Everybody is hungry for video views these days, and that’s no exaggeration. Content creators sometimes face additional challenges when they think about expanding towards new horizons. Embarking on a translation video adventure seems like the only logical choice if engaging more viewers is what you’re after!
But, what is it about translating videos that gets more people to tune into your content? Well, to make a long story short, it’s all about communicating audiences on their own terms. Sure, English is the lingua franca of the internet these days. Wherever you turn to, whether it’s movies, music, news, memes, it’s a chance a good chunk of audiences are at least English-literate to an extent.
But that doesn’t mean that we’ve suddenly got a massive surge of bilinguals logging in. Being conversant with the language doesn’t mean that users don’t prefer material presented in their native tongue. Capisce?
And that’s why you reach audiences: with localized subtitled or dubbed content. For the purposes of this article, we’ll be focusing on subtitling as a cost-effective, easy solution to connect with viewers on their own terms. Subtitling also pulls double or triple duty by helping:
- Preserve the original flavor and identity of the content you’re watching.
- Subtitles (even if they’re in the original language) foster greater comprehension of the material.
- They’re a great way to increase accessibility for hearing-impaired people.
And all of this for a modicum of the cost of dubbing. So, if going on a translation video journey sounds right up your alley, read on!
It’s always a good idea to cover the basics before moving ahead. Defining our terms makes it easier to figure out whether we’re on the same page.
So, what’s translation all about? It refers to the art of converting meaning from one language into another. The translation field is very varied and covers any range of topics imaginable. While there’s no universal agreement on how many fields there are, Cultures Connection narrows it down to these eight:
- Scientific Translation
- Technical Translation
- Financial Translation
- Legal Translation
- Judicial Translation
- Certified Translation
- Literary Translation
While some translators are proficient in various fields, most stick to one or two — their bread n’ butter. It’s also notable that every one of these fields encompasses several other, narrower sub-fields; technical translations, for instance, can pertain to either broad or insanely specific industries. Thus, translators often need to have specific, sometimes formal knowledge of the fields they’re writing about.
Things are, thankfully, often quite simple with translation video, or subtitling (a sub-field in its own right). That doesn’t mean that you can overlook a translator’s most important feature, though!
What are the hallmarks of a good translator?
The translator has to be well-versed in both the original (source) and target language. The ideal configuration for a translator to do their job effectively is them being:
- Very well versed in the source language. That will enable them to read the original text with a deep and clear understanding of its content and structure.
- A gifted, native speaker of the target language, and an excellent writer.
In our article Native Language Translation: Good Writers Wanted, we go over this topic in greater depth.
This is where you need to practice discernment. The first thing you should keep an eye out for is literal translation. What’s the first warning sign you’ve got a clunker on your hands? Weird. Yes, it’s the fact that the text is not reading quite right. Stilted sentences, weird turns of phrase, jokes that just don’t land — all are telling you something.
They’re usually a damning indicator that something is off. You see, this person can be a great reader. Maybe even truly bilingual. But that doesn’t mean that they have the ability to recognize or create great-quality writing. They may fall into the trap of 1/1 translation, producing a set output to an input.
Of course, there’s no golden rule here, and these statements shouldn’t be taken as axiomatic. It’s just a good rule-of-thumb to generally go someone who is translating into their native language. It’s a good way of preventing hiccups and localization mistakes.
Translation video: what are the benefits?
There are myriad benefits of going with a translation video instead of a single-language one.
1. They bring in a wider audience
That’s right. With just the price of admission for one video or movie, you could be bringing in multi-language audiences. The other benefit is that subtitling your video costs just a fraction of the cost of dubbing. And it’s not just about cost, but about directing voice actors and getting performances that are true to the source material.
While that’s absolutely doable, it costs time, money, and effort.
Developing a translation video strategy could conceivably take weeks over the months it takes to set up a full dubbing campaign. And, it’s so much harder to botch the results. In any case, in the event of any mistakes, it’s much easier to step in and correct a subtitle than it is to fix a bad performance.
Why a lot of high-end YouTube channels don’t employ subtitles and captions to a higher degree in 2020 is still beyond me. There are so many channels that are beyond the reach of non-anglophones that it boggles the mind.
Don’t let this be you! Get localized, accessible content out to your viewers, they’ll be happy that you’ve decided to speak to them on their terms. In this day and age, it’s about going to your viewers as much as it is about them coming to you.
Meet them halfway, is what I’m saying.
Did you know that 85% of videos on Facebook are watched on mute? And only two-thirds of videos on Snapchat are played with sound. Having subtitles in place is also a way for people to watch your content all the way through when they can’t have sound on.
What’s more, subtitling is not just about a translation video strategy. It’s also about providing access to hard-of-hearing or hearing-impaired viewers who could not enjoy your content otherwise.
Also, reading and auditory stimuli can often be combined. That means that subtitles can enhance comprehension. Whether the subtitles are in the reader’s original language or not, they’ll probably have an easier time following the plot, or the gist of the video, if they can reinforce their understanding by reading. This can be a blessing with mumbly dialogue, scenes with heavy background noise, or with a lot of technical jargon.
The numbers definitely support this: viewers finish 91% of subtitled videos, vs. 56% of non-subbed ones. Ignore the data or risk losing the audience!
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is what gets your content appearing with a higher priority in search results. Google and other search engines have their own predilections and guidelines for what constitutes a good SEO practice; what’s true across the board, though, is that subtitled videos rank better on searches than non-subbed ones. If you’re doing the right things (or if you’re lucky), you’re appearing in the first few pages instead of being relegated to the bottom.
This is also true for any translation video. Subtitles, captions, and descriptions in other languages rank separately and will help you gain SEO-points in different-language searches. Now there’s a benefit if I’ve ever seen one! Turns out you can do a lot with just a little, so this is another way in which you can get a big boost to your video views!
What else is there to know about translation video?
Subtitling is known as a ‘subordinate translation.’ That’s because the content has to be synchronized with both the audio and video. Normally, there’s a limit of around 70 characters. That’s the averaged maximum readers can engage with before the subtitles disappear and the next line comes in.
So, that’s another example that goes to show why it’s crucial for a good subtitle translator to be a great writer; they normally have to work within certain parameters that really benefit those capable of offering succinct, to-the-point translations. If they go over the limit, they risk losing the viewer’s attention. That’s why (especially with translation), they need to strike a delicate balance between faithfulness to the original meaning and efficiency.
Only good translators can achieve that elegantly. I’m a native Spanish speaker, and even stuff I see on theaters or Netflix is often very, very susceptible to improvement.
I hope this translation video journey has been edifying. I certainly think that I’ve given you a multitude of reasons why you should think about embarking on a multi-language subtitling journey. You will benefit from:
- Greater engagement
- More views
- Improved all-around SEO (in several languages!)
- Increased video accessibility
And, by the way, who should you choose to delegate this job to? After all, translators are dime-a-dozen, and everybody’s promising to do you good in online marketplaces. I’m not beating around the bush for this one: don’t leave your new outreach strategy in the hands of amateurs. You’ve got one choice, and one choice alone:
Go with accredited agencies or hubs that have translators with the technical acumen and language know-how to treat your material with respect. These hubs deal with translated video and subtitles on a daily basis; creating greater accessibility as part of a multimedia strategy is what they do for a living.
It’s also a great way to ensure that the translator (or translation team) behind the job will be a good writer that can perform a respectable localization effort. If you need larger-scale solutions for multi-language projects, they’ll have your back as well.
There’s simply no substitute for going with people who have a proven track record of doing this type of job right. You’ll be glad you made the safe, sane choice, and you’ll sleep better to boot!
So, get cracking on your new translation video, and wait for those new views to start streaming in!