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Voice-Over Localization from English or Other Languages

Posted on September 3rd, 2017 by patricia

Asking for a voice-over localization from English – or, actually, any other language, – source material into one or more target languages may seem like a simple and straightforward process. Just select the voices, send the material and ask to receive it back neatly translated.

Yet, there are a few other elements that need to be taken into consideration and clearly agreed upon beforehand.

  1. Define your voice-over localization priorities given the problems arising from language expansion or language contraction?

Though any language is a communication tool, every language has its own particularities and some are wordier than others. For instance, German is approximately 30% longer than English whilst Danish is about 10% shorter. Whether the text expands or contracts because of grammar, syntax, word usage, terminology or sentence structure, the end result remains that the original and target language text will not have the same length. This will have immediate consequences on voice-over localization, from English or any other source language. The relative impact will be different if you request a “wild” translation or an STC (Strict Time Constraint) translation.

A “wild” translation, for which the voice-over artist will act or narrate at a natural pace – for which the voice-over recording will be fitted into the video at the post-production stage, or a STC recording for which the voice-over artists have to slow down or speed up their delivery to match the timing of the video.

Aside from the quality of the delivery, the choice you make will have an influence on the translation, as a translation for an STC voice-over localization will privilege matching the length of the original text and the length of the translation for voice-over localization over being an exact translation.

So, better consult a conversion table such as the one below to evaluate the level of time disparity between source and target language of your voice-over localization project. In some cases, the table will not help you, and not only because it was created for voice-over localization from English or into English, but also because some language combinations have variable expansion and retraction rates depending on topic, style or any other number of cultural, grammatical or historical reason. In these case, it is always better to ask your language service provider for more clarifications.

Voice-over localization from English and into English Expansion Rate Table

Voice-over localization from English and into English Expansion Rate Table

  1. Make sure the target language is precisely specified

A common oversight when requesting a voice-over localization from English or another language into a target language spoken in different areas of the world is to omit to specify which version of the target language is the preferred one.

Spanish, for example, is spoken in Spain and in various countries in South America. The way to indicate that you prefer South American Spanish is to specify you are looking for a LATAM Spanish translation. However, if you are targeting a specific country in Spanish speaking South America, it is best to indicate exactly in which country is the target audience. Local expressions in Venezuela and Argentina for example, though both falling under the general umbrella of Latam Spanish, do vary. Defining your target audience precisely will enable your project manager to select the best translator who will then be able to give the localized version a local flavor that will increase its appeal to the target audience.

The same applies to Portuguese, which is close but differs from Brazilian Portuguese.  For voice-over localization into Arabic, there are a large number of elements to take into consideration.

  1. The choice of your translator for your voice-over localization from English or other languages

Voice-over localization from English find the right translatorNot every translator, even brilliant ones, have honed the particular skills needed for voice-over localization translators. Re-versioning a voice-over script for a foreign market requires the ability to successfully transpose humor, idiomatic phrases and cultural nuances whilst remaining within the time constraint dictated by the flow of the original version.

There are also budgetary constraints to take into account. It is always better to translate from the original language directly into the target language. However, when your source material is in an uncommon language and you want to localize it into a large number of target languages, it might be a budgetary sensible decision to base the international localization on an English translation of the original.

A translation from English into Turkish would be far more affordable than one from Tagalog into Turkish, for example. When dealing with a large number of target languages, the impact on the budget is significant. Yet, unavoidably, it would lead to some loss in the quality of the translation in the target language.

  1. Selecting the proper voice-over artist

It might be tempting to select a voice close to the voice of the original locator when you are in the process of selecting a voice-over artist. However, this might prove to be a fatal mistake as cultural prejudices regarding voice tone and pitch vary across the globe.

You can find some elements of cultural preferences in voice types in this article about how to select the right voice-over artist, but we recommend that, unless you have a deep understanding of the peculiarities of the target language speakers cultural nuances, you ask your voice-over localization service provider for guidance.


So, here we are. These are the main hurdles you may encounter when looking for voice-over localization from English or other languages. There are quite a few more, but those should not concern you if you trust an experienced voice-over localization service provider to manage your project.




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