What I learned Playing Final Fantasy VIII - AUF DEUTSCH!

I've played Final Fantasy VIII a million times. It's easily the Final Fantasy game I've finished the most, and I would ALMOST be confident of playing with my eyes shut (maybe...). I've also been studying German for a while, and have a basic, yet sorely lacking, understanding of the language. So I thought - hey! - what better idea than to play this game in German.

Warning: this is a long post. There are 23 images in this post (including the above gif which I made because I love chocbos with all my heart). Sorry for making you scroll a lot. Also I play the entire game so YES THERE ARE SPOILERS!

I find game translations/localisations really, really interesting, and I went into this German playthrough of the game with hopes of getting some fun out of some of the translation choices as well as hopefully a bit of education, so I'll be pinpointing some things that made me laugh along the way. I do notice that things that make me laugh, or otherwise elicit a noticeably emotional response, are often things I'm more likely to learn and remember.

So first of all, here's a screenshot of this guy introducing me to the CC-Freaks (Card Club). Freak is also a word in German. Good to know.

As always, I got to card playing pretty fast, and at first I was taking screenshots of sentences I fully understood, just thrilled to comprehend something.

"Was? Du willst mit mir spielen?" = "What? You want to play with me?"

Shortly into the game, we are introduced to Seifer's (Cifer in German) catchphrase for Zell (Xell in German). In English this is "chicken-wuss", but in German we get "Hasenfuß" (literally "hare's foot"). This comes up often enough that it is now fully embedded into my mind, so I'm ready to insult German people, I guess (I promise not to call anyone a Hasenfuß).

I also didn't realise how much the game script has Zell angrily demanding "WHAT DID YOU SAY" or "WHAT DID YOU CALL ME", but what I find interesting here is the punctuation of this phrase and its frustrated delivery represented by bullets between each word. I can't say what punctuation is particularly German in nature (and I don't know what punctuation variants are and aren't used in the other European scripts for FF8), but it's interesting to note the punctuation choices that differ from the English script.

Even Seifer's laugh here differs from the English. "Hehe......" in the German script is "Heheheh..." in the English script. A small difference, but it might tell us a little something about the language.

There is also quite liberal use of words like "Arsch" and "Schieße", which seems to suggest that these are not super serious bad words in German. I'm not super sure about it, but they come up quite a lot and it's an amusing time.

"Gähn" means "yawn", but this screenshot shows a punctuation quirk that I really like - tildes are used to show speech that involves drawn out words. Selphie uses them a lot and it portrays her cute way of talking really well.

Of course, people also extend their words by adding more of the same vowel, like in this moment which I just HAD to include.

"You're-going to-like-me

becomes "Mich mögen, mich mööögen."

Here's Selphie being a train fanatic in German.

I believe in the English script Selphie calls Laguna "dreamy" when they first dream about him, but here she literally calls him her "dream man" (Traumann). Another small difference, yet such an interesting one.

This scene, and how these text boxes quickly appear on top of each other, is just somehow amazing to see in German. "Who, when, and how?"

I'm back to taking screenshots just because I understand what is being said, but there is something that feels very slightly different to me about Rinoa saying "Ich hatte Angst..." rather than "I'm scared". It just feels different somehow. That's the strange thing about language, and is one reason I find it so fascinating, because even if a character says what is ultimately the same thing in either language, there is some fundamental difference in the experience.

On a lighter note, I learned that the German for "dead end" is "Sackgasse".

German is a beautiful language, everyone.

I took this screenshot because it's an emotional moment that I can't resist. Squall, please don't feel alleine...

[me crying in German]

After they find out about Edea, their main antagonist thus far, being their old orphanage Matron (who they call "Mama" in German), the English script has them saying it's awful that they have to fight her. The German says this, which is more like "it's shit that we have to fight our own Mama".

Feels about right.

"Is Rinoa still sleeping?"

I just thought this was a cute moment.

Here's Dr. Odine (Odyne in German) saying something is problematic. The funny thing about Odine is that the English script portrays him as having a German accent. I'm not proficient enough in German to tell if they've given him any kind of accent, but it doesn't seem like he is portrayed as German here.

One thing I find interesting is the translation of "sorceress". "Hexe" is more akin to the word "witch". This actually reflects the Japanese script more accurately, as the word used in Japanese is 魔女 (majo), also meaning "witch". Calling Rinoa a witch rather than a sorceress kinda makes the fear of her state and possible destructive powers feel more real.

Here's Selphie using tildes to express her excitement. In English this line is "Woohoo, we're flying!"

Oh, by the way, I nicknamed Squall "frecher". I thought it would be fun to give him a German word for a name. It's not a word I'm very familiar with, but it means "naughty". I love to amuse myself.

Anyway he LIKES WITCHES [gasp].

And that leads us to the climax of the game. The final fight of the game, with Ultimecia (Artemisia in German). She calls us "Widerlich" (disgusting) before the fight begins. Possibly a better insult that "Hasenfuß".

Full disclosure: I reached her final form and then promptly died because I hadn't unlocked the resurrect ability yet because I was simply to lazy to go around her whole castle unlocking more sealed off abilities at that point. I think I did okay for having no ability to resurrect party members though, so I'm gonna consider this playthrough done even though I didn't actually complete the very final part.


So as a final note - I think playing through Final Fantasy VIII in German has been a great experience. It definitely has drilled into me some of the commonly used words (such as "genau" and "trotzdem"). It's given me an opportunity to involve myself in conversational German without feeling overwhelmed and confused by being directly involved in speaking or even hearing German (I can take my time to read each sentence). It's also taught me some fun words (SACKGASSE) which I will more easily remember from having a humorous or narrative context.

Ultimately, having so much context definitely goes a long way in helping me learn some German words. I certainly haven't learned a huge amount from doing this, but putting some things I already know into context, seeing how often certain words are used conversationally throughout this story, and the repetition of words combined with the familiarity of a story and characters I love - all of that contributes various bits and pieces of learning and progress for me and my German. And it's really fun, too. So yep, I'm glad I played Final Fantasy VIII in German. It's been pretty super.

Also, unrelated - this SEED girl in Balamb Garden's cafeteria during the Norg scenario is totally me:


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