More than ever before, business is a global endeavor. Companies of all sizes can offer their services and attract new customers around the world. But communicating effectively across cultural and linguistic barriers is still challenging, especially when it comes to online marketing.
People inherently desire to hear things in their own language and see things that relate to their personal experiences. Content that doesn’t conform to this expectation can be jarring, and even offensive. This is why we have developed a process to help clients translate and localize videos for international markets. Here’s how the magic happens:
1) Creating a Master Version in English
Our first step is to create a master version of the video in English. This allows us to perfect the messaging, story, and visuals in our native language. But even at this initial stage, it is important to plan for an international audience. While working on messaging and visual planning we intentionally avoid concepts that won’t translate well for other cultures.
In English, we often say non-literal things like, “it is raining cats and dogs out there”, but this would be utter nonsense to a non-native speaker. (It is the equivalent of a Frenchman saying, “It is raining ropes out there”). A translator might be able to figure out the intended meaning, but it isn’t safe to rely on that. Once you start paying attention, it is simply amazing how many ideas we express through colloquialisms.
It is also important to review visual concepts for universality. For example, while the above image is totally fine for our culture, showing a man and woman shaking hands could be very problematic for others. The point is, it is critical to think about everything from your audience’s point of view.
2) Finding a Local Translator and Narrator
Once an English version of the video is complete, it is time to begin the translation process. We typically search for a native of the country we are targeting who is also fluent in English. This is a critical step because they need to be able to understand the meaning behind what we are trying to say, and then translate that into something that feels natural to the intended audience.
Because every language has a unique structure, the amount of time it takes to communicate the same concepts can vary widely. To compensate for this, we give our translators leeway to change scripts enough to keep total run-times approximately the same. This makes it so we don’t have to re-time large portions of videos to fit the narration for each different language.
The translated script is then sent to a narrator who can provide a fluent voice-over in the desired language. It is also important to ensure they have the right regional accent and tone.
3) Finalizing and Testing
Once the narration is complete, we make any changes that are needed to customize the visuals for the intended region. This can include translating on-screen text, changing contact information, and updating symbols like dollar signs to their local equivalents.
The final step is to test everything by having several other local natives review the video, and make sure we didn’t miss anything important. If they give the thumbs up, the new version is all ready to go!
Localizing content can take a significant amount of time and effort, but it is a very important step to ensure your international communications are effective as possible. We have found that following this process leads to predictable results relatively efficiently, and prevents embarrassing mistakes. Here’s a video we translated into several languages including German:
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