Over the years, Pokémon has become something of a global phenomenon, capturing the attention of many the world over. While this is no doubt something that puts a smile on the faces of those responsible for the series over at Nintendo, it's also quite a frustration for those responsible for localizing the games in specific regions.
The frustration is due to the new creatures that are introduced in every Pokémon game. At first glance, many of their names appear arbitrary, however, they actually have some sort of cultural or self-referential elements reflected in their spelling or pronunciation.
It's already a handful to do this with any country (other than Japan, of course), but it becomes a completely different beast when trying to introduce characters in a country that has multiple regions, each with its own unique dialect.
One of these countries is China, which has assortment of official languages such as Cantonese and Mandarin, and it's that variety that has led to this current predicament. Traditionally, Pokémon in any given Chinese region was tailored to that region's local dialect. However, that changed when Nintendo announced Pokémon Sun and Moon will be the first games translated into simplified Chinese.
The announcement seemed quite harmless at first, but as it turns out, that change meant that fans who have long been accustomed to seeing Pokémon in their local language will be forced to experience the game in Mandarin.
For example, prior to Sun and Moon, Pokémon in Hong Kong was 寵物小精靈 , which translates into "Pet Little Elves," while Pikachu was translated as 比卡超 or Bei-kaa-chyu. Now, with Mandarin being used, Pokémon will officially be called 精靈寶可夢 or "Jingling Baokemeng," while Pikachu will be 皮卡丘 or Pikaqiu. The new spelling for Pikachu might appear similar to the Western name, but it actually reads as Pei-kaa-jau in Cantonese.
Other Chinese Pokémon names that were revealed earlier this month can be seen here.
As one might expect, those who were forced to transition to Mandarin were quite annoyed and it resulted in a protest on Monday (May 30) morning, when dozens of Pokémon fans in Hong Kong marched to the Japanese Consulate and demanded Nintendo adopt a different Cantonese translation for Sun and Moon in Hong Kong.
Interestingly, while the protest focuses on Pokémon, it's actually emblematic of a larger concern for many in Hong Kong: the disappearance of Cantonese as a language. For example, despite being the "dominant" language of Hong Kong, a recent survey found that less than 40 percent of primary schools in the area teach Cantonese.
With these fears in mind, the protesters are quite serious about Nintendo's decision. More than 6,000 people have signed an online petition protesting the changes, and have even threatened to boycott Nintendo in its entirety if the company fails to comply with their demands.