A question occurred to me a few days ago when I started to play Pokémon blue. Normally I play Pokémon in English – so I hadn’t thought that it would have been possible that the franchise would not translate all of the names. The fundamental thing to know would be that the names in Japanese are different. For example: Dragonite was Kairyu etc. So, the question is “Why?”
It seems to me that the Japanese names are different because Pokémon is a product of Japan and for this reason, it contains idioms, jokes, and aspects of that culture. My problem with that is: apart from Japanese, the Pokémon have different names in English, Chinese, French, and German! But not in Spanish?
At least, the names of Pokémon in English, Chinese, and German are translated and the translation from Japanese takes into account the sayings, jokes and idioms of each language — even in French,
“In the French version Nintendo took care to translate the name of the creatures so that they reflected the French culture and language.” (Wiki)
They give such respect to those countries, but only some countries! There is France (and clearly if there are many other ((countries)) that have French as the official language or second language) – but the number of Spanish-speaking countries is much greater than those that speak French or German — and perhaps close to the size of English (when combined).
In America, the country that has the second largest market for Pokémon, there is a Spanish-speaking population that is almost 20 percent of the total! So then there is no lack of interest or demand.
The problem is possibly due to the unity of the countries, in the sense that there are many Spanish-speaking countries, and they are far apart and unconnected. But, at least you have Spain, Mexico and Argentina that are large countries, ‘powerful’, and have an economy to support video games. (I know that realistically this isn’t true in Mexico and Argentina – especially the south of Argentina – but bear with me.)
Perhaps we have to ask the Spanish-speaking companies and our governments. I know that France is focused on the development of its language and culture (this is reflected in the above quotation) and as a result the names of Pokémon and the language used in the games specifically includes cultural references. So maybe the (Spanish-speaking) governments don’t care about this – a big problem, I think. Especially now, when there are still new versions coming out. The fundamental issue should be that no emphasis is placed on the culture and history of Spanish speakers, but perhaps this is the problem:
There are too many. They would have to include the culture and history of three countries at least!! – but there is also the entirety of South America, all of Central America, Mexico, Spain, and the Caribbean Islands as well. And each country has its own jargon.
This is also the case in English. English is the lingua fraca ((“lingua franca”)) and with the number of Spanish-speakers in the United States, it makes more sense to change the names such that there are two versions ((of the game)) in the same country.
My conclusion? Who knows? But, I’m going to Catch Them All!
*This article originally appeared in spanish on this blog, but someone was nice enough to translate it, so credit for translation goes to melangau