one subtle joke work.

Original:Not bad. I forgot how good you are at this. You should pace yourself, though. We have A LOT of tests to do.
Translation:Nicht schlecht. Ich vergaß, wie gut du darin bist. Doch du solltest dich zügeln. Es gibt noch SO VIELE Tests.
Double translation:Not bad. I forgot how good you are at this. You should pace yourself, though. There are SO MANY tests left.
Proposed translation:Nicht schlecht. Ich vergaß, wie gut du darin bist. Doch du solltest dich zügeln. Wir müssen EINE MENGE Tests machen.
Translation quality: “meh”

This ties in with the comments to the previous line. While it's a steady source of fun that those tests don't seem to serve any specific purpose except making Chell's life a bit harder, GLaDOS herself is fully aware of that higher purpose, so when she says “we have A LOT of tests to do”, she knows what she's talking about.

The translation “there are SO MANY tests left” doesn't convey that at all. It sounds a bit like she is saying “so many (random) tests have survived the near-destruction of the facility”, which would make the whole testing process seem very arbitrary. It definitely fails to get the point across that she knows exactly what she has planned for you.

Original:This next test involves discouragement redirection cubes. I'd just finished building them before you had your, well, episode. So now we'll both get to see how they work.
Translation:Zum nächsten Test gehören Entmutigungs-Umlenkungs-Würfel. Ich hatte sie gerade vor deiner, äh, Episode fertig gestellt. Erfreuen wir uns beide an ihrer Funktionsweise.
Double translation:The next test involves discouragement redirection cubes. I'd just finished building them before your, um, episode. Let's both enjoy how they work.
Proposed translation:Zum nächsten Test gehören Entmutigungs-Umlenkungs-Würfel. Ich hatte sie gerade fertiggestellt, bevor du deine ... Episode hattest. Jetzt bekommen wir also beide zu sehen, wie sie funktionieren.
Translation quality: “bad”

There are so many nuances that can completely kill a translation, and the correct use of filler words is more important than one might think. Here, the translation of the first part of that line isn't completely wrong, but it definitely could be better:

“... before you had your, well, episode” is translated as “... vor deiner, äh, Episode”. GLaDOS is good with words, and she knows exactly what to say, and how to say it to have an impact on Chell and her feelings. Here, she is obviously trying to attribute Chell's past behaviour to some psychological condition, and when she says “before you had your, well, episode” instead of “before you had your episode”, what she is doing is give some authenticity and relatability to that made up fact by sounding like a concerned mother who doesn't want to blurt out a hurtful truth. Also, it generates a slight break in the flow, and thus emphasizes the next word, which holds all the relevant meaning of that line (“you are a crazy person”).

Now, in the translation, she uses the filler word “äh”, which doesn't really convey any of that, and sounds more like she were genuinely looking for a word, which makes the whole line much less powerful. A simple ellipsis would be much better suited than the unfortunate “äh”. Also, because of the different clause positions in the translation, “Episode” has a less powerful position far off the end of the sentence. This can't be completely fixed because of basic differences in syntax, but the proposed translation is at least a bit better in that regard.

The translation of the last sentence here is just wrong. “Let's both enjoy how they work” is a bit of a non sequitur - it doesn't at all tie in with what has just been said, and fails completely at conveying that feeling of “it's all coming together now”, or, more pointedly, “in the end, it all worked out for the best”, which is a very strong thing to say to Chell, who, after having managed to escape once, is now finding herself in an even worse situation than ever.

It's interesting to note that while the translation of that last sentence might not be half bad out of context, here it reduces a very powerful line to a bit of blah, which obviously makes it pretty bad. For coming up with a good translation, two things are essential: understanding the author's intention, and a firm grasp of the target language. Funnily enough, if only the first criterion is met, the translation, while probably sounding wrong and thus messing with the suspension of disbelief, can still be much more satisfying than a translation meeting only the second criterion (like in this case), which will *sound* like perfectly good German, and *mean* nothing at all.

Over the course of this analysis, there are lots of examples of the translators trying to change a line up a little, because they were taught that's perfectly alright in order to produce more natural sounding German (which is ok), with a total disregard of the author's intention (which isn't).

Original:There should be one in the corner.
Translation:Einer müsste in der Ecke sein.
Translation quality: “okay”

All fact, no subtext. It would have been pretty sad if there had been any translation errors here.

Original:Well done. Here come the test results: You are a horrible person. I'm serious, that's what it says: A horrible person. We weren't even testing for that.
Translation:Gut gemacht. Hier ist dein Ergebnis: Du bist ein schrecklicher Mensch. Ja, das steht hier: Schrecklicher Mensch. Und das testen wir nicht einmal.
Double translation:Well done. Here is your result: You are a horrible person. Yes, that's what it says: Horrible person. And we don't even test that.
Proposed translation:Gut gemacht. Hier kommt das Testergebnis: Du bist ein schrecklicher Mensch. Im Ernst, das steht da: Ein schrecklicher Mensch. Dabei haben wir darauf nicht einmal getestet.
Translation quality: “meh”

There is a testing protocol in place, and possibly it's against protocol that the person overseeing a test is also the one analyzing the data. Or maybe it's just such an intricate scientific process that it's not feasible that the same person does both.

Whatever it is, “here come the test results” is a fun line, because everyone knows that in reality GLaDOS is doing all of it by herself, and most of what she says is made up, just to be hurtful. So, the mental image of there being an actual sheet of paper with test results is both absurd and funny. The translation “here is your result” cuts all the fun right out. There is no absurd mental image, it just says what's actually happening: GLaDOS is about to tell you something she just made up.

The later “yes, that's what it says - ja, das steht hier” moves in the right direction, but it's not enough. The proposed translation preserves the joke most easily by simply adhering to the original, while still being perfectly good German.

I don't particularly like the translation of the last sentence either. “to test for sth” has a very specific meaning, which is perfectly reflected by the German “auf etwas testen”. It means that you suspect to find a certain property (e.g. a disease), and see if it's actually there. The actual translation (“etwas testen - to test something”) just sounds wrong in that context.

Also, the tenses are different: there's “we weren't even testing for that” in the original vs. “we don't even test [for] that” in the translation. I believe that many people would say that that's just nitpicking, and that those two lines are basically the same. Well, they are not, and translators have to be aware of the damage they are potentially doing by changing up stuff that might look irrelevant to them. “We weren't even testing for that” means that testing whether someone is a horrible person or not was not part of that particular test, but this or similar personality traits might very well be a part of some other test. “We don't even test [for] that” means they don't do it, period. This is by no means irrelevant, since Aperture Science itself is one of the main characters of the game, and a mysterious one, at that, because noone really has a full understanding of what it is they actually do.

Well, the last one maybe did go a bit on the pedantic side, but the point is, if a translator has absolutely no good reason to change something, because a literal translation is already perfectly natural German, they ... well, they have absolutely no good reason to change it.

Original:Don't let that 'horrible person' thing discourage you. It's just a data point. If it makes you feel any better, science has now validated your birth mother's decision to abandon you on a doorstep.
Translation:Lass dich durch diese schreckliche Geschichte nicht entmutigen. Es sind doch nur Daten. Falls dich das freut: Es ist nun wissenschaftlich bewiesen, dass deine Mutter dich auf einer Türschwelle ausgesetzt hat.
Double translation:Don't let that horrible story discourage you. It's just data. If it makes you feel any better, it's now scientifically proven that your mother abandoned you on a doorstep.
Proposed translation:Lass dich durch diese "schrecklicher Mensch"-Sache nicht entmutigen. Es ist nur ein Datenpunkt. Falls dir das hilft, es ist damit wissenschaftlich bestätigt, dass die Entscheidung deiner Mutter, dich auf einer Türschwelle auszusetzen, die richtige war.
Translation quality: “awful”

Oh my, this is probably one of the worst translations in the whole game. A blatant lack of understanding what the original text actually means, resulting in two severe cases of non sequitur, combined with a double count of neglectful mischaracterization. Every sentence here is completely wrong.

First: “Don't let that horrible story discourage you.” Not much to say here, this is just plain and obviously wrong. What horrible story? Test results, however horrible they might be, are not a horrible story. Non sequitur number one.

Second: “It's just data.” It's just data?! That's a computer speaking, mind you, whose purpose in life is doing scientific tests. It's just data? Data is everything! So, what the translation says is “data doesn't mean a thing”, while the original line says “as a person, you amount to much more than that one random data point”, which is pretty funny, of course, because the phrase “horrible person” does a very good job summing up everything you need to know about a person, and thus stands in stark contrast to that “just a single data point” line. But that was just an aside, since this part of the translators' work obviously wasn't about preserving jokes, rather than about doing everything they could to look as stupid and lousy at what they do for a living as possible, without actually losing their job. At least it looks like that was their intention with that one (and intentions are important, remember?). So, mischaracterization number one.

Third: “If it makes you feel any better, it's now scientifically proven that your mother abandoned you on a doorstep.” How would anything that has been said up to this point prove that (or even allude to that)? That's not even the point of the original line; the point is, whatever your mother did to you, you obviously deserved it, because it has been scientifically shown that you are a horrible person. So, that's non sequitur number two.

And I won't believe that GLaDOS would talk such obvious nonsense about something being scientifically proven by a logical fallacy. Mischaracterization number two. That logical fallacy also takes all the fun out of that line: Actually, GLaDOS invents a pretty absurd fact, disguises it as an official test result she pretends to have no control over, and irrefutably deduces that Chell's mother did the right thing abandoning her. In the translation, GLaDOS invents a pretty absurd fact and (obviously wrongly) claims that this would be proof that Chell's mother abandoned her. There is absolutely no fun in that.

Original:Congratulations. Not on the test.
Translation:Gratuliere. Nicht zum Test.
Proposed translation:Gratulation. Nicht zum Test.
Translation quality: “okay”

Boy, must this line have come as a relief to the translator after that downright spiteful last line that just refused to be understood in any meaningful way.

Not much to see here. Pretty literal translation. I do like “Gratulation” better than “Gratuliere” here, because it sounds more official, but it's both okay, and I don't really have a compelling reason.

Original:Most people emerge from suspension terribly undernourished. I want to congratulate you on beating the odds and somehow managing to pack on a few pounds.
Translation:Die meisten Menschen sind unterernährt, wenn sie aus dem Hyperschlaf erwachen. Du aber hast aller Wahrscheinlichkeit zum Trotz noch ein paar Pfund zugelegt.
Double translation:Most people are undernourished when waking up from hypersleep. But you have beat the odds and packed on a few pounds.
Proposed translation:Die meisten Menschen sind schrecklich unterernährt, wenn sie aus dem Hyperschlaf erwachen. Gratuliere, du hast es aller Wahrscheinlichkeit zum Trotz geschafft, noch ein paar Pfund zuzulegen.
Translation quality: “bad”

“Suspension” is translated as “hypersleep”, which isn't bad, because in this case it's not wrong, and there isn't a good German equivalent to “suspension”. The word “terribly” somehow got lost in translation, which isn't good at all, because this greatly diminishes the impact of the next sentence.

Now, the major thing: “But you have beat the odds and packed on a few pounds.” is quite the bad translation. It's not GLaDOS' thing at all to just blurt out that Chell is fat, but that's exactly what's happening here.

The translator seems to have made a point here of cutting out everything they thought wasn't absolutely needed to convey the meaning of the line. This seems quite unnecessary, because, as already mentioned, there is no lip-sync or other sort of animation-sync going on in that whole sequence, and even in the original version, characters don't always get to finish their sentences when you just move through the game fast enough. So, the gist is, there is absolutely no reason not to add three seconds to a line, if it helps preserve character consistency. And even if it were, for some reason, technically impossible to have a translated line be longer than the original, it's still possible to shorten it in a way that leaves it consistent with the way GLaDOS talks, for example “Du aber hast trotz widrigster Umstände noch ein paar Pfund zugelegt”, which would make her sound at least a bit impressed by that feat, and thus less blunt.

Original:One moment.
Translation quality: “okay”

Easy. And correct.

Original:You're navigating these test chambers faster than I can build them. So feel free to slow down and... do whatever it is you do when you're not destroying this facility.
Translation:Du gehst schneller durch die Testkammern, als ich sie bauen kann. Schalte ruhig einen Gang runter und ... tu, was du so tust, wenn du nicht gerade die Anlage zerstörst.
Double translation:You're walking through these test chambers faster than I can build them. So feel free to slow down and... do whatever you do when you're not destroying the facility.
Proposed translation:Du schaffst es schneller durch diese Testkammern, als ich sie bauen kann. Schalte ruhig einen Gang runter und ... tu, was auch immer du so tust, wenn du nicht gerade die Anlage zerstörst.
Translation quality: “meh”

I don't like the “walking” here, because what's really getting you through those chambers is much more crazy than that. While “navigieren” would be better, the Englisch “navigating” has a broader meaning than that, and it wouldn't really sound right. The proposed translation (“managing to get through these test chambers”) sounds much more natural.

The other thing I don't like is the “do whatever you do”. In German, this sounds a bit more natural than that, but my point is, in the original line, GLaDOS basically says, “I have no idea what it is you are doing when you are not busy destroying the facility, because I have never seen you do anything else. You monster”, which is funny, because it's a nice accusation, but the “I have no idea” part is also a blatant lie - she probably knows more about Chell than she does herself. And exactly that “I have no idea” part isn't really there in the translation.

Original:I'll give you credit: I guess you ARE listening to me. But for the record: You don't have to go THAT slowly.
Translation:Eins muss man dir lassen: du HÖRST mir wirklich zu. Aber damit das klar ist: Du musst nicht SO langsam gehen.
Double translation:I'll give you credit: You're really LISTENING to me. But for the record: You don't have to go THAT slowly.
Proposed translation:Eins muss man dir lassen: du hörst wohl WIRKLICH auf mich. Aber damit das klar ist: Du musst nicht SO langsam gehen.
Translation quality: “meh”

This is a strange one. The emphasis in the translation is completely off, which makes the whole thing very unnatural sounding (reading the line, at least - this is not about whatever the voice actors did to it later).

The other thing is that I don't like the translation of “listening”. There's “jemandem zuhören”, which means to listen to something somebody has to say (without any further consequences), and then there's “auf jemanden hören”, which means to actually do what they are saying. Here, GLaDOS is obviously saying “I never thought the day would come that you'd actually do something I told you to do”, which is funny, because the next sentence makes it clear that you actually didn't (intentionally), and that this was just a setup to an insult. Without context, both possible German translations would be okay, but with this context given, the second one is the right one. The translator chose the first.

Original:Waddle over to the elevator and we'll continue the testing.
Translation:Schwabbel rüber zum Aufzug, und wir testen weiter.
Double translation:Wobble over to the elevator and we'll continue the testing.
Proposed translation:Watschel rüber zum Aufzug, und wir testen weiter.
Translation quality: “awful”

Oooh, that's a bad one. In the last line, GLaDOS has insulted Chell for being slow, and this is obviously a followup.

With a rather careless mistake, the translators have changed that followup to a very blunt out-of-the-blue fat insult. Not only is that something GLaDOS would never do (making the translation inadequate), it's also just a wrong translation of a single word that has a very specific meaning (making it amateurish).

Original:This next test involves the Aperture Science Aerial Faith Plate. It was part of an initiative to investigate how well test subjects could solve problems when they were catapulted into space. Results were highly informative: They could not. Good luck!
Translation:Dieser Test umfasst die Aperture Science Katapultplattform. Man wollte damit herausfinden, wie Testsubjekte Probleme lösen können, während sie ins All katapultiert werden. Das Ergebnis lautete: Gar nicht. Also dann: Viel Glück!
Double translation:This next test covers the Aperture Science catapult platform. It was used to find out how test subjects could solve problems while being catapulted into space. The result was: Not at all. Well, good luck!
Proposed translation:Dieser Test beinhaltet Aperture Science Luft-Vertrauens-Platten. Sie waren Teil einer Untersuchung darüber, wie gut Testsubjekte Probleme lösen können, während sie ins All katapultiert werden. Die Ergebnisse waren äußerst aufschlussreich: Sie konnten es nicht. Viel Glück!
Translation quality: “bad”

First sentence: “umfasst - covers” is a poor choice for “involves”, because it makes it sound like this is the one and only chamber containing those plates. Also, I don't like “Katapultplattform - catapult platform” for “Aerial Faith Plate” at all. Aperture Science gives its inventions very fun, and often quite euphemistic names. “Thermal Discouragement Beams” and “Material Emancipation Grills” are good examples, and those “Aerial Faith Plates” here definitely go in that same direction. There's absolutely no reason to snuff the joke out by forcing a horrendously generic name on that originally nice and clever euphemism. Sure, a literal translation sounds weird, but that's exactly what the original does.

Second sentence: Aperture Science doesn't just try to find something out. There's an initiative, a testing protocol, and a whole lot of science is involved. That's pretty much what the original says, and that's pretty funny, because it's a lot of work and red tape for a rather trivial and predictable result. All of that is lost in the translation.

This paragraph might be a bit spoilery. It's about the fact that translators always have to be aware of the big picture. Having played through the whole game, you will know that “space” is rather important for the final showdown, so any prior and possibly foreshadowing mentions have to be handled with extreme care. In this line, the mention of the word “space” is not that important, but here are three examples from other parts of the game that are more relevant: First, the “art” in the relaxation chamber. First time you wake up, it's just a landscape; second time, it's night in the painting, and there's a huge moon visible. It's also immediately in view without moving around, so the very first thing you see when waking up in the actual game beautifully foreshadows the finale. Obviously, that's the same in the translation, since it's just a visual cue. Second, there's the conversion gel made out of moon rocks, which are apparently “a great portal conductor”. This is also very obviously foreshadowing the finale, and it's also still there in the translation. Now, third, there's one of Wheatley's lines: “One small step and everything”. This has been very carelessly translated as “one step after another — einen Schritt nach dem anderen”. In the original, this is a very nice line — Wheatley just babbling away, quoting Neil Armstrong, being unaware that the moon eventually will be his undoing. In the translation, there's nothing left of that, and that's not just killing off some small joke, it's messing with big picture stuff that can be very satisfying when it's done right and you see it all come together in the end. That last translation is a bit like translating the line “But where's his brother?” from the brilliant movie “The Prestige” as “But where's the other bird?”; those are the things that, while seeming unimportant on first glance, can make or break a work of art. Obviously, I'm drifting off a bit here, but the point is that it's very easy for translators to butcher a crucial line when on the surface it looks like it doesn't have any significance. I am not even blaming the translators here — this is a perfect example of the publisher not caring enough about their product to actually give the translators the big picture information they need.

Third sentence: It's definitely a fun fact that the rather trivial results were considered highly informative, and it also sheds some light on how Aperture Science works: In Science, there's no place for common sense; most probably, all possible outcomes of an experiment are considered equally “highly informative”, because after all, it's “for science”, and not for any real world application. The translators did away with all of that.

Fourth sentence: There's quite the humorous contrast between the desription of the results as being “highly informative”, and the plain statement of the actual, rather trivial result “they could not”. Using “not at all” instead makes it sound a bit like there might have been some expectations that the test subjects might be able to retain their problem solving capabilities at least to some extent, and that softens the humorous contrast a bit. Which the translation completely lacks in the first place, so that's that.

Fifth sentence: Another fun juxtaposition (“They could not. Good luck!”). A reasonable thing for a human to say instead of “good luck” would be “I really hope you're doing better than those other guys” or some other kind of transition from “everyone failed to do it” to “you have to do it”. This contrast is also softened a bit in the translation by another misguided attempt to sound more natural: “Well, good luck!” It's not awful, but it's definitely interesting, because usually, subtle jokes are killed by omitting something that might look irrelevant, and not by introducing something to the translation that hasn't been there in the first place.

Original:Here's an interesting fact: you're not breathing real air. It's too expensive to pump this far down. We just take carbon dioxide out of a room, freshen it up a little, and pump it back in. So you'll be breathing the same room full of air for the rest of your life. I thought that was interesting.
Translation:Du atmest übrigens keine echte Luft. Es wäre viel zu teuer, sie hierher zu befördern. Wir nehmen nur das CO2 aus dem Raum, frischen es ein wenig auf und pumpen es zurück. Du atmest also für den Rest deines Lebens dieselbe Luft. Interessante Geschichte, oder?
Double translation:By the way, you are not breathing real air. It would be far too expensive to transport it here. We just take carbon dioxide out of a room, freshen it up a little, and pump it back in. So for the rest of your life you'll be breathing the same air. Interesting story, isn't it?
Proposed translation:Das hier ist interessant: Du atmest keine echte Luft. Es wäre zu teuer, sie so weit herunter zu pumpen. Wir nehmen nur das CO2 aus einem Raum, frischen es ein wenig auf und pumpen es in den nächsten. Du atmest also denselben Raum voll Luft für den Rest deines Lebens. Ich dachte, das könnte dich interessieren.
Translation quality: “meh”

It's always fun when GLaDOS talks about an “interesting fact”, because more often than not, it's much more than that: She wants to tell Chell something very specific, for a very specific reason, and hides that fact behind some piece of small talk. “By the way” just doesn't convey that very well.

I don't like how “this far down” became “here” in translation. It's probably obvious to the player that Chell is trapped pretty far under the surface of the earth, but it's not so much about getting that information across to the player than about GLaDOS' intention with that line: She is trying to get to Chell. Not only is her oxygen supply limited, this is also happening so far down that there is practically no chance to escape. So, while the actual information might not be that relevant, its deliberate use here is, and should be preserved.

Also, what GLaDOS describes is happening is that whenever Chell moves from one room to the next, the air is removed from the first one, freshened up a little (whatever that means), and pumped into the second one. “Pump it back in” doesn't necessarily mean that, but “you'll be breathing the same room full of air” does. In the translation, that's missing, and it actually makes it sound like moving from one room to the next would give Chell a room full of fresh air anyway. That makes the (absurd and funny) “freshening up” part pretty much irrelevant, because Chell will never return to one of those freshened up rooms anyway. So, in the translation, the prospect of “breathing the same air for the rest of your life” (a whole Aperture Science facility full of it) isn't scary at all.

The line as a whole comprises an intro (“here's some trivia”), the main message (“you are going to die alone”), and an outro (“I like trivia”). Obviously, I paraphrased that a bit, but this way it's pretty obvious where part of the fun is coming from. As already mentioned, the translation screws up the intro a bit, and the same is happening with the outro. Not too bad, but noticable.

Original:Let's see what the next test is. Oh. Advanced Aerial Faith Plates.
Translation:Was gibt es im nächsten Test? Oh. Katapultplattformen.
Double translation:What's the next test about? Oh. Catapult platforms.
Proposed translation:Mal sehen, was es im nächsten Test gibt. Oh. Luft-Vertrauens-Platten für Fortgeschrittene.
Translation quality: “bad”

“Let's see what the next test is” sounds a bit like GLaDOS would look it up on a piece of paper, which is a fun mental image that has been used before. The translation “What's the next test about?” sounds a bit more like she would look at the actual test chamber.

Also, the translation sounds as if “What's the next test about?” were an actual question GLaDOS at first doesn't know the answer to. This is just wrong. What's really happening here is this: Both the player and Chell know by now that if a new concept has just been introduced in a test, the next test will be an advanced version of that same concept. So, what GLaDOS is actually saying is “Let's have a look what your future yields. You know, anything could happen, really, so maybe there's hope for you after all? No, sorry, there's not. It's just more of the same, like we both expected, and you will never escape.” The translation kills off all of that. The setup becomes an actual question, the fake disappointment becomes actual surprise, and the word “advanced”, which is definitely relevant for interpreting what's going on in the subtext, is missing completely.

Original:Well. Have fun soaring through the air without a care in the world.
Translation:Na dann. Viel Spaß beim sorglosen Durch-die Luft-Segeln.
Double translation:Well. Have fun soaring carefreely through the air.
Proposed translation:Na dann. Viel Spaß dabei, völlig sorgenfrei durch die Luft zu segeln.
Translation quality: “meh”

As mentioned in the comment to the previous line, GLaDOS just gave Chell some hope, only to immediately crush it again. This has been very subtle, but it's still nice how well this line ties into that: All hopes crushed, there's absolutely no need to worry anymore.

More obviously, there's of course the humorous juxtaposition of having “fun soaring through the air without a care in the world”, and Chell's actual situation.

Both observations are funny, and both are significantly watered down by not properly translating “without a care in the world”.

Original:*I* have to go to the wing that was made entirely of glass and pick up fifteen acres of broken glass. By myself.
Translation:ICH muss jetzt in den ehemaligen Glasflügel und fünfzehn Hektar Glasscherben aufsammeln. Ganz alleine.
Translation quality: “meh”

Not too bad. I don't particularly like “ehemaligen Glasflügel - former glass wing”, because it sounds like a real thing, like a wing with huge windows, and not like the pretty absurd “wing that was made entirely of glass” GLaDOS is actually talking about.

What's probably also worth mentioning is that “15 acres” has been translated as “15 Hektar”, although an acre is not the same thing as a Hektar - 15 acres are actually about 6 Hektar. Does that fact make this a bad translation? Well, if the number 15 would have some related significance outside of that line, it would be a great translation. If the actual amount of broken glass were important, this would be a bad translation. Actually, neither the number 15, nor the actual amount of glass is important (who can even imagine that much broken glass?), so the translation is okay.

Original:Oh, sorry. I'm still cleaning out the test chambers.
Translation:Entschuldige. Ich reinige gerade noch die Testkammern.
Double translation:Sorry. I'm still cleaning the test chambers.
Proposed translation:Oh, entschuldige. Ich miste gerade noch die Testkammern aus.
Translation quality: “bad”

“Oh, sorry” : “Sorry” = “Oh, entschuldige” : “Entschuldige”

It is beyond me, why anyone would think that removing the “Oh” for the translation would be a smart thing to do. This isn't even about the question whether it really makes a difference. It is about the simple fact that a translator needs a compelling reason not to use a literal translation. And boy, are there many reasons! Only here, there's none. You saved a syllable. Well done.

What I really don't like here is how “cleaning out” became “cleaning” in the translation. GLaDOS isn't really “cleaning” those chambers, but that's not the point. The point is that she is getting rid of all the things she deems useless, and the next line makes it clear that Chell is one of those things.

Original:So sometimes there's still trash in them. Standing around. Smelling, and being useless.
Translation:Manchmal findest du dort noch Müll. Nutzlosen, stinkenden Abfall.
Double translation:Sometimes you'll still find trash in them. Useless, smelling trash.
Proposed translation:Manchmal steht dort also immer noch Müll herum. Stinkig und nutzlos.
Translation quality: “bad”

“Standing around” is the most important part of that line. It does a good job conveying that GLaDOS isn't talking about actual trash, but about Chell. Sadly, it is missing from the translation.

It's not completely lost, though, that she actually means Chell when talking about the “trash”, but in the translation it's a bit more subtle, which is a bad thing here:

A few lines down in the script, GLaDOS will explain this metaphor to Chell, and part of the joke is that when she says “I was worried it sailed right over your head”, what she actually means is “I already made that as obvious as I possibly could without actually calling you trash to your face, so you must be pretty stupid”. Without the right setup here, that line is far less funny.

Original:Try to avoid the garbage hurtling towards you.
Translation:Meide möglichst den Müll, der auf dich zurast.
Translation quality: “okay”

Just a piece of advice, translated adequately.

Original:You don't have to test with the garbage. It's garbage.
Translation:Du musst nicht mit dem Müll testen. Es ist nur Müll.
Double translation:You don't have to test with the garbage. It's just garbage.
Proposed translation:Du musst nicht mit dem Müll testen. Das ist Müll.
Translation quality: “meh”

This is a pretty funny line, and sadly, it has been watered down quite a bit in a misguided attempt to make it sound more natural. Misguided, because the whole joke is based on this line not sounding natural.

Normally, if you see someone do something you know is stupid (or dangerous), you may tell them not to do it, and explain why it's not such a good idea. If you don't do the explaining part right away, they will probably ask. It's pretty much impossible to tell someone not to do something they think is perfectly reasonable, without explaining why.

What makes this line sound a bit unnatural is the fact that that explanation is missing, and instead just the name of the thing is repeated. This is what makes this fun, because it implies that the speaker is so perplexed by the absurdity of what the other person just did, that they can't even think of an explanation that someone doing such an absurd thing would actually be able to understand. Everyone in their right mind would grasp the concept “garbage”, and just repeating its name instead of giving an actual explanation does a great job conveying that you think the other person must be out of their mind, without actually saying it. Also, there's a hint of teaching a small child a word, where any further explanations would be moot. This is the thing. This is its name. Don't touch it.

Sometimes it can be hard to describe why something is funny, but it's pretty easy to tell when something funny has been made less so. The added “just” in the translation doesn't make it awful, but it's definitely not as good as the original.

Original:Press the button again.
Translation:Drück den Knopf noch mal.
Translation quality: “okay”

“Press the button again.” How hard can it be to translate that accurately? As it turns out, not very. Pretty straightforward and adequate translation.

Original:Remember before when I was talking about smelly garbage standing around being useless? That was a metaphor. I was actually talking about you. And I'm sorry. You didn't react at the time, so I was worried it sailed right over your head. Which would have made this apology seem insane. That's why I had to call you garbage a second time just now.
Translation:Erinnerst du dich: Als ich vorhin von dem stinkenden nutzlosen Müll sprach? ... Das war eine Metapher. In Wirklichkeit meinte ich dich. Und es tut mir Leid. Du hast nicht reagiert, und ich dachte schon, du hättest es nicht verstanden, was diese Entschuldigung wiederum unsinnig machen würde. Darum muss ich dich jetzt noch einmal Müll nennen.
Double translation:Remember before when I was talking about the smelly useless garbage? That was a metaphor. I was actually talking about you. And I'm sorry. You didn't react, and I started to think you didn't get it, which would have made this apology pointless. That's why now I will have to call you garbage once more.
Proposed translation:Weißt du noch, als ich vorhin vom stinkigen Müll sprach, der nutzlos herumsteht? Das war eine Metapher. Eigentlich meinte ich dich. Und es tut mir leid. Du hast darauf nicht reagiert, da hatte ich Angst, das wäre dir zu hoch gewesen. Dann würdest du diese Entschuldigung hier natürlich verrückt finden. Deshalb musste ich dich gerade eben noch einmal Müll nennen.
Translation quality: “awful”

I already mentioned before how the missing “standing around” is detrimental to the joke, and here it is missing again.

“It sailed right over your head” is a much better insult than “you didn't get it”, and there's no reason not to use a similar German metaphor for the translation.

The real problem is the last sentence, though. What's happening is, GLaDOS has insulted Chell in a way that was a bit concealed, but still pretty obvious (which happened some lines earlier). Now she is apologizing for that insult (just to set up another one, of course), and explains what exactly it is she's apologizing for. That's great, because not only does she get to repeat the original insult in a more overt way, she also gets to call Chell stupid for not getting it the first time. And just to make sure Chell is aware that she has just cleverly repeated the original insult, she says so in the end: “That's why I had to call you garbage a second time just now.”

In the translation, that last sentence becomes “that's why now I will have to call you garbage once more”, which is completely nonsensical. She has already done that once more, there is no reason to do it a third time. And in fact, she doesn't, so that should have been a pretty big hint that that translation can't be right.

Original:Did you know that people with guilty consciences are more easily startled by loud noises--[train horn]--
Translation:Wusstest du, dass man Menschen mit einem schlechtem Gewissen viel einfacher erschre-[Nebelhorn]
Double translation:Did you know that startling people with guilty consciences is much easier--
Proposed translation:Wusstest du, dass Menschen mit schlechtem Gewissen viel schreckhafter sind--
Translation quality: “meh”

This is a very simple line - just a piece of information without any subtleties. There's subtext, of course, but that's perfectly preserved by a literal translation. The translators decided to go another way:

“Did you know that startling people with guilty consciences is much easier--” is just a bad translation. What the original is saying is “if for some reason some loud noise were to suddenly go off, I guess you would be pretty startled, because you have a guilty conscience”. The translation, on the other hand, says “if I wanted to startle you, that would be pretty easy, because you have a guilty conscience”. It's obviously not GLaDOS' intention to so bluntly announce to Chell that she is about to startle her.

Original:I'm sorry, I don't know why that went off. Anyway, just an interesting science fact.
Translation:Entschuldige. Ich weiß auch nicht, was das war. Aber eine interessante Tatsache, nicht wahr?
Double translation:I'm sorry, I don't know either what that was. But it's an interesting fact, isn't it?
Proposed translation:Entschuldige, ich weiß nicht, wie das passiert ist. Aber egal, nur nebenbei ein paar interessante wissenschaftliche Fakten.
Translation quality: “meh”

There's nothing completely wrong here, and still, I don't like any of it.

“I don't know why that went off” means that something that's under GLaDOS' control went off, and she pretends that that has been an accident. On the other hand, “I don't know either what that was” means just that, she pretends that she doesn't know what that was. Both are lies, of course, but the first one is much more clever than the second one: It doesn't try to disguise the fact that GLaDOS did that herself, which gives her a chance to pretty overtly take credit for that nice little prank she conceived.

This whole thing has the same basic structure that came up before: casual intro - something mean - casual outro, “something mean” in this case being “you murdered me” (which is what “guilty conscience” is hinting at). The intro is preserved adequately by the translation, but I don't really like the outro. The original is much more casual, and thus the much stronger line after that startling “you murdered me” reminder than the question that's being asked in the translation.

Another thing is that the recurring “just an interesting science fact” theme is pretty fun in itself, because actual science, which is what a facility like Aperture Science is supposed to be doing, isn't about collecting a bunch of random interesting facts. The wording sounds much more like the title of some popular science book, like “50 interesting science facts”, and there's some humor in the notion that Aperture Science's idea of science might actually be just that. “Science fact” can't be translated in a similarly catchy way, and that whole line of thought might even be a bit far-fetched, but that doesn't change the fact that the translation of that last sentence is not very good.

Original:Oh. Did I accidentally fizzle that before you could complete the test? I'm sorry.
Translation:Oh. Habe ich dir etwa aus Versehen deinen Test vermasselt? Tut mir Leid.
Double translation:Oh. Did I accidentally mess up your test? I'm sorry.
Proposed translation:Oh. Habe ich dir das gerade kaputt gemacht, bevor du mit dem Test fertig warst? Tut mir leid.
Translation quality: “awful”

This is just bad, as it constitutes a complete misunderstanding of what's actually going on. The point isn't that GLaDOS is messing with Chell's efforts to complete the test, it's that she is destroying a companion cube, and those things are, at least in GLaDOS' mind, very dear to Chell.

“Fizzle” is a great word, because aside from its meaning, it also has a fun onomatopoetic component, which makes it hard to translate. But any translation conveying that GLaDOS just spitefully destroyed that poor little bastard is better than the actual translation.

Original:Go ahead and grab another one.
Translation:Nimm dir noch einen anderen.
Translation quality: “okay”

Easy line, easy translation.

Original:Oh. No. I fizzled that one too.
Translation:Oh nein. Schon wieder vermasselt.
Double translation:Oh no. Messed that up again.
Proposed translation:Oh nein. Es ist mir schon wieder passiert.
Translation quality: “awful”

There's not much to say that hasn't already been said. The same basic misunderstanding of what's going on, the same completely wrong translation.

Original:Oh well. We have warehouses FULL of the things. Absolutely worthless. I'm happy to get rid of them.
Translation:Was soll’s. Wir haben genug von den Dingern auf Lager. Völlig wertlos. Gut, dass ich sie los bin.
Double translation:Oh well. We have enough of those things in stock. Absolutely worthless. Good that I'm rid of them.
Proposed translation:Was soll's. Wir haben ganze Lagerhallen voll mit den Dingern. Völlig wertlos. Ich bin sogar froh, wenn ich sie los bin.
Translation quality: “meh”

This is not so bad. I don't particularly like how “warehouses FULL of the things” becomes “enough of those things”, because those warehouses are a much more tangible image. “I'm happy to get rid of them” (potentially all of them) is much stronger than “good that I'm rid of them” (the two that she fizzled), and it also makes more sense, because getting rid of just two obviously doesn't make much of a difference.

Original:Every test chamber is equipped with an emancipation grill at its exit, so that test subjects can't smuggle test objects out of the test area. This one is broken.
Translation:Jede Testkammer hat einen Emanzipationsgrill am Ausgang, damit Testsubjekte keine Testobjekte aus dem Testbereich schmuggeln können. Der hier ist kaputt.
Translation quality: “okay”

This is just a simple piece of information GLaDOS gives Chell to trick her into trying to save the companion cube, with an adequate translation.

Original:Don't take anything with you.
Translation:Nimm bloß nichts mit.
Translation quality: “okay”


Original:I think that one was about to say 'I love you.' They ARE sentient, of course. We just have a LOT of them.
Translation:Ich glaube, dieser wollte gerade sagen „Ich liebe dich“. Sie sind so empfindsam. Und wir haben so VIELE davon.
Double translation:I think that one was about to say 'I love you.' They are so sensitive. And we have so MANY of them.
Proposed translation:Ich glaube, dieser wollte gerade sagen: „Ich liebe dich“. Sie SIND natürlich empfindungsfähig. Wir haben nur einfach einen HAUFEN davon.
Translation quality: “awful”

This is a bad one, and there's not much of an explanation necessary. Even without knowing that GLaDOS is accusing Chell here of murdering an innocent sentient being back in the original Portal game, this should not be a hard line to get right in translation. It's very straightforward, and the translators completely nailed getting it wrong.

On a side note, I prefer “einen Haufen” instead the more usual “eine Menge” or “viele” here, because it better conveys how worthless GLaDOS perceives them to be.

Original:This next test involves emancipation grills. Remember? I told you about them in the last test area, that did not have one.
Translation:Der nächste Test beinhaltet Emanzipationsgrills. Weißt du noch? Ich erwähnte sie im letzten Testbereich, in dem es keine gab.
Translation quality: “okay”

Very straightforward, no subtext, okay translation. To be honest, I don't even know what this line is doing in the game. It isn't funny, it isn't a setup to something funny, it doesn't give the player any important or even interesting information. All it really does is tell you once more that you could have saved your little friend in the last chamber, which you have probably already tried to do and know to be impossible.

Original:Ohhh, no. The turbines again. I have to go. Wait. This next test DOES require some explanation. Let me give you the fast version.
Translation:Ohhh nein. Schon wieder die Turbinen. Ich muss gehen. Warte. Der nächste Test bedarf einer Erklärung. Hier die schnelle Version.
Translation quality: “okay”

Just a straightforward setup. No problem here.

Original:There. If you have any questions, just remember what I said in slow motion. Test on your own recognizance, I'll be right back.
Translation:Bitte. Falls du Fragen hast, stell dir das, was ich gesagt habe einfach in Zeitlupe vor. Teste auf eigene Gefahr, ich bin gleich zurück.
Double translation:There. If you have any questions, just imagine what I said in slow motion. Test at your own risk, I'll be right back.
Proposed translation:Bitte. Falls du Fragen hast, erinnere dich einfach in Zeitlupe an das, was ich gesagt habe. Teste auf eigene Verantwortung, ich bin gleich zurück.
Translation quality: “meh”

The joke is that humans obviously can't do what GLaDOS is proposing. It's a computer thing. That said, I don't like the the translation “just imagine what I said in slow motion” very much. Imagination is a human thing.

Of course, “remembering” is a human thing too, but that's part of the joke: GLaDOS uses a human term in a computer context, because she is pretending to give Chell a reasonable piece of advice, while actually she knows that she will not be able to use it. Substitute “read it back in from some tape drive” for “remember”, and the advice would indeed be very reasonable - for a computer.

So, there's a bit of pretending not to know how humans work going on here, and that's still there in the translation. I just think that “remembering” does a better job of conveying a clear mental image of how a computer would have no problem doing what is asked of it than “imagining” does.

A bit of a disclaimer for this particular article:

1.) I tried to include all the lines of the second chapter, in order to present an unbiased view on the overall quality of the translation, but since this is an interactive medium, there might be a few lines missing that are not part of the main narrative.

2.) I am aware that the proposed translations are often longer than the original lines, which is a general issue with English to German translations, but since there is no lip or animation sync to worry about in the analyzed part of the game, this should not pose any problem.

3.) I am aware that, reasonably, my target audience should be non-English speakers that played through the German translation of the game, and it might seem a bit silly that I decided to write this article in English, but I believe that it's more important to point out the problems of bad translation to an international audience, than it is to confront non-English speakers with what they are missing out on.

4.) My native language is German, not English, and I am fully aware that my English writing skills are far from perfect. Please don't let that be a measure of my ability to discern inadequacies in the German translation of an English text.

5.) The presented double translations are, of course, just translations too. So, while I decided to include them in order to give an idea of what went wrong, they can only reflect the problems with the German translation to a degree.

6.) Everything presented here is about the translations themselves, and not their interpretation by the voice actors. That's a whole other can of worms right there, which is not part of this article.

7.) All opinions presented here are my own. I have no affiliation with Valve whatsoever.

8.) Obviously, the whole thing is a spoiler, if you haven't played the game yet. Maybe I should have mentioned that at the beginning, but seriously, you are supposed to have played the game by now. And if you haven't but for some reason still decided to read through this whole article, I'm not feeling particularly bad for you.