Fans Translate Kanien’kehá:ka Dialogue.

Zack Zwiezen has a nice piece in Kotaku:

Fans working with experts have translated all of the Kanien’kehá:ka dialogue that appears in the Vinland section of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.

Around the halfway point or so of the massive Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Evior takes a trip to Vinland, an area of coastal North America. During her time in Vinland she meets the Kanien’kehá:ka, or the Mohawk people. She doesn’t understand their language and the game doesn’t provide a translation, so unless you speak the language, you’ll be just as lost as Eivor. However, the native people you meet are speaking a real language and Ubisoft worked closely with a Kanien’kehá:ka language consultant to make sure they got it right. So translating this dialogue would provide us an interesting new insight into how these people reacted to Eivor and what they thought about the situation.

The Assassin’s Creed superfans over at Access The Animus decided to do just that. The group worked with Kanien’kehá:ka Onkwawén:na Raotitióhkwa Language and Cultural Center to help properly translate all of the Native American dialogue featured in the game. Access The Animus also helpfully provides some extra context for some of the dialogue, showing how it is connecting to Assassin’s Creed Rogue and Assassin’s Creed III.

I don’t do video games, but that’s pretty cool. (Hat tip to Slavo/bulbul on FB.)

Also, the first edition (2002) of the World Lexicon of Grammaticalization by Bernd Heine and Tania Kuteva can be downloaded free at ResearchGate.


  1. I’ve been playing that game (so much that one of my controllers finally gave out) and as the article mentions, they don’t provide any translation of what the Native Americans are saying for long stretches of time.

    There’s a strange and interesting scene where your Viking character trades campfire stories with the locals, and no one knows what the other side’s story is about but the storytelling goes on for quite a while. But the Viking’s story is in English, so the player can at least follow one side.

    I really liked this whole thing because someone clearly spent a LOT of time preparing, transcribing, and recording accurate dialogue that almost no one on Earth can understand, probably not for any pressing game design or plot reason but just because the desire to be extra respectful of native culture might have snowballed and gotten out of hand, with the (possibly unintentional?) diegetic effect of really making it seem like both the character and the player were strangers in a strange land, because the dialogue is so lengthy and so carefully transcribed (but not translated) in the subtitles.

    Obviously, our traditional idea of the interactions that probably happened between Norsemen and Skraelings was much less based around long, friendly conversations, and I’m sure there were some players who disliked that section for the same reason!

    By contrast, there are constant Latin, Old English, and Old Norse quips and exclamations sprinkled throughout the game, and I don’t think they’re ever spelled out in the in-game subtitles like the Native American dialogue is. One of the most fun / irritating is something the villagers constantly yell in Old English when you’re ransacking a monastery, something like “YE CWELLETH UNS!!!” (note: this is not an accurate transcription of this line. It might be “they kwelleth us” or “nae quelleth us” or something).

  2. David Eddyshaw says

    Ge cwellaþ us “You’re killing us”, presumably. Though it would presumably not be necessary to point this out to the ransackers in Real Life, as they would probably have noticed this without prompting.

  3. David Eddyshaw says

    Ah: Ne cwellaþ us “Don’t kill us!” seems more cromulent.

  4. “I say, chaps, you’re making an awful mess of my inner organs.”

  5. Note that there is a Dutch verb “kwellen”, meaning in English “to torment”. Not as strong as “to kill”.
    Gerhard Köbler, Altenglisches Wörterbuch, (2. Auflage) 2003
    indeed has:
    cwellan: nhd. töten
    (hence, Eng. to kill).

  6. David Marjanović says

    *lightbulb moment*

    Qual (n.), quälen (v.) “torment”. Fun with West Germanic consonant stretching, methinks.

  7. Ge cwellaþ us “You’re killing us”, presumably. Though it would presumably not be necessary to point this out to the ransackers in Real Life, as they would probably have noticed this without prompting.

    It’s a perfectly normal thing to say.

  8. This reminds me of Just Cause 4 (great series, great game) and how for some weird reason, they dubbed the entire thing into Lebanese Arabic (sample).

  9. Because the Lebanese are everywhere, obviously 🙂

  10. John Cowan says

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