There’s nothing quite like the feeling of understanding what you hear, is there? Audio translation definitely has a place in facilitating fluent contact in any language.
Say you’re in a multi-lingual workspace or international company; good, clear communication is essential. How many times have you had the experience of having a ton of material to work with — like, say, a training video or a presentation — only to have it come from another branch where a different language is spoken?
hat if you’re in another country but you record a part of a seminar or event that is in a different language and you need it for professional development? Or you have a YouTube video, show or movie that you want to bring to a whole new market?
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This post was updated in June 2021
Audio translation explained
Thankfully, it’s a pretty simple concept! Audio translation means taking an audio sample in one language, or what we call the source language and conveying its message through another recording that can be understood, into what is called the target language. How is this done?
Via the services of a person who understands both languages and can produce a faithfully-translated recording of the original message. If done live, this is known as simultaneous interpretation.
This individual can be either a paid professional, a member of your team or even yourself if you’ve got knowledge of translation and narration.
You can also attempt to get the audio translated by automatic translation software. These, though, have known issues that we’ll get into below.
What types of audio translation are there?
Good thing you asked! Audio translation can come in various shapes and sizes, and it’s all about what type of result you’re looking for. Not every shoe fits, so it’s going to be up to you to determine what you want for your project!
is a swapping process in which the original speech audio is replaced by a translated track and mixed with the rest of the sound to convey a more natural effect. This is most commonly done in movies. People in most countries watch dubbed versions of films in their language instead of subtitled ones.
is a technique that requires the translated voice track to be overlaid over the original and be played at a higher volume than the source audio. This is generally used in documentaries, interviews, and news footage. Some countries use it instead of dubbing to translate movies. In these cases, the general idea is conveyed, although mostly there’s no acting involved to convey the emotions of the actors, which can lead to a slightly robotic, monotone feel. This can also be considered a form of narration.
can also be performed live by a qualified interpreter or a skilled speaker of both languages. It involves them translating the audio as it goes along, on the fly. This is generally done during live interviews or broadcasts — think of a UN meeting, an interview with a big media figure or even the Oscars, which are watched live with simultaneous interpretation all around the world! In some rare cases, the audio can also be prerecorded.
Sometimes, these techniques can be used in tandem (or in lieu of) subtitles. It’s up to you to see in which way you want to convey your content. Having both options, including closed captioning for the hearing impaired, can increase inclusivity and get your productions out to a greater range of people.
What about automatic translation?
We’re in the future now, aren’t we? Incredible instant communication; globalization and its effects; the ability to get in touch with anyone a world away; a constant influx of information from social media; incredible exponential advances in medicine and technology; the expansion of space exploration from the public to the private sphere; self-driving vehicles; artificial intelligence and the promise of reshaping the future of work, and so much more that it could make our heads spin.
Still, as encouraging at these incredible strides towards a better future are, we’re still not in the Jetsons-inspired stage we may have imagined ourselves in back in the 70s and 80s, and a good reality check is never unwelcome!
While automatic translation (both in its speech and written forms) has improved a lot since its inception thanks to the advent of neural nets and machine learning, it’s still a long way to go from a tool that can be used for any sort of professional endeavor. Let’s dig in!
Doing the robot
While enormous names in the computer (like Google, Facebook, and Apple), IT and AI fields are attempting to use the latest in neural networks, supercomputers, and machine learning technologies, the state-of-the-art is still not up to snuff. We’re talking about usually being below the threshold of the average bilingual person who does not have specialized training in audio translation!
Some companies are saying that their latest gadget, software or thingamajig will bring about the era of the “universal translator”, a-la Star Trek. These offerings, while generally well-meaning, are generally very expensive and unfit for professional use.
To make a long story short: machines have many difficulties with translation, and this is doubly so for speech. They have known issues attempting to disambiguate between different phrases and tones, they tend to mix up colloquialisms, they’re not good with idiomatic expressions. Generally, what comes out tends to be very garbled and makes people scratch their heads in confusion rather than understand.
It didn’t even work properly in the latest offering of the Star Trek franchise!
If it sounds too good to be true…
We know. The marketing hype surrounding automatic translators makes them sound like they’ve got it all figured out. Supposedly, all you’ve got to do is plug in, give them your source audio or text, and you’re good to go!
Unfortunately, these devices fail regularly even for day to day applications (such as traveling). They’re not remotely ready for professional use. They’re getting there, don’t get us wrong, but any software out there is just not prime-time material. Even pay-by-the-minute apps that use supercomputer processing power get expensive extremely expensive and have a subpar output.
Is automatic translation all bad? Not by a long shot! If you ever need to travel abroad and need to read a menu or do some very basic translation for phrases such as “how are you?” or need to get directions, smartphone apps can be a boon for you. But for anything else, they’re a no-go.
So, if it’s not “Terminator” time quite yet, what are your options?
The human way
So, say you’ve already got your source file or the original that you want to translate. Maybe you’ve even been proactive and produced a translated script. What are your options now that you know a human is the best way to go?
A few, and they’re all good!
Do you feel you’ve got the goods and already know your way around recording? Are you or your staff good at translating? Does any you have experience doing an audio translation? If those answers are in the affirmative, you may want to think about recording yourself!
Pros and cons of self-recording
- It’s budget-friendly! If you’ve already got all you need to begin, including translation professional(s) that can also do high-standard recordings, you’re A-OK!
- Refer to our quick guide in “Why Audio Narration will boost your projects” to get a better feel for what you need.
- If you don’t have all the required tools, though, a bad translation/recording effort may backfire! You don’t want your efforts to look half-baked or your brand to look bad because of a lackluster attempt!
If you’re wary about potential risks or are unsure how to go about a proper audio translation, outsource!
Finding the right professionals
If you’re betting on your peace of mind (and why would we blame you?), there’s nothing like outsourcing.
Do you have a script in your language that you want to convert into a full audio translation? You can just find the right translation professional, and have them do a proper translation and localization work. Localization, in this case, is the art of adapting your content to a particular marketplace. A concerted effort to adapt the original to a particular, targeted audience makes translation pop! This can be seen especially with dubbing.
Then, you can take care of the recording yourself, or have a voice pro bring it to life. The great thing is, you can choose from a wide pool of talent to match your desired output. A native voice in the target language you’re translating into is certainly going to help your localization efforts.
If you are thinking about translating an ad, a video game, a marketing project or anything in between, there’s something out there for you!
What if I just need the whole thing?
Some companies specialize in ready-made audio translation for the business, marketing, and audiobook sectors. Places like Bunny Studio can help you create ready-to-use files for your every need.
Companies in this style are a good fit If speed is essential and your project requires professional, precise enunciation,
I t’s generally advised to go with freelancers or agencies that procure the talents of professional VAs (voice actors) if your project is in the movie or videogame realm.
Ready to hire the best pros around? Submit a project at Bunny Studio today and get the ball rolling!
We hope to have supplied you with a few good ideas on the value audio translation adds to your projects. The online marketplace offers innovative and professional ideas that can expand your content and grow the reach of your projects outwards.
Whether you need audio translation for a project within your company or to reach a greater audience, one thing’s for sure:
A well-done audio translation can be the factor that makes you go from good to great!