Translating videos, films and interactive slideshows is an exciting and effective way to connect with potential customers. Our first ever client here at TSI was Kodak in the 1980’s. We created English to Spanish voice over translations for their commercials and promotional videos. We have decades of experience producing voiceover translations and all sorts of other documents.
There are 3 ways to accomplish the production:
1. Voiceover Translation
2. Subtitle Translation
3. A combination of the two
There are several reasons to choose one version over another. I will delve into each separately.
Whenever possible and applicable, voiceover translation is the preferred method, because many people dislike subtitles. Actually, they hate them. I’ve had what I thought were sophisticated and curious friends who would never go to a movie if it were subtitled. Unfortunately for them, they’re missing many great foreign films. There’s no doubt that having to read subtitles takes away some of the enjoyment of viewing the images on the screen. But when you’re dealing with potential clients who would be interested in purchasing your product or services, you should look into the advantages of subtitles.
If the video, film or slideshow is in pre-production stage, you’ll have an advantage, because you have control over the timing of the production. As I have mentioned in earlier articles, many of the languages we deal with on a daily basis are longer than English; up to 30% in some cases. What this means is that if you have a 10 minute video in English, a Spanish narration might require 12 to 13 minutes to record the translation. This can be very problematic and costly. There are 3 ways to deal with this dilemma.
1. Read the translated text faster. Well, this is almost never a good solution unless the English was recorded very slowly, as if the voice talent was about to fall asleep at the microphone. Besides, when the speed of the narration is increased over 5%, the voice starts to sound unnatural and even annoying. Then when the speed of the narration is increased over 10% and even as much as 20%, it’s not only annoying, it becomes impossible to understand. It sounds like Jerry the Mouse running away from Tom the Cat as he’s yelling “don’t catch me; don’t catch me”. Seriously, it’s a poor way to solve the problem.
2. Make the video scenes longer. In some situations, this is an acceptable solution, except that now you’ll wind up with an 11 or 12 minute video. And somebody will have to pay for the additional video editing time. This will only work if there’s nobody speaking on-screen. Still pictures can be lengthened on-screen. Even moving pictures can be lengthened or slowed down to increase their time on the screen. However a person looking directly into the camera would appear silly and even disturbing, because the moving lips would not sync up with the foreign language voice.
3. If you have the opportunity to get involved at the pre-production stage, you should be able to edit the translation to make it conform to the length of the English. This is how we prefer to work. Whenever possible, we encourage our clients to let us make the original translation. Our translators understand the intricacies of working with video and film and can adapt the recording script to the allotted time.
Choosing the Right Voice Translator Talent
When we started translating videos and recording foreign language narrations more than 25 years ago, over 90% of our clients used male narrators. Many of the videos dealt with technical products, heavy duty machinery and construction equipment. They were made to sell products and create safety training programs for issues relating to OSHA. Our clients requested male narrators to match the style and feeling of the English versions. About ten years ago companies started using more female narrators. I prefer the sound and tone of a female voice. Female voices appear sharper and clearer on videos and films.
A final thing to consider with voiceovers is the accent of the narrator. If a video were meant to be used in Mexico or some of the other Latin American countries, I would advise a client not to use a narrator from Argentina, Uruguay or Spain. Because there are many countries that have Spanish as their official language, we typically suggest a Spanish speaking narrator with a neutral accent, perhaps someone from Colombia or Peru. The same can be said for other languages such as French, Italian, German and Russian. It’s best to choose a voice that is suitable to the location where the video or film will be used.
When Video Translation and Subtitling are Better than Voiceovers
At TSI, we do more than just voice dubbing - we are also a subtitle translation services company. There are specific occasions whereby voiceovers should not be used whenever possible. I advise clients to avoid voiceovers when the talent is talking on-screen. It’s almost impossible to sync an audio track to the movement of a person’s lips when using another language. The results range from being funny to annoying. Our mind wants us to think that the person is speaking the foreign language, but no matter how hard we try, it just doesn’t work, especially when the target language has a different etymology from the source. Imagine trying to sync Chinese, Hindi or Swahili to English. The languages are so vastly different that the viewer will not feel comfortable listening awww.tsi.world/contact.htmlnd viewing at the same time. There is a solution however, when a customer really wants this option. This means finding the right translation and subtitling services company.
With almost 30 years as voice language translators, TSI has the experience to ensure your videos are done on time and on budget. Our portfolio offers great examples of some of our clients who return year after year thanks to our professionalism. If your company is looking for a translation agency offering voiceover translation services or subtitle translations, don’t hesitate to reach out for a free quote.
Language translation is a delicate process. In a world obsessed with technology, native speaking human translators are still the gold standard when it comes to document translation services. While there are various computer aided translation programs available today (commonly referred to as ‘machine translations’), they typically offer a subpar end product that can result in translation errors and lost business. This is why here at TSI, we only use translators who speak the native languages specific to their jobs. We take this role seriously and it sets us apart from other translation service providers.
Most common computer translation programs cannot distinguish between a document whose final destination is France versus French speaking Algeria or many of the other countries that include French as an official language. Each language has its own variations from region to region, as we’ve discussed in previous articles.
2. Words With Multiple Meanings
We encounter this often, especially with English into Spanish translations. There are many English words, spelled exactly the same, that have different meanings. A professional translator will read the words in context and understand their precise meaning. However, machine translation programs, although having made great strides in the past several years, are not nearly as effective as humans. For example, let’s look at wind (to turn) and wind (flowing air). The main issue with these examples is their counterparts in other languages are not identical. To ‘turn’ in Spanish is enrollar and flowing air is viento. Machine translation programs cannot always differentiate words like this in context. Native speaking human translators are far superior in this scenario.
3. Machine Translations Lack Human Touch
In addition to just completely getting definitions wrong, computer translated documents often read dry and stilted. Reading is one of the most essential forms of communication. Anyone who has read a best selling novel understands that good writing can evoke true emotion from the reader. Some are so powerful that they bring readers to tears. While this may not be the goal of your business document translation, HR document translations or legal translations, it’s still essential that your company can connect with your target audience on a personal level.
4. Humans Excel at Technical Terminology Translation
If you think a computer can decipher hundreds of parts that make up modern medical instruments and devices, think again. You need a human translator who specializes in precise terminology associated with this field. Terminology that is industry specific does not typically exist in most dictionaries. This means computers can’t correctly process these terms. Even most human translators cannot accomplish this. For this reason, we are sure to pair our projects with native translators who have a robust understanding of the industry in question. For example, when we are dealing with architectural document translations we assign the project to a translator with a degree and several years experience in architecture or structural engineering. A similar rule applies to technical operating and maintenance manuals, to HR and OSHA regulations and legal briefs. Understanding how to properly pair a translator with a job is akin to casting the right actor in an academy award-winning movie. There are hundreds of actors available and eager for their next big role, but it’s the subtle details and demands of the part that makes their role really shine on the silver screen. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Johnny Depp are both great actors, but would never be up for the same role.
5. Human Translators Lead to Cost Savings
One myth is that using computer software to translate documents saves customers a lot of money. This is not necessarily the case, for a few reasons. The actual translation procedure from one language to the next is merely one step in the translation supply chain. Due to the increased errors when using computer software, it requires more detailed rounds of revisions (assuming companies even do them to begin with). This additional proofreading and revising adds up. Machine translations do not eliminate the project management costs or graphic design costs, which leads us to our next issue…
6. Improper Formatting for Internationalization
As we’ve discussed in previous articles, internationalization is the design and layout of a document or product so that translation and localization can be easily implemented. When using computer aided translation software, there is no way to know if the final translation will fit within the allotted space on product packaging or pages. This can lead to even more unforeseen costs, like having to send the translated document back to your graphic design team to reformat the file to conform to the layout of the original document. Human translators can make these formatting adjustments while they are working on the files and avoid these additional costs.
At TSI, we ensure that our professional translators are made aware of spacing and other formatting issues before they even begin the job. This means that they occasionally may have to substitute words that are shorter or more concise to reflect the correct layout of the document. Machine translation programs cannot do this.
If you’re searching for a translation company or online translation services, please contact us for more information or a free quote on your project. Human translations are the correct choice.
As a translation agency offering language translation services and localization for almost 3 decades, we’ve localized thousands of documents and videos of all shapes and sizes. At least once every few weeks a client searching for document translation services asks, “What is the difference between translation and localization?” In order to answer this, let’s first look into the whole picture.
By itself, translation, in the context of language, refers to the rendering of a word, a thought or idea from one language into another. Or more specifically, according to Merriam-Webster, “a process of rendering from one language into another.”
Localization is a subheading under the broad term of translation. It refers to translating a document or video for use in a specific location or region. Several countries have more than one official language. Here in America, our closest example is Canada with both English and French as official languages. We can break this down further into countries that have the same official language, but one that varies from country to country, this wikipedia page lists territories where English is an official language.
Why Does Language Localization Matter to Business?
A company or entity wanting to sell products or services to any of the aforementioned English speaking countries would do well to research the local nuances in order to successfully communicate their interests. This is because of the subtle differences between dialects from region to region. In a previous article, we discussed different words with the same meanings in various versions of English. This is a key example of the importance of localization translation.
A Localization Case Study
Let’s say you’re living in America and you see this ad about an upcoming art installation. Aside from the cool photo, what pops out to you? Perhaps the spelling of the word “colour?” While numerous English speaking countries use “colour” as the official spelling, the United States isn’t one of them. What message does this send to the customer? It could seem like a lazy translation with no attention to detail in regards to language localization.
While an example like this may be okay for a hoity-toity art piece, it surely wouldn’t be okay for a technical document translation. For businesses, branding and communication is key. If that first impression is botched, your likelihood of a potential customer moving on to a competitor of yours increases. But wait- that’s not all…
Date, Time & Unit Localization
In addition to making sure your written words are correctly localized for your target demographic, you also have to consider localizing numbers, date and time formats, currency, symbols and more. Let’s zoom in on our previous example's details:
The date and time is nothing short of confusing to an American reader. To meet American standards, this would need to be localized to 12/28/19 @ 5:30pm- a big difference! While this is a simple example, other instances are more complex- especially regarding metric to imperial conversions which if done incorrectly, could result in product failure, or even a lawsuit should someone use an improperly localized technical translation.
Last but not least is the concept of internationalization in regards to translation and localization. The definition varies greatly, but in our context here, internationalization is the design and layout of a document or product so that translation and localization can be easily implemented. A simple example here would be if a client needs Spanish translation services, or Chinese translation services, they require more page space in comparison with English because they have more text per sentence on average. Equally important is leaving additional space on product labels to add numerous unit formats, like inches vs. millimeters.
Whatever it may be, we are a translation company that has offered online translation services for hundreds of clients throughout the world. Unlike many of our competitors, we specifically use native translators to ensure that your document is localized properly to ensure your client or customer gets the message as you intended. With your new understanding of translation, localization and internationalization, don’t hesitate to reach out and contact us for a free quote on your next project.
Francis Semmens is the founder of TSI and author of all blog posts with a focus on translation for clients and translators alike.