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3 Tips For Localizing Your Voice Over Script

Do you have a script you need translated into a variety of languages?

Before you jump into that process, it’s time to talk localization! We want your script and voice-over to shine and say exactly what you mean to say.

Save time, money and frustration while taking your localization project to a new level now!

What’s Localization?

Ever eaten your favorite cereal on vacation in different packaging? Watched a television show from overseas spoken in your own language? Seen a Disney film in a foreign language? If so, you’ve run into localization.

Despite living in a world that feels as though it is shrinking more and more each day, there is still a great need to communicate to any number of people in any number of languages and dialects.

Words matter. Images matter. Concepts matter. And, because of the great diversity of languages, culture and stories to tell various audiences on this planet, localization matters!

We’ve covered this topic before on the blog, but it’s always fun to revisit it.

At Voices, we have many clients who require translation and localization services, so this subject is one of great import and deserves another look.

How Important is Localization? It Matters, Big Time

What happens when you have a project that needs to be translated into multiple languages?

You’re probably starting with an English language version of your script and going from there. Have you ever considered best practices when preparing to localize content for audiences speaking languages outside of your English script?

Here are three things you need to think about before embarking on a project of epic proportions. Trust me, these tips will save you a lot of time, money and headaches!

1 – Draft Two Versions of your English Script

Create two versions of your English script, being the one you want to use for the English market and another script in English that is shorter and hammers out the main points you want expressed in a foreign language translation.

The second version needs to be shorter because you’ll run into increases in word count and the amount of time it takes for the voice talent to read your script.

Identifying non-negotiable content scripting ahead of time helps translators to maintain the core of what you’re trying to say as a brand.

Bear in mind that whenever you translate into another language, there may be more characters or it make take longer for the script to be voiced (more words/characters equals more time).

2 – Translate the Shorter Script into Other Languages

Have the shorter script translated into languages other than the language you started in.

Make sure that your translators have access to the longer English script so that they have context for what you are saying in general and can contrast the two to identify what’s most important to you for others to hear in their native tongue.

There should be fewer challenges in keeping your messaging on topic and the voice-over should be able to stay on course when layered over video, for instance.

Foreign language scripts should be timed properly for the amount of time it takes the talent to read the scripts aloud.

The written word may take significantly longer to speak aloud. Adding characters or words during the translation/localization process means it will take longer in many cases for the script to be read aloud at a natural pace in that language.

3 – Check Timing and Flow

Ensure that the new translated and localized copy fits within the timeframe allotted for the voice-over to run.

Something many people realize after the fact is that the word count or speaking time generally increase (even doubles in some cases) when a script is translated from say English to Latin American Spanish or from English to Mandarin Chinese.

As recommended above, pop the voice-over in and see how it lines up to any visuals or time constraints.

This applies to any number of applications such as broadcast radio, television, film, interactive and video games.

Warning: In some projects – mostly animations – the producer can easily edit the frame speed of certain portions to allow for the longer VO, but in cases where the video cannot be easily changed or edited, especially when it has characters talking to the audience or to each other, timing becomes more crucial and Language Expansion will play a huge factor.

I Linguaggi Sono Bei (Languages are Beautiful)

The beauty of language is that is helps us to express what’s in our hearts and minds.

Voice artists are able to lift the words from the page and give them a distinctly human interpretation.

That said, the verbal expression of language differs from its written form regarding tone of voice, inflection, accent, phrasing and so on.

There’s much to think about! By taking these tips into account, your localization efforts will be more thought out and easier with less revisions.

How Do You Approach Localization?

Looking forward to hearing from you!
Take care,

P.S. If all this sounds Greek to you, feel free to reach out to us so we can help your localization project go smoothly based on our experience. Comment below, reach out via our support form or login to your account to contact us!

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  • Avatar for Spanish voice over
    Spanish voice over
    February 25, 2016, 9:35 am

    Fortunately many of my clients make sure the Spanish script I have to record is already timed according the English/other language version, but sometimes other clients expect me to edit the Spanish script so the Spanish audio fits as the English version; this takes a lot of focus and precision to make it work without reading too fast or too slow.
    Thanks for the advises on localization.

  • Avatar for Howard Ellison
    Howard Ellison
    February 25, 2016, 10:39 am

    That’s incredibly helpful, and a rarely visited topic. Let’s hope all your clients get the chance to read it. A particularly good tip there is to provide the translator (and I would say also the VO) with a long and short version, as there are always nuances to be resolved, against the clock.
    Appropriate payment for the extra work is also a good point, one you touch on further in your caveat: Recently, I localised an animation originated in Italy. Instead of images, I was given the audio of Italian-speaking characters to lip-sync to in English. Try it sometime, if you haven’t already!
    The pacing from phrase to phrase is quite different – and potentially distracting to acting. It’s in the nature of localisation that, unlike the best of new animations, we won’t get the space to create the pace.
    In the case of an explainer, I would suggest talent invite client to provide a copy of the original language text plus the timeline, along with the audio, so that emotion (if any!) can be placed appropriately.