Time to take over the world! If that little lab mouse from “Pinky and the Brain” can do it, why can’t you? We’re talking a new powerful market penetration of books, media, technology and brand promotion. Localization is the revolution that can bring your message to the far ends of the earth. With it encompasses the need for reliable voice over translation. Without voice over translation, the world would be a place bounded by provinces bordering on silence.

The dollar value spent on voice overs annually is approximately a whopping $4.4 billion. Meanwhile, the translation industry is expected to reach $983.3 million by 2020. Such is proof of a thriving demand for a combination both in the market. Although so, it can be tough to attain a reliable outcome of high quality. Especially in the haystack of voice over translation services available worldwide.

Sold but baffled by on where to begin? Stop meandering! This article will discuss everything you need to know about multilingual voice overs. From it’s boundless applications to a step by step process, we’ll be your guide on how to achieve the best for your project.

This post was updated in June 2021

What is Voice Over Translation?

Voice over translation is an audio-visual conversion of dialogue from one language to another. The original script narrative is first translated, then recorded by a voice talent. In most cases, a native speaking voice over translator is preferred. That is because he or she possesses the accurate enunciation, voice accent, and interpretation to appeal to the target local market.

Why Use Voice Over Translation?

Localization is pivotal to globalization. It results in more potential buyers taking action which leads to good ROIs. 55% of consumers claim they are more likely to buy a product if the information is packaged in their native language. Other research shows that 42% of Europeans only shop online on platforms offering their native language. Hence proving the power of localization, and thus voice over translation in a successful business model.

Let’s be honest. You probably only read one-half of your emails at work. The Washington Post reported that based on 26,000 individuals, the number of Americans who read for leisure has fallen by 30% in 16 years. Here brings the long-debated topic on subtitling versus voice over translation.

Even though subtitling might be a more cost-effective method, multilingual voice over allows for better information absorption and memory retainment. This is why a significant 24% of voice overs in North America can be attributed to corporate promotional projects. Here’s why voice over translation beats subtitling hands down:

  • Text distracts viewers from the visual action. A voice over retains the original audio and visual format of the material.
  • Text can get in the way and block what’s on the screen, which is not a concern for audio translation.
  • Subtitling multiple speakers who are talking at the same time is challenging and confusing.
  • Voice overs can offer personality when required as compared to subtitles.
  • Translation to another language may alter the length of the original dialogue (translation expansion), this makes subtitling tougher.


Applications for Multilingual Voice Over

The possibilities are endless. No matter the material you’re working with, a good voice over translation is a highly effective method for localization. Here are some materials worth employing a voice over translator for:

  • E-learning materials
  • Audiobooks
  • Television commercials
  • Software & applications
  • Internet videos
  • Animation
  • Corporate promotional materials
  • Radio
  • Film and documentaries
  • Presentations
  • Training Materials

The highest two categories for voice overs are animation, holding 53.2%, and corporate promotional material, holding 13.8% of the market share. If you are knee-deep in this article, you must be in need of a voice over translation. So let’s look at how you can get started!

Types of Voice Over Translation

Before beginning, it’s important to identify which type of voice over translation technique you are adopting. This depends on the context of the material. If you’re unsure which style to adopt, have a look at the different methods below and their applications:

The UN-Style

A popular option especially for news reporting, this style still allows the original dialogue to be heard. This is played for a couple of seconds before the lowering of its volume. The translated voice over is then played on top of that, after which the audio is dropped off. This method is great for interviews, news footage, documentaries and dialogue by prominent people such as politicians and celebrities. This is because it retains some authenticity by allowing the speaker’s real voice to still be heard in the back.

The Instructional Style

This method requires more of a descriptive narrative. The voice actor talks in a translated language to depict the action that is happening on screen. The original audio is completely replaced by a newly recorded voice over translation. Only one voice actor is required for this method. No exact script translation is necessary as the voice actor has free reign to redraft a narrative that describes the action. This method is commonly used for translating videos and e-learning materials.

The Dialogue Replacement

The dialogue replacement method completely overrides the original speaker’s voice with the new translation. Unlike the UN-style, there is no lowering and drop off of the original audio. It is also different from dubbing as no lip-syncing is required with the on-screen speakers. Used for corporate videos and e-learning tools, the method sometimes requires more than one voice actor to replace each on-screen speaker. This is to sustain and differentiate each personality.

The Dubbing Method

Dubbing is a huge subject league on its own. Although not entirely considered a voice over, its applications are similar to dialogue replacements. Dubbing completely and directly replaces the original audio with the new and recorded translation. Often used for films and television shows, the translated audio has to be synchronized with on-screen lip movement. The original tone in which it is spoken should be maintained as well. This means that sneezes, snorts, yawns, and hiccups have to be recorded too!

How Are Voice Over Translations Done?

There are, of course, two parts to voice over translation. The first being the translation of the script, and second the recording of the voice over. Carrying out the entire project in-house can be quite a huge investment in time and cost. That includes hiring a good translator, voice talents, an audio studio and a recording engineer amongst other things.

If you lack the capability or capacity to do so, there are always other options such as full-stack or partial outsourcing. You can learn about their pros and cons, as well as some useful guidelines for both here. Regardless of which you choose to go with, knowing the steps of creation can be beneficial in understanding which stage of the project you are now in. Here is an outline of how to create a simple voice over translation:

Step 1: Recording the Script

Let’s get our hands wet and start the process! The most accurate way of execution is to first record all dialogues and write them down. That is if you don’t already hold the script. Don’t worry, a quick way to get this step done is with some help. There are plenty of tools that can assist you here, some of which are of no cost.

Here’s an example of a free transcriber used by journalists and students. Simply upload your audio and you can get it transformed into a texted script. Naturally, with unmanned technology comes the loophole of inaccuracy. Free transcribers might not be perfect, but as long as the audio is clear, it might help you to get most of the work done. It is thus still important for you to compare the script with the audio to make sure you’ve captured everything. If you have an extra budget on hand, there are professional transcribing services available as well that can provide more reliable results.


Step 2: Translating the Script

Next comes translation. A good way to do this to enter your original text by lines into Microsoft Excel in one column. Then translate each of the lines into another column. Placed side by side, the length comparison of each line helps you to avoid translation expansion. Beat the literal by always allowing room for liberal script translation. Allow your translator the artistic license to shorten your script while still retaining core information. This will help your voice over translation to sound naturally better, rather than cramming lines into the same limited audio space.

Don’t speak the language? There is no doubt that there is a myriad of free online tools such as the ever-popular Google Translate.  Online translators can efficiently help you reword each line into a new language. Although so, there are some drawbacks to using them.

Magic always gets lost with machine translators as they are unable to detect context, sarcasm or rhetoric. With the problem of literal translation at times, they are also unable to maintain the tonality of your original script. Nor do they take into account your word count, which is especially important for the pacing of voice overs.

A professional translator, especially one that is a native speaker, will be able to overcome all these problems.

Hiring a professional translator as a means of partial outsourcing can be affordable yet reliable.

He or she should be able to localize cultural expectations, expressions, colloquialisms, and slang. These are the important details that can make your material all the more authentic in appealing to the new target market. It will also give you peace of mind that you will be receiving a proofread, accurate and high-quality translation piece.

Step 3: Choosing a Voice Actor

Now that text is out of the way, it’s time to work on the audio component of your voice over translation. Someone once said, “The human voice is the most beautiful instrument of all, but it is also the most difficult to play.” This is true because you will need to source different capabilities from your voice actor depending on the style of voice over you are adopting.

Choosing a suitable voice for your voice over translation is crucial. It’s best to pick someone who speaks the native language or dialect. Such will add authenticity and appeal as he or she communicates the same familiar accent that resonates with your target audience. When choosing between male or female voices, always try to keep to the gender and age of the original speaker. This is especially so if you are working with a UN, dubbing or dialogue replacement style.

Step 4: Recording

From the science of audio engineering to the art of voice recording, this is probably the most daunting step if you lack experience. At the very least, you will require a good microphone, recording software, headphones, a computer, a quiet room, and some mad audio skills. For the best outcome, voice over translations are better developed in a recording studio.

While all these elements might add up to a huge hassle and a hefty price, creating your own will give you full reign of control on audio direction every step of the way. So don’t be deterred! Should you choose to go in-house, full steam ahead! Here are the general steps to follow:

  • Position your mic at the right distance.
  • Do a test recording
  • Dabble with your recording software until you achieve good audio levels.
  • When all is right, record.
  • Import your audio into a video editor to integrate it with your visual.

Outsourcing Your Project

Are you lacking the voice you envision to use? Or do you think that loaning all that equipment is too big of an investment? Unless you own all the audio skills and tools to create your own voice over translation, the winner of self-production versus outsourcing is clear.

Help is always available and you can hire an affordable voice actor of your choice. Platforms like Bunny Studio can give you a professional and high-quality quality recording within your time frame. You can even request for your professional voice over to be integrated into a video, or mixed in with the original audio. You will be able to pick from 28,000 actors and over 50 languages and dialects. Such flexibility can allow for boundless possibilities. Outsourcing can save you time and money overall while helping you achieve your desired outcome.

Submit a project and get started now! 

Summing Things Up

Be not an echo but a voice. Voice over translation can help you penetrate new markets with a bam! So long as you continue to stick with the authenticity of your brand’s core narrative and originality. For now, it’s a wrap!