Becoming a Successful Multilingual Voice Actor
Close to 60 percent of the world’s population is multilingual, according to J.C. Richards and T.S. Rogers in their Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching study.
As our world continues to shrink and globalization impacts every facet of business around the globe, companies are looking for more than just English voice over. More and more brands are looking to break into non-English speaking markets to expand their reach.
In this piece we’ll look at:
- The most in-demand non-English languages for voice over
- How to become a successful multilingual voice actor
- How to find multilingual voice over jobs
- Knowing when you’re fluent enough to audition for jobs
- Do accents affect landing voice over jobs in other languages?
First, we need to define what multilingualism is.
What is Multilingual?
To be multilingual means being able to communicate in three or more languages. Someone who can speak multiple languages is often called a ‘polyglot.’ Bilingualism is the ability to speak two languages. These terms do get mixed around a lot.
Most In-Demand Voice Over Languages
So what non-English languages should a company or voice over actor target?
Recently, the team at Voices unveiled the top ten most in-demand non-English languages. They are:
It’s also worth noting the top six fastest-growing languages in the world. They are:
There is also one final language to keep track of, Telugu.
This south Indian language is the fastest growing language in the U.S. The number of U.S. residents speaking Telugu rose by 86% between 2010 and 2017, according to the World Economic Forum. For U.S.-based businesses and voice actors, this rapidly rising language may be one to target.
Note: While these languages are certainly ‘hot’ right now, Voices voice actors speak over 100 languages. Explore foreign language voice over and see a list of all of the languages Voices voice actors speak.
Another trend that’s rising is multilingual voice acting in general, due mainly to the large opportunity that opens up once a new language is mastered by the voice talent.
Below, we’ll explain how to become a multilingual voice actor.
How to Become a Successful Multilingual Voice Actor
Becoming a successful voice actor takes hard work, passion and a set of unique skills that will set you apart from other voice actors in the industry.
One way to distinguish yourself from others in the voice actor community is to highlight any accents or languages you may be able to speak in order to open yourself up to being hired for more jobs.
You may be wondering if it is even possible to be highly successful as a multilingual voice actor, or if you should stick to one language and master that first. Stella Stocker, a multilingual voice actor, shares her experiences on working as a voice actor in both German and English.
Here are three different scenarios you may find yourself in, as a bilingual or multilingual actor.
Scenario #1: I Already Speak More Than One Language – How Do I Find Voice Over Jobs in Multiple Languages?
If you are a voice actor who can speak more than one language – the possibilities for work increase. You want to let clients know that you are versatile and you can easily do this by making sure you select the different languages you are able to speak on your Voices profile.
But simply saying you can speak another language may not be enough – in the voice over world, clients often have to ‘hear it to believe it.’ It’s critical that you have a demo that showcases the different languages you can speak authentically. Make sure to separate your demos (e.g. if you speak German and English, you will want to have a German and an English demo that are separate from each other).
Make note of the demos that are in a different language by including the language in the title of your demo. For example, on Stella’s profile she puts (German) beside her German-speaking demos to make it easy for clients to hear exactly what they’re expecting or hoping to – help make it easy for clients to find you!
Scenario #2: I Am Learning a New Language – When Can I Audition for Jobs?
When planning to audition for a job in a different language other than your first language, you want to make sure that you have a great command of the language.
“Watch films in your target language and imitate the accents. Travel to a country where the language is spoken and immerse yourself. It takes years to get to a point where you can sound convincing in a language that isn’t your mother tongue,” advises Stella.
Growing up in different parts of the world, Stella has learned to speak German and English fluently – so, these are the jobs she auditions for. However, having lived in France as well, Stella has a command of the French language, but she recognizes that it’s not enough to book gigs. “The first language I learned to speak was German, quickly followed by English and then some French. However I am working on improving my French, as it is not yet good enough to work in voice over with,” Stella admits.
Having an awareness of your voice over skill level and fluency in another language is important in being a successful multilingual voice actor, as you want to audition for jobs that are suited for you. Saying you can speak French when you are not fluent, is not the best way to attract clients and build up your reputation as a skilled voice actor.
Scenario #3: I Can Speak A Different Language But My Native Accent Can Be Heard
Stella identifies her natural accent as Received Pronunciation, but because she has lived in various parts of the world (she now resides in London, UK) her native accent is a combination of all of the regions she has resided in.
“I was born in Germany and lived there for six years, then a stint in France, followed by nearly five years in the Congo. Then back to Germany where I finished school and on to the UK to study drama. Then to NYC for a few years and then to Berlin and I’ve been calling London home for six years now. I suppose living in different places makes you adaptable and pragmatic,” she says.
In terms of languages, Stella has a wide range of languages and accents under her belt.
“My mother brought us up to speak Hochdeutsch (High German), which would be the equivalent to Received Pronunciation in the UK. I can speak Swabian (spoken in South Germany). My English is RP and, unfortunately, I am not very skilled at accents. I am currently working on improving my American accent,” she says.
If you are like Stella and have lived in multiple countries and cities around the world, you may be finding that your native accent is a mixture of all the places you have lived – and the result may be a unique sounding voice. But take it from Stella, “You’re not always required to be accent-free. There are quite a few jobs out there looking for ambiguous accents etc.,” she says.
Navigating Different Accents & Languages
As Stella’s experience points out: you’re likely to find that there is no shortage of opportunity to find voice over work in your native language or accent, as clients are always looking for a ‘new’ sound. It’s just crucially important that, as a voice over artist, you’re honest with your abilities and promote your skills only in languages you feel comfortable working in.
As for Stella, she still does most of her voice over work in English, but says that about 20% of the jobs she completes are in German – mostly for commercials and explainer videos. She often goes back and forth between German and English jobs, which can be challenging if recorded all in one session.
It is important as a multilingual voice actor to remain consistent in the language or accent you were hired for and not slip back and forth between languages. Stella’s tip: “I record one language and then take a break, and come back to it afresh to record the other language. Taking an extended break in between is really important.”
Ultimately, if you are a bilingual or multilingual voice actor looking to navigate this realm, you must be persistent and consistent.
“Take every single opportunity to audition for work. When I first started out on Voices, three years ago, it took me around 40 auditions to book the first job. As you’re auditioning you are learning. Your editing gets more refined, you get more ‘likes,’ and eventually jobs. Take part in voice over workshops. It has helped me tremendously. Finally, keep at it, no matter how long it takes. Eventually you’ll book work,” says Stella.
About Stella Stocker
Stella Stocker is a professional actress and voiceover artist living in London, UK. She is bilingual (English, German) and grew up in Germany, France and the Congo. Having trained in the UK and the US, she is acting in film, TV, short films and on stage and has a passion for period drama. Stella loves to be challenged and has an inquisitive nature. She has been working in the voiceover industry for ten years and has voiced commercials, corporate films, short films, documentaries and characters in video games. Her voice is versatile with a broad age range from late teens to mid-forties. Her natural accent is RP (Received Pronunciation). You can find her online at stellastockervoice.com or stellastocker.com.