“Voice” doesn’t just refer to the sound of someone speaking. You’ve heard a harsh voice, and you’ve heard a soft voice, you’ve heard passionate and cold, elated and sad… All could use the same words, but one would communicate an entirely different message than the other. The same logic applies when you consider voice over translation. A monotone voice over translation will clash with a video that shows a lot of action. Likewise, an overly-exuberant character narrating could make something serious seem ludicrous. When considering voice over work, the issue isn’t just content accuracy, it is rather message accuracy. You’ve also got to take into account overall impact, the purpose behind the translated material, the audience and markets it is trying to reach, and a variety of contingencies often unique to a given project; all of which require the highest standards of professionalism to pull off with the proper success.
Common Stylistic and Technical Voice Over Translation Issues
Sometimes there are translators who like to put “themselves” into their work. They’ve got an idea about a loose translation, and will give the end user a version of the educational video, technical training, or infomercial that its producer never intended. Oftentimes this is done with all the right intentions behind it. In-country staff may believe they’re helping their clients when they “add value” to the original work. Some are just trying to infuse their thoughts or believes into how a product should be developed or used. Either way you slice it, when not approved by the client, it has the potential of being extremely damaging; especially if that which is undergoing voice over translation is technical or unbiased, or if a consistent brand image or regulatory requirements need to be kept intact, worldwide! You’re not going to find that kind of behavior among professional translation agencies. Yes, translators have a say in the matter since they may hold information pertinent to the locale the material is being translated for. But if differing from the source, their say has to be approved first by the client.
Maintaining the integrity of the source intent and style are very important, but a voice over talent can sound awkward if many considerations are not taken into consideration. Have you ever watched a martial arts film that’s been voiced over with actors who are clearly not of the same ethnicity cavorting across the screen? It would be funny to watch Jackie Chan deliver a cavalcade of kicks and punches, then sound off with a Kansas accent thicker than a corn field. That kind of thing isn’t so funny when it keeps a client from aligning themselves with your business, however; and translation gaffes which use translations stylistically inconsistent can definitely lose business. When working in voice over, it is imperative that whoever is chosen to communicate the translated information has an adept understanding of character, as well as the stylistic requirements of voice over work in general.
The Value of Voice Over Localization That’s Stylistically and Technically Accurate
While localizing voice prompts and instructions for a robotic surgery device used by operating room personnel, instructions to the voice talents were very specific and varied based on the target country. The quality of the sound, proper enunciation and cadence were important to all regions. But some requested a more cheerful tone, while others objected to the use of what seemed to be too young a person speaking. In addition to gender, offering the client’s in-country decision makers several voice recording samples like neutral, friendly and suggesting, gave them the ability to select what they thought was the best sounding voice prompt for each of their target regions.
With the explosion of voice prompt electronic devices and video over the web, executives are increasing their budgets for translating ads, tutorials, presentations, promotions, infomercials and all other material containing text, audio and video into the languages spoken by their target clients. Localizing your products and services with the same kind of professionalism seen in well-known international business arenas will definitely yield increases across your operations. It will save you money even as it makes you money; but you’ve got to go with a translation service that knows what it’s doing when it comes to marrying accuracy with style, or meat with sizzle!
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