I made a game called ‘Who’s That Pokemon – Translation’. It’s a game that takes both my interests in Pokemon and languages, and fuses them together.
As you probably know, Pokemon was originally a Japanese anime, but is loved across the world. This means that the names of Pokemon often need to be translated into different languages, so that people who speak these languages can associate particular Pokemon with certain real-world things or aspects.
However, sometimes it is hard to remember Pokemon names in different languages. That’s where this game comes in!
It’s based partly on the Who’s That Pokemon sections in the anime… although with a slight twist – you have to match up the Pokemon name in English with either it’s original Japanese name or its German name!
It’s also inspired by me watching a lot of Pokemon Go videos, both in English and German.
The full game will be unleashed later, but for now, here’s a sneak peak:
(One of the ways to play is the Test . Tick the boxes that say ‘matching’, ‘multiple choice’ and ‘true/false’if they are not ticked already. Untick the box that says ‘writing’.)
There are other cool settings that Quizlet has to offer too, such as ‘Scatter’ (at the time of writing), where you have to drag the cards to match them together. There’s also ‘Gravity’, where the card is on a picture of a meteorite, and you have to type in the answer before the meteorite crashes on your planet!)
(This game uses the Quizlet website. If you want to save your scores, you might want to create a Quizlet account: here . If you don’t want to save your score, you don’t need to have a Quizlet account in order to use it and play the game.)
So if you’re confused and you don’t know why these names were chosen, I have a few explanations for you below…
Plinfa in German – Piplup in English (Pochama in Japanese)
One of my favorite Pokemon, Piplup is named ‘Plinfa’ in German. The word is made up of ‘plip’, the sound a pebble makes hitting the water, and infant – probably because Piplup is a young Water-type.
The Japanese name ‘Pochama’ takes these similar ideas – the word comes from ‘pochapocha’ meaning splashing in water, and ‘botchama’ a word for child.
Odoshishi in Japanese – Stantler in English (Damhirplex in German)
The Japanese name comes from the word ‘shishiodoshi’ in Japanese, meaning ‘deer scarer’ This is used to scare away deer and other animals who want to eat farmers’ crops , much like a scarecrow is used to scare birds more commonly in the west. However, it is made of bamboo and fills up with water so that it makes a noise.
Some other types of ‘shishiodoshi’ are brightly coloured circles that confuse birds into thinking they are the eyes of predators. This video shows an interesting use of them from the American space exploration organisation NASA!
Inspired from these types of deer scarer, the purple bumps on this Pokemon’s antlers can confuse other Pokemon, particularly with its psychic attacks such as Confusion.
Similarly, the German name ‘Damhirplex’ takes this idea. ‘Der Damhirsch’ is a fallow deer, the animal that Stantler is based off. It also uses the end of ‘perplex’, an adjective in German but a verb in English. ‘perplex’ means to confuse, similarly linking to the Pokemon’s psychic abilities.
Stantler comes from ‘stag’ a male deer, and ‘antlers’, the things on a deer’s head. Unlike the other two names, the English version doesn’t reference this Pokemon’s psychic powers.
Koratta in Japanese – Rattata in English (Rattfratz in German)
In Japanese, the prefix ‘ko’ means child, and ‘ratta’ means rat.
In English, Rattata also refers to a rat, and maybe the sound ‘rat tat tat tat’, like banging on a door. However, it could also refer to the word ‘attack’ – and this early picture seems to show that the word ‘attack’ would have been featured in Rattata’s English name.
In German, ‘die Ratte’ is a rat, and ‘der Fratz’ means rascal, most likely referring to the fact it is a mischievous scavenger. Putting them together makes ‘Rattfratz’.
In German, ‘eine Ente’ is a duck. The name ‘Enton’ comes from using this.
In Japanese, this Pokemon’s duck-like appearance is also referred to -along with ‘ko’ meaning child – implying it’s based off a young duck.
Out of these, English refers more to Psyduck’s potential Physic attacks, the prefix ‘psy’ referring to this.
Taubsi in German – Pidgey in English (Poppo in Japanese)
‘Die Taube’ in German means a pigeon, the real-world bird that Pidgey is based on.
In English, ‘Pidgey’ also refers to a pigeon- and perhaps the suffix of ‘ey’ relates to a budgie, another type of bird. Or perhaps it means ‘pudgey’, reffing to this Pokemon’s plump little body.
In Japanese, ‘Poppo’ comes from ‘poppoppo’, the sound that a pigeon might make.
Rettan in German – Ekans in English (Arbo in Japanese)
Similarly to how Ekans is ‘snake’ backwards in English, Rettan is ‘Natter’ backwards, a family of snakes known in English as Colubrid. This family of snakes is found almost everywhere in the real world, except Antarctica.
The Japanese version, ‘Arbo’, doesn’t spell its name backwards to make a real word, however it is an anagram: ‘Arbo’ uses the same Japanese characters in ‘boa’, just in a different order.
Glumanda in German – Charmander in English (Hitokage in Japanese)
‘Glu’ in German means ’embers’, and is also the German name for the move Ember that Charmander and most Fire-types can learn. This is put together with ‘manda’, sounding like ‘Salamander’ to make this Pokemon’s name. There is a real life salamander, a lizard, but the mythical salamander is said to be a fire lizard , much like the Pokemon Charmander.
In Japanese the Pokemon is literally called ‘Salamander’- fire lizard. Its name is ‘hitokage’, which is made up of ‘hi’ fire and ‘tokage’ lizard. This is because of the myth that a salamander can breathe fire.
In English the inspiration of ‘salamander’ is again used, but the prefix ‘char’ refers to burning, as a ‘charred’ object is something that is burnt.
Bisasam in German – Bulbasaur in English (Fushigadane in Japanese)
This one might take some explanation. Bulbasaur, while not the first Pokemon to be created, (that honour belongs to Rhydon) is the first in the Pokedex, the list of all Pokemon in the Pokemon universe. In Japanese, its name is ‘Fushigidane’ which means ‘isn’t it strange?’ , perhaps to begin the suggestion that Pokemon are strange creatures. It also suggests Bulbasaur is strange, because it is half plant and half Pokemon. However, Fushigidane also means ‘mysterious bulb’, referring to the bulb on this Pokemon’s back.
In English, Bulbasaur comes from ‘bulb’ and ‘saur’. This probably references the bulb on Bulbasaur’s back, and the ‘saur’ suggests it is based off a dinosaur. It does have teeth and claws, although these are short.
Bisasam links to almost all those references.It comes from ‘bi’ two, ‘Saurier’, dinosaur and ‘samen’ seed. The ‘bi’ part could be because, as mentioned before, it is half Pokemon and half plant. ‘Saurier’ refers to dinosaur, much like the ‘saur ‘in Bulbasaur. And ‘samen’, a seed, could refer to the bulb on the Pokemon’s back.
Zenigame in Japanese – Squirtle in English (Schiggy in German)
‘Zenigame’ in Japanese is a pond turtle, the animal that Squirtle is based off.
In English, ‘Squirtle’ comes from ‘squirt’, and ‘turtle’ as this Pokemon can squirt out water, being a Water-type, and… it looks like a turtle.
In German ‘Schiggy’ comes from the word ‘die Schildkrote’ meaning ‘turtle’.
Sometimes almost all languages just kept the Japanese version. Zubat comes from ‘zubatto’, which means ‘to pierce’ in Japanese. This could refer to the way Zubat uses its teeth or wings to pierce things, using Bite or Wing Attack. Both the English and German versions have kept the name ‘Zubat’.
Jurob in German – Seel in English (Pawou in Japanese)
‘Jurob’ seems to come from ‘jung’, meaning young, and ‘die Robbe’, the word for a seal. This makes sense as this Pokemon is based on a young seal.
In Japanese, it is called ‘Pawou’; this is the sound that a seal might make.
English just used the word ‘seal’ – with an ‘e’ instead of an ‘a’.
Woingenau in German – Wobbufett in English (Sonans in Japanese)
This one is interesting, and needs to be explained by looking at the original Japanese name. ‘Sonans’ in Japanese means ‘that’s the way it is’. In the anime, Team Rocket owns a Wobbuffet, which often pops out of its PokeBall to say its name, ‘that’s the way it is!’, with the effect of agreeing with something the evil but hapless trio are saying.
In German, this joke is somewhat continued. ‘Woingenau’ sounds like ‘Wohin genau?’ meaning ‘Where to, exactly?’ This could be used when Team Rocket are blasting off again in the anime, perhaps with the Pokemon seeming to ask where they are going exactly.
However, in English, ‘Wobbuffet’ doesn’t mean anything, but it is a mixture of the words’ wobble’ and ‘buffet’, probably referencing Wobbuffet’s punching-bag like design. It can use moves such as Counter, which it can use to bounce back to opponents, dealing them the same amount of damage.
Quapsel in German – Poliwag in English (Nyoromo in Japanese)
In German ‘Kaulquappe’ means ‘tadpole’, the young of all amphibians from frogs to newts, and the creature that Poliwag is based on. The ‘quap’ in Quapsel’ is most likely taken from there.
In English, ‘poliwag’ could be similar to ‘polliwog’, an outdated word for tadpole. It also includes ‘wag’ referring to the wagging of this Pokemon’s tail.
In Japanese, ‘Nyronyoro’ means the sound of slithering and ‘kodomo’ means child. Putting these together makes ‘nyoromo’ This could refer to the fact that the Pokemon is young as a child, as it is in its first evolution stage; and that its tail could make a slithering sound.
Showers in Japanese -Vaporeon in English – (Aquana in German)
In Japanese, English words probably sound strange and interesting. This could be why they sometimes use English words for Pokemon. In English, a ‘shower’ is water falling from above, perhaps when it rains, or the name of an item in the bathroom to wash yourself, rather than a bath. So this refers to this Pokemon’s Water type moves.
In English, ‘Vaporeon’ comes from ‘vapor’, which is the gas version of water, and the prefix ‘eon’, which is at the end of all Eevee evolutions in English.
(This could be because originally, Eevee was supposed to be called ‘Eon’ in English. I prefer Eevee though, because it refers to all the evolutions it can have, and because it sounds cuter!)
In German, Vaporeon is called ‘Aquana’. ‘Aqua’ from water and ‘-a’ is at the end of all Eevee evolutions in German. (For example ‘Nachtana’, which uses the word ‘die Nacht’, meaning ‘night’ and the ending ‘a’.) This might come in handy when looking out for the German names of Pokemon that evolve from Eevee. (Hint: I included them all in the finished game!)
As you can see, you can learn quite a bit about all three languages, even when playing Pokemon! However, this was just a sneak peak. If you want to play more… you’ll have to wait and see!
‘Who’s That Pokemon – Translation Game’ will be out in its full version in 3 weeks!
It will have a Japanese game and a German game- within each game there will be 3 different levels – Easy, Medium and Hard.
Within each language game as well, there will be ‘Gyms’ like in the video games and anime, where you’ll have only the Pokemon of a certain type to play with.