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Top 10 Tips for Voiceover Translation

Give your video, radio spot, on-line or TV ad a local voice

Voiceover translation can be daunting, no matter the language or the market. But with the right preparation, you can ease the process and create highly successful localized voiceovers for your training videos, television ads, radio spots, or multimedia project. Here are our top-10 tips to help you achieve a flawless voiceover that has local appeal in your target language markets:

  1. Determine your voice. In each language market, do you want to convey happiness, expertise, excitement or professionalism? Decide if the tone of your voice should vary according to each language market. In the U.S., for example, enthusiasm and hyperbole are fairly standard, but such pep could be seen as overdone in Germany, where a factual, instructional tone would establish more credibility.
  2. Choose the right voice talents. Be active in the casting from the beginning. Partner with your language vendor by outlining character profiles with first names, gender, ethnic background, age and basic personality traits. Meticulous profiling will spare you embarrassing and expensive casting blunders.
  3. Ask for project-specific samples. If budget allows, get voiceover artists to record a small sample of your translated script – this is the best way to ascertain if they are appropriate in the role. If this is not feasible, ask for samples that are similar in genre to your project: eLearning, infomercials, advertisements, etc. 
  4. Line up several voice talents for each market. Don’t rely on just one artist, especially if you have ongoing, large projects. Your preferred talents may not be available in one year for a project — so consider having several acceptable options at your disposal.
  5. Allow for liberal script translation. Your multimedia translations will more than likely run longer than the original English version, yet they will still need to be squeezed into the same limited audio space. Allowing your script translators artistic license to adapt and shorten the script in your target languages will facilitate the synching process, saving you time and money.
  6. Know the tech specs of your sound files. Which format and level of quality do you need? Are you dealing with .wav? .mp3? .avi? Are you producing single or multi-track audio? Stay in the tech loop with your technical advisor or tech (DVD, movie) producer/vendor. Ideally, get the source audio files as these will contain the original tech specs when opened in audio software (i.e. SoundForge).
  7. Be prepared the day of the recording. Familiarize yourself with the recording process in advance. If you can’t dial in for the recording session, your agency will send someone to keep the recording in line with your goals and give guidance on tone. Allow extra time for re-takes, which should be negotiated with your agency in advance.
  8. Provide a pronunciation guide for the recording. Some parts of the script may cause difficulties in translation, such as acronyms, proper nouns, company and product names and the like. Determine in advance if, for example, a company name acronym should be pronounced in English or the target language.
  9. Determine your speaking speed. Choose the right cadence for your message with your dialogue director. When marketing a fitness product, for example, you probably want a fast-paced delivery that is dynamic in all of your target languages. Technical content, on the other hand, may require a slower, more deliberate speaking speed and clearer articulation.
  10. Quality assurance. Make sure your vendor provides linguistic quality assurance. In-country linguists (sourced from your overseas offices or hired via a localization staffing agency) should review the final recording before you give your stamp of approval.

Following these basic tips — and partnering with a skilled translation company — will help you navigate the cultural and technological challenges of voiceover translation. Learn more about our multimedia translation services, or, contact us today for a free quote for your project today.


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